Monday, August 9, 2010


As you may know I am relatively new at being a pastor. I think it is a little bit like being married. You are the same person that you were before you were married but the world seems just a little bit different to you after. I was not really aware of this change too much until this past weekend.

From time to time priests are called upon to help out at other parishes and this past weekend I was asked to go to a parish in a neighboring city that was short of help. I had given my car to family visiting from Slovenia, the parish truck was in use, so I had to drive the ’46 Plymouth to St. Augustine in Barberton for the Sunday 5:15 Mass.

There is always a little bit of anxiety (at least for me) in saying Mass at a parish that is not your “home.” You would think with the way that Catholics structure the Mass that a Mass is a Mass is a Mass. But every place has their idiosyncrasies. For example, how do you get ready for communion? In flurry of activity before Mass it is attempted to be explained to you the briefest way possible. It is a like football playbook maneuver. “First, go the 2 people to your left and give them the Body of Christ. Then give them the Blood of Christ. Then give the Body of Christ to the people on your right. The people to whom you gave the chalices should cross over and offer the Blood of Christ for you If they don’t, you have to signal them. Then distribute the ciboria. The servers will be behind you, make sure that you get them. Then . . .”

People at Saint Sebastian know that once Mass starts it is all up in the air for me remembering things extra to the Mass. I have to put stick’m notes in the Sacramentary because once I get into the prayers of the Mass everything else seems to float away. Even if I see the stick’m note at the beginning of the prayer and think, “Don’t forget to excuse the children at the end of the this prayer,” by the time I get to the end I will have forgotten, sit down, and then receive an elbow from the deacon who stage whispers to me, “You forgot again!”

Anyway, I was delivering my homily at this parish with which I am very familiar and it struck me that, yes, we are one family as Catholics, yes, this is the Body of Christ, yes, I can pray with them and minister to them, but they are not my immediate parish family. It was an odd feeling. For example, my homily this weekend mentioned marriage a couple of times. There was a young man who I knew in my parish that was going to propose to the girl he was with after Mass and I could make that connection with him in my thoughts as I gave the homily. But at the parish I was visiting, which I enjoyed, I was defiantly not speaking with my community. The same type of connection was not there. I’m not sure that makes sense. I still enjoyed the experience and appreciated praying with a new group of people, but I think of those priests who have ministries that take them out of the parish and who help out here and there. There is always a strong sense of appreciation and welcome whenever a priest goes to a parish to which he is not regularly assigned, but how difficult it must be for them not to have that regular sense of family. And it is all the more strong once you become a pastor and you feel a personal responsibility for leading a certain group of people to God.


Anonymous said...

Architecturally, St. Augustine's is one of the finest churches in the diocese. And above one of its side altars is the famous Augustinean quote: "The heart is restless till it finds its rest in Thee."

Robert M Kraus Sr said...

Hey Father Valencheck, cool it. I am sure that you have been at St Augustine before now . . . . it's a beautiful church, isn't it. I am an architect, and I wholeheartedly agree with 'anonymous'. Our grandchildren attended St Augustine School, and every year there was a grandparents day. My wife and I attended every year; it was a wonderful experience

Cracked Pot said...

Father, when I attend Mass at a church to which I have never been before, I feel a little out of place too. It's like attending a family reunion composed solely of relatives I've never met.

MJ said...

As a teacher you have the same type of connection with each of your classes. I teach 5 classes every day and in fact each class has its own personality. When I have to sub, even if that class is a math class, it just is not the same type of connection.

Fr. V said...

Anon and Mr. K. I agree! It is a fabulous building - especially with the more recent restorations.

C.P. and MJ - Yes! That's it! That is what I was struggling to say. Thanks for saying it so much better.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it has something to do with that to the parish you are visiting, you are just that, a visiting Pastor, an official of the Church, but to us, you are OUR Shepard, our Pastor and our friend and we hold you in our hearts with great regard and genuine love and affection. Surely you know this...:-)