Sunday, October 30, 2011


One of the last duties of the day for Fr. P and I is to air out the dog and take a turn around the campus to make sure all is settled and that all the unnecessary lights are off.  It kills me to have lights on when nobody is in the buildings.  I'm afraid that I drive Fr. P crazy with my angst over a rogue burning light bulb.

I think that this tendency was cultivated by my father.  He too would stomp through the house grousing about things such as, "Who left the lights on in the basement?!"  Usually it was Mom.  "Bill!  I'm going right back down!  It's better than turning the lights off and on all of the time."

Like all young people I was afraid of the dark for a spell and could not fall asleep unless there was a light on.  We also did not have air conditioning so we used fans.  But it drove my father to distraction to have them on all night long when were supposed to be unconscious sleeping so he, unable to sleep while the electric bill went up, would stay up and then sneak into our rooms and turn the lights and fan off.

Of course this only served to wake me up and I spent the night afraid and hot.

The years went by and I started donating to my parish.  I was proud that with my first job I was able to give $5 a week or so.  Especially when I looked at the totals from the last week and thought, "Wow, we collected $1,125 this week.  If it had not been for my contribution it would have only been $1,120."
So when I see a light on that somebody forgot to turn off I have extreme guilt feelings about someone who sacrifices to put a little money in the Sunday basket.  I think loathingly (is that a word?) about that sacrificed few dollars burning away for no reason and that the money could not go for something more constructive such as teacher's salaries or a repair around the grounds or anything that adds to the life of the parish.
So, yes, I think I drive people nuts occasionally.  "Do you really need ALL these lights on?"  But nothing is as disturbing to me as opening a door in the morning and finding all my work was for not; that a light had been on all night.  I suffer.

Friday, October 28, 2011


All-Hollow’s-Eve is just about here. Must be time to get ready for Christmas.

That was sarcasm there.

Lots of interesting things end up in manger scenes. I like the cat having a litter of kittens. It is the whole idea of the incarnation – Jesus was born into the real world of babies and blood, life and death. Why not have a cat having a litter of kittens to remind us of that? Real life did not stop for Jesus. He was one like us in all things but sin right?

In Barcelona there is the tradition of a red capped peasant squatting down and creating fertilizer in the manager too. Kind of a stark reminder of the world in which Jesus was born.

I remember seeing my teachers for the first time outside of school in “real” clothes and having to go to the bathroom. “They DO that?” I remember thinking. Well of course they did. And of course that is the world Jesus was born into. That too, did not stop for the birth of the Messiah.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


A Church just bought a local theater that went under a few years ago. The Baptist Church needed a place to grow and the building needed a buyer. It was a perfect match. It also exemplifies one of the great differences between many Protestant Churches and the Catholic Church.

The article mentioned the pastor’s name and reported that under his leadership the church had grown significantly. The growth under this pastor made their current facilities inadequate for the congregation and so they simply moved to a bigger building in a new location.

Now think of what happens when the same thing happens to a Catholic parish. There is a reason we are called parishes and not churches. We are the Catholic Church, and the local Church is the diocese. So around here where Adam’s Ale is written, we belong to the Church of Cleveland and are parishes in that local Church. When one of our parishes starts to grow dramatically we first might add a priest and few Masses and expand the building. But if the parish continues to grow from there it would not mean that the parish would move in most cases or that a professional football stadium sized church would be built, we would create another parish.

One reason we do this is because the success of a parish should not be about the personality of the priest (though a good priest certainly helps.) It is about Jesus and the sacraments. Keeping our parishes from becoming too large based on the cultic personality of the priest helps keep our focus on what is important and also from being stuck with gigantic buildings that empty after the priest is moved to another parish and those who were only there for the personality of the priest disappear.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Every parish should have a welcoming committee that knows when a new family has moved into the neighborhood and they should send a delegation out to greet them with information about the parish and invite them to come to Mass with them. Every parish should also have alert greeters and ushers that recognize new faces and help them get situated at the Mass. People at every parish should be welcoming, friendly, and ready to give up the pew that they sat in for the last 25 years to someone who does not know better. Every priest should be able to tell when someone is new and welcome them heartily to the parish.

All this should be true.

But most likely it is not at your parish.

Sometimes for good reason.

One reason might be that at larger parishes where there is the possibility of a couple thousand people passing through the doors on any given weekend at any given Mass, just because you don’t recognize someone doesn’t mean that they are not a lifelong parishioner. “Welcome to Saint Weallgetalong.” “I’ve been a member here for 50 years sonny! I helped build this place! I just usually come to the 4:30.”

Also, people are basically shy. As afraid as you might be of saying hi, they are nervous about approaching a new person and saying hi. It is a gamble both ways.

It would be nice, say for example, when you switch parishes because of a job move or some such thing that the Catholic community into which you move would be there to greet you with open arms. But remember often we are talking about the population of a small city. It gets complicated. If you want a good experience, bite the bullet and don’t wait for your new parish to take the initiative.

Here are some various ideas to try:

If there are ushers, come up with a question that perhaps you don’t even need an answer to. “Hi! I’m new. Could you tell me where the restrooms are?” That might start a conversation.

Don’t sit behind the pillar in the back of the church, in the dark, with your arms crossed and your head down. You are telling everyone “I JUST WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE TO PRAY!”

After Mass as you are crunched together to get out turn to someone and say, “Hi. My name is Sue. I’m new here. You have a beautiful church.” (You might find out that they are new too and are looking for someone to talk to!)

REGISTER! Become part of the parish. Ask the person who registers you to tell you more about the parish and how you might become involved.

Join something – or better yet VOLUNTEER! How do you get to know 6,000 people? Start by getting to know 10 well. Everyone wants to be asked to do something – few just volunteer. “Do you need volunteers to clean up after the dance?” You will instantly become gold if they have been looking for someone.

Go on a men’s or women’s retreat – a smaller group of people than say a parish mission.

Don’t go to donut Sunday – volunteer for donut Sunday.

Do you have a unique talent that you might offer the parish? Let the pastor know.

Participate in commitment weekend.

If after giving a decent amount of time and all that effort you do not feel welcome at a particular parish – it is just that – an unfortunate experience at a particular parish – not the Catholic Church. You then have basically two choices: Decide that you are staying to try to make this parish a more welcoming place for others being that welcoming presence for others that was not there for you (the Adam’s Ale recommendation) – or – seek out another parish that will appreciate you better.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Whose ever been saved by a discourse? If they did, God would not have sent His Son in the flesh, He would have sent a memo.” Fr. Peter John Cameron OP


Well, I thought my new Email came up automatically on this site but apparently it doesn’t as some of you have let me know. My new Email, the only one getting thought to me at the moment is FATHERVALENCHECK@GMAIL.COM

The early morning fog was pretty neat the other morning and I just happened to have my camera with me as I walked Sebastian.

Marton Sheen came back to the Catholic faith a while back. Of it he says, "I came back to a totally different church," Sheen said. "I didn't want to come back out of fear or guilt or you know, anxiety over condemnation. I came back out of love and service. I have a phrase that kind of encapsulates it. Mother Teresa drove me back to Catholicism. But (Jesuit Father) Daniel Berrigan keeps me there. I came back to the Church a peace and social justice activist. My actions in social justice, in peace and social justice issues, was a reflection of my faith. The last 30 years of my life have been by far the most difficult and equally the happiest because I became myself." Read more from an article on his new movie "The Way" on the Diocese of Cleveland official site.

My sister sent in this real neat optical illusion.

She also sent this game.  It is completely aggrivating.  WARNING:  Addiction level MODERATE

Monday, October 24, 2011


Generally most of my mornings start out the same way.  The alarm clock goes off, a wind up that rings bells.  Far more reliable that something that plugs into the wall and tends to go hay wire when the electricity goes out.  Or maybe that is just my excuse to rely on old technology.

The first thing that I do is turn on the little light next to my bed, grab my breviary and pray my morning prayers.  For me this is an absolute delight!  A slow waking up!  Staying under the covers and thinking things about God before taking on the world.

After that I grab the Lectionary and read the readings for the day.  Only then is it time to start engaging the world.  In the shower I contemplate the readings and think about what I am going to say that morning.  After dressing I sit down and make a few sentences on yellow stick'm notes to have with me in the pulpit since I have the remembering capacity of a turnip.

Saturday mornings take a little more time than usual.  There is no deacon so I have to come up with some petitions and there is no organist so I also get to choose the opening hymn.  This is all done before I step foot in the church, usually just a couple minutes before the bells in the tower ring and we start the Mass.  Such was the case this past Saturday.  I walked in and gave a "good morning" to the ministers and one of our cracker jack sacristans greeted me with:

Uhm . . .

That would be no.

This past Saturday was rather historic.  Those attended Mass were among the very first to celebrate a Mass in memory of Blessed John Paul II and to hear the prayers and readings for that day.  Actually, originally I was not supposed to have this Mass, Fr. Pfeiffer was.  But the calendar got crazy this weekend and so I ended up having the Mass.  But when notification for the Mass came from the diocese, I put it out of mind because I would not be saying a normal daily Mass that day.  So I gave the information to the sacristan so that THEY would remind the forgetful priest that day.

Which turned out to be me.

Of course, now my homily made absolutely no sense.  I had about 30 seconds to come up with a song, (easy one - Be Not Afraid - not my favorite but it fits JPII), change the petitions, rewrite a homily - not time.

So I read the Gospel and went on with the Mass hoping something would pop into my mind while waiting to read the Gospel.  I know guys who have said, "Do you know when I write my morning homilies?  On my way from the chair to the pulpit."  I, however, can't get up in front of a group of people to announce that someone has left their headlights on in the parking lot without notes.  Just thinking about that now makes me nervous.

Add to that my itsy bitsy brain trying to remember what the Gospel is while trying to pay attention to the rest of the Mass.

Well, something came to mind.  I think it was Okay.  I really don't remember.

Friday, October 21, 2011


There are three types of speaking that a priest does at the Mass. 1) Those parts that he must be faithful to the text 100%. He has no right to change them for any reason (and those in the pew have the right to hear them.) And even if the priest AND a particular congregation agree that it would be Okay to change the texts, the Church, you and I, have the right to know that they are praying with us and hearing the same thing.

2) There are those parts (far fewer) that can be in “these or similar words.” That is, there is a recommended text, but the celebrant is free to personalize it although it is with the understanding that it must convey a similar meaning. So at the beginning of the penitential rite it says, “. . . the priest invites the people to recall their sins and to repent of them in silence. He may use these or similar words.” He certainly cannot talk about how the Cleveland Indians are doing (or not doing) but the moment can be more personalized.

3) Then there are those parts that the priest is to create. Sometimes it is optional such as with the introduction of the Mass. “The priest . . . may very briefly introduce the Mass.” The largest section where this occurs is the homily. Outside of some guidelines it is completely generated by the priest. It is also one of the few parts of the Mass that the congregation is not required to say amen to.

Creativity does not come from throwing off all constraints but finding a way of creating something with restraints. And over rigidity where it is not needed can make even heaven on earth seem a trial.  And to be quite honest, its more fun that way too.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


This coming first Sunday in advent we will start praying the new translation of the Roman Missal in the English speaking world. I, and most of the priests with whom I associate, are taking it rather in stride. Most do not think it all that insurmountable of a problem and many believe it to be a great thing. But perhaps that is because we have been so exposed to it that it already seems like a done deal.

There will be a few tricky pieces to the puzzle. The first year will be difficult when we go to say Mass at the nursing home or Scout camp or the like where we will have to remember to bring worship aids with us if we expect people to respond, but other than that it should be an implementation that will just require a little more attention for us while praying at Mass for us.

Many of us are, however, completely at a loss on how this change is perceived by others. By far the most common comment I have heard thus far is, “Father, why are we making such a big fuss about this? It is no big deal.” But that comment is largely from people who are very involved. A couple people are concerned about certain parts of the translation. One person did say, “When they change the ‘Our Father’ we are joining the Anglicans down the street.” “I think that was said in jest.

So what do you think? Take the quiz in the column to the right. I would find it helpful.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Sigh no more ladies, sigh nor more,” said Shakespeare concerning men, “One foot on sea, the other shore.” The poem seems to be lamenting the fact. But as Christians, particularly Catholic Christians, that is exactly where we are supposed to be – or rather, one foot on earth, one in heaven.

“In how many experiences have you missed a lesson from God,” asks Saint Escriva, “have you missed out on because you failed to spiritualize them?” “Man is a natural scientist, but a reluctant poet” penned another writer. This world and what happens in it gives us vision and understandings beyond the physical. Indeed for the Christian, reality is a much bigger universe with many more possibilities. It is far greater because there is more than just what we see, measure, weigh, feel, and smell.

But neither re we lost in the spiritual world. This world has much to teach us. This world is also good and has much to teach us about how to live in it. That is why priests have been and often are scientists and why “the Church” is credited with much of the scientific discoveries in this world.

Having a foot in both worlds creates the fullness of creation and all that it can give us. As a silly example, Sebastian and I went for a walk in the MetroParks today. We saw science at work. Man made paths wound their way through the woods. By paying attention to nature somebody knew how erosion works and walls of the river were shorn up, logs placed to keep dirt from being slowly stolen away from running water during rain storms, ditches were dug to control the path of water and so forth. Science kept a usable path in place.

But super naturalizing the walk gave a broader a view to a larger universe also. There were abandoned paths that were slowly turning back into wildness. Old timber steps that were rotting away and looking more and more like a fallen and long dead tree. It reminds us that this is not our home that the earth, as wonderful as it is, could shake us off like Sebastian shaking off the rain on his back. Earth is just slightly hostile toward us like a mother eagle shoving its young out of the nest telling them that it is time that they start flying. This was home, but they belong somewhere else. So do we. In heaven. So that if our mark does not remain forever, that is Okay. This is not home anyway but a place we stopped by. And our graffiti will last until it is painted over, but home will be forever and ever comforting to us.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “By now it is more or less possible to have the moon, but when the real boundary – the boundary between heaven and earth, between God and the world – does not open, even the moon is merely an additional piece of earth, and by reaching it man is not brought one step closer to the freedom and plenitude he longs for.” Pope Benedict XIV in “Called to Communion”

QUOTE II: “It’s kind of absurd that in this day and age the Church still allows priests to preach. It is old fashion. Why not just Email the perfect homily from Rome. There would be less heresy preached. It’s because it is not just about the message. It’s about the messenger. An Email cannot generate. Preaching generates. It gives life.” Fr. Peter John Cameron O.P. in a presentation given to the priests of the Diocese of Cleveland


If you read yesterday’s post you know that I lost all of my Emails, have nothing that has been mailed in to Adam’s Ale, and so have nothing to post today! Sorry. Please note my new Email address as I will never be able to open my AOL account again for reasons told in pictorial form yesterday.  Here is just a couple of tidbits.

Here is another game.  Frustrating but enticing.  WARNING:  Addiction level MEDIUM

Ed who got my new Email address already sent in this link about the difference between cats and dogs.

Sorry!  That's all I have today!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


I've been in a bit of a funk lately.  I have a certain feeling of betrayal that seems to be haunting me.
Fortunately it is not from anybody (or any dog) but from my technology.  I will admit I am not only not very adept with technology but I also do not treat it very well.  But the whole techno-world seems to be venting itself against me lately.  As a matter of fact the paper that this cartoon is so crudely drawn on comes from a copier incident in which I sent a long document to the copier from my office and it printed it as gibberish about seventy five times - so there should be comics coming for a while.

My computer is has been acting up.  Poor thing.  I should be understanding more though.  If it were a person it would be reaching the age of reason.  Unfortunately computers age more quickly than even dogs.
Another piece of machinery that has betrayed me lately is our dish washer.  A dish washer is not just a dish washer, it is a keeper of the peace.  I found that out in spades coming home from a vacation and finding out that our dish washer was broken.

Now I would think that an "OUT OF ORDER" sign on such a machine would cause (certain) people to understand that that means one must wash one's own glasses and dishes.  Nay, nay.  It means that certain people start stacking their dishes on the counter.  So I put up a sign.
Soon I discovered that two signs were not enough.  So I put up a third.  "That will teach them!" I thought.
Nay, nay.  At least I hid my dirty dishes in my room until the dang thing was fixed.  Two trying weeks went by and the dish washer repair man (not as lonely, it turns out, as the commercial pretends) finally got around to restoring peace and harmony to the rectory.  Now everybody is happy and we get along much better.

Which brings me to the latest act of betrayal by machinery.  This is by AOL.  Now, I've always been relatively happy with AOL until this past week.  After years of having little problems with it, turning on my computer and having my mail pop right up, this past week this came up instead:

Now you would think this would be easy enough.  In fact, my code did come up also as those little black circles that you see.  But when I pressed enter this came up:
"How can that be?" I asked myself.  So then I tried to remember the code (that I hadn't had to remember in about four years.  I actually remembered the digits in it but (apparently) not the correct order.  So I made a long list and rearranged the digits in every combination I could conger but no luck.  "Is God angry with me?" I mused.

"Use the name and question option" you might say to yourself.  Nay, nay!  This account was set up for me years ago.  In fact, at the time, one still PAID to be on AOL!  The person who set it up for me, God rest his soul, is no longer around for me to ask even if he should remember!  I am SO distraught.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


One time I was being sent to a parish and the selling point given to me is that “they have gone beyond Vatican II. They are very progressive.” In case you missed the inference, they meant that as a very good thing. (What’s beyond Vatican II?)
Many parishes are known as progressive and rarely the one that deserves it IMHO. Most often this title is given to a parish that is skirting the Catholic playing field. Progress has almost become synonymous with rebellious. Is this progress?

Progress cannot be a blind journey to someplace that must be better. There must be a clear vision and an effort to achieve it. Then as we get closer to that goal, we call the process progress. Anything else is chance.

A progressive parish is not one (necessarily, there may be occasion) that breaks away from the rest of the Church to do what it deems “better” which often just means “in fashion.” It means one that has the mission of the Church in mind which has at the top of the list the wish of Jesus that we “may all be one.” Progressive means being part of the vision and doing what one can to fulfill that vision, not forcing people to limit expressions of the faith or introducing things that do not belong.

Because of this, I elect the word “progress” as a WORD IN SEARCH OF MEANING