Tuesday, December 30, 2014



Sorry there have been no postings but in addition to being very busy I have been as sick as a dog!  The Monday night before Christmas, I started not feeling right.  By Christmas night I was miserable.  The next two days I barely got out of bed.  Thank goodness for a quiet, warm rectory.  It hurt even to try to read so there were NO postings.  I think I'll pick up again on Monday after I am a little more caught up on things I haven't done.
In the meantime here is the transcript of this year's 4:00 Christmas vigil Mass.  As you may know, it has been a tradition at St. Sebastian for about 6 years that this homily rhyme.  Pressure mounts.  Expectations are high.  I was at the Cleveland Clinic and one of the doctors called out, "Looking forward to coming to St. Sebastian for the rhyming homily!"
Fr. Kovacina took on this heavy task this year and, except for the beginning, based it on the Chipmunk's tune, "Christmas, Christmas Time Is Here."  In case you are wondering, I will not be singing it in future years.
Here it is.  Good job Fr. K:
Vigil Mass for the Nativity of the Lord
I have heard it all around,

          how this homily is to sound.
I am a little nervous as you see,
          because this rhymings rather new to me.
But I hope you find the message true,
          thats Gods love is for me and you.
So lets begin this holy time,
          with our annual Christmas rhyme.
(Sung using an adapted melody based upon the Chipmunks Christmas song)
Jesus Christ was born today,
          the one we longed for and did pray.
Since its such a joyful time,
          angels come to hear this rhyme.
When we praise Emmanuel,
          God is with us, all is well.
His love is great, his love is true,
          and its all for you.
The birth of Jesus came to be,
          when Gabriel came to Mary.
By the Holy Spirits grace,
          God will save the human race.
She said yes to his great plan,
          the Word of God became Man.
In Mary's womb he was conceived,
          because she had believed. 
Joseph learned this in a dream,
          that this child will reign supreme.
He brought Mary to his house,
          and cared and loved her as a spouse.
While in Bethlehem Christ came,
          Jesus was the boys name.
In this holy little one,
          God gave us his Son.
When the shepherds came to see,
          what God had done for you and me.
They were overwhelmed with joy,
          at this little baby boy.
Here was God before their eyes,
          as they heard his baby cries.
The prophecies of old came true,
          when God did something new.
Magi followed a bright star,
          it guided them from all a far.
To the child they came and knelt,
          joy and peace was surely felt.
Bringing gifts for royalty,
          gentiles came in loyalty
To worship the new child king,
          who reigns o'er everything.
So now you know about his birth,
          and how much you are really worth.
In Gods eyes youre lovable,
          a treasure always valuable.
To share this good news is a treat,
          maybe put it in a tweet.
Jesus Christ was born you see,
          because God loves you and me.
To our parish family,
          thanks for being here with me.
Fr. Valencheck and crew,
          wish hope and peace to all of you. 
Lets include the parish dog,
          Sebastians in the eggnog.
To you and yours a merry way,
          on this Christmas day.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Though dubious, when NPR reported that Pope Francis had said that dogs will go to heaven and thinking of my dog Sebastian, I texted Fr. Pfeiffer who has always maintained that dogs do not have immortal souls that, “HA!  IN YOUR FACE!  POPE SAYS DOGS GO TO HEAVEN!” though inside I was wondering, “How on earth can he say that?”


Well, as it turned out he said nothing of the kind.  There was a retraction in the New York Times the next day.  The “alleged” quote is now being attributed to Pope Paul VI who apparently said it to a young boy who he found crying in St. Peter Square.  “Paradise is open to all God’s creatures,” is the supposed quote though there is no hard and fast proof of it.  And, as one Catholic reporter for CNN wrote, “It’s called being pastoral.”  He was not trying to teach a crying boy doctrine but was trying to comfort him.  And this comment could be taken well within Catholic doctrine anyhoo . . . Scripture says there will be a new creation at the end times and what exactly that means we don’t know.

It’s like this:  When someone is very sad about the death of their pet and they ask me if they are going to see the animal in heaven I say (and this is where Fr. Pfeiffer and I butt heads) God guarantees you absolute happiness in heaven and IF you your absolute happiness depends on your pet being there, he will be there.”  Now that “IF” is a mighty powerful word and gets me out of a lot of theological trouble.  “I guarantee to make you pope IF another arm suddenly grows out of the top of my head at 2 o’clock today.”
ALL THIS GOES TO SAY don’t believe everything you read about the pope or the Church in popular media.  Don’t fly off the handle or start complaining to everyone in ear shot about the latest stupid thing someone in the Church did especially since the chances are it is exaggerated, mis-focused, or, as in this case, not true.  (Remember a couple of Easters ago they found the coffin of Jesus?)  This is just the latest in a long string of false or misleading reports AND IT IS GOING TO GET WORSE AS WE GET CLOSER TO THE POPE’S VISIT AND AS WE GET CLOSER TO THE 5OOTH ANNIVERSARY OF PROTESTANTISM IN 1017.  I beg you to exercise great prudence, patience, and fact checking when you hear something that sounds plausible, but just a bit off.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


A text appeared on my phone earlier this week stating that The Most Reverend A. Edward Pevec, DD, PhD, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Cleveland had passed away.  You may read more about his official time as a bishop as well as all of the funeral arrangements HERE. 


Bishop Pevec was of Slovenian descent as was I.  When I was in the seminary I used to sneak into the chapel late at night and play Slovenian hymns on the organ.  On a number of occasions I would be leaving and find that the bishop had been sitting there listening.  He would have tears in his eyes and he would shake my hand and say, “Thank you John.”  I have rarely, in my life,  ever gone by the name John but I didn’t mind him calling me that.

When I was named pastor of St. Sebastian, our ordinary was unable to have the installation ceremony due to his heavy schedule.  The Installation Mass is ceremonial and unnecessary, but then again so is a birthday cake and presents.  But such is life.
As I was leaving his office I was handed the list of auxiliary bishops of the diocese with their phone numbers.  “I heard that the bishop was going to be unable to install you as pastor so I took the liberty of putting these names together for you,” the person said.  At the top of list was Bishop Pevec.  So I called, somewhat embarrassed, “Hi, This is John.  Could you come and install me as pastor?”  It sounded pretty pathetic like “Would you throw me a birthday party?”  Anyway he jumped right on it.  “Of course I will.  When do you want it?”  He sounded rather enthused about though his schedule was probably packed too but he put me greatly at ease.
We had settled on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception which thrilled me.  It was a great crowd, which meant that more people than usual showed up on a holy day of obligation!  It was a wonderful night thanks to his generous spirit.

Rest in peace bishop.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "I guess it's inevitable; everyone's embarrased by their parents: your parents are hippies, you become a banker and vice versa."  from Michael Gruber's, "The Return"
QUOTE II:  "It seems awefully stupid to be afraid of death . . ."  same source

Fr. Damian wrote to his fellow priests. "I am sure that none of you listen to Taylor Swift, but I promise you that at least 85% of your teens and pre-teens do, and that they know her music well. Her new record sold 1.278 million copies in the first week. With that in mind, I reviewed her new record. You may want to share it with your youth minister of your middle school teachers."   HERE is the  link.

Adam sent in a link about an Our Lady of Guadalupe procession.  Video and article are HERE.

Christine sent this in:  "I’ve been meaning to send you this for a while. Sorry we’re already almost halfway through, but I thought you would enjoy this series of online advent calendar “windows.” If you go to professorcarol.com, you can subscribe to her advent calendar and receive each day a cultural tidbit about advent. The previous articles are listed at the bottom of each post."  Videos included.


Thursday, December 11, 2014


It amazes me when people are SURE FIRE about something about which they have no real means to know if it is true or not.  It amazes me even more when somebody points out to ME that I am adamant about something about which I have no real means to know if it is true or not.  We act on our prejudices and assumptions often unawares.
For example, a Grand Jury decided recently in a controversial police shooting that the officer was acting correctly.  A huge swath of people including much of my news sources have jumped on the band wagon condemning the police officer, police departments, and the justice system none of whom were there, attended the trial, or knew the people involved.  So sure, where there is smoke there is fire, but how can they be so sure in direct condemnation?

Today people have absolute ideas about the pope, what he said, what he meant, what he did, what his intentions are, and these are largely gleaned from blurbs from newspaper articles that are more interested in stirring up brouhaha than giving a fair, balanced, and full reports.  It doesn’t help the matter that our diocesan newspaper does little to counterman this.


Recently, Catholics in Akron were given two deeper glimpses into what is going on with our pope.  The first was Fr. Haydu, International Director of the Friends of the Vatican Museums, who said the reason many practicing Catholics are bristling at some of the things that come from the lips of our pontiff (assuming that it is being reported correctly) are missing out on the idea that they are not his audience.  We are the 99 sheep that he is allowing priests, bishops, and cardinals to tend and he is going after the 1 lost sheep.  That is his target audience.  And we can be like the prodigal son’s brother upset with the dad not giving him the fatted calf. 
The second opportunity was Mr. John Allen, senior correspondent to the Vatican for CNN.  He cautioned us about the media’s focus on a rift between the pope and the American bishops.  This will be exaggerated as we prepare to greet him in Philadelphia next year.  While there are certainly some bishops that do not agree with Pope Francis, there have been contingencies of bishops that did not like Benedict or John Paul II or any pope in history.  Today it is being highlighted and being made to seem larger or more important than it is.
Another caution he offered was buying into the “Benedict bad, Francis good” mentality.  Many of the things Pope Francis is (rightly) getting great credit for was also done by Benedict (though nobody knows of it) or are initiatives begun by Benedict and being implemented by Francis.
These are just two examples (and not very flushed out owing to the limited space of a post in this blog) but they point to something about which we need to remember: Don’t believe everything you hear.  Just because it is in writing does not mean that it is true.  If something sounds overly controversial to you, we have means to look into it more deeply.  John Allen’s articles are always considered excellently done.  You may find it HERE.  Or you may check out the Vatican websites themselves as well as other reputable Catholic sites.


We can be much more in the know.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


People bring me bulletins from other parishes.  I enjoy looking at what other places do for their publications.  One of the first things at which I look is their reporting of their collection.  Last week a bulletin was brought to me from St. John the Baptist Church in North Burlington, VT.  Apparently it is a very quaint and small parish.  The collection reported in the issue I received was $4,000.  I would have a heart attack and immediately try to sell off property if we only had a collection of that amount.  About 8 years ago it was estimated that this parish costs about $8,000 a day to keep rolling.  That $4,000 collection would have gotten us a little past lunch on Monday.
We are very fortunate to have a pre-school through 8th grade parish school.  I am VERY glad for it.  But let me be clear: MOST Catholic parish elementary schools lose money.  Our school loses quite a bit of money.  These loses are made up from the collection basket and parishes do it willingly because we believe in Catholic education.  The Diocese of Cleveland sets soft guidelines that the parish subsidy of the school should not exceed 20% of the Sunday collection and many cross that line.  (We are under.)


Most families understand this.  But there are always a few (EVERY pastor talks about this) who volunteer no time, do not come to Mass at the parish, nor give anything extra but justify it by saying, “I give TONS of money to the parish through my tuition.”  The simple fact is that for most Catholic elementary schools, your tuition does not cover what it is costing the parish to educate your child.  The thousands you may be paying is a partial payment to the parish in what the actual costs are.  In many cases we are asking the least amount we can and still be able to keep the doors open.
Then there is the interesting situation in which persons send their child to one school but attend Mass at another parish.  It is a great thing that they are attending Mass, but they miss sight of the idea that it is the parish community of their child’s school that is helping pay to educate their child.  At least occasionally they should go to Mass and pray with the community that cares about their child so much that they are willing to donate extra funds toward his education. 
It is a great topic for pastors.  Nobody has the silver bullet to solve it.  How do you get people to Mass (which is the reason we have a school), how do you get people involved?  Unfortunately the ones who really listen are the ones who already pay their bills, give to the parish, volunteer, and worship with the community.  Especially in a struggling parish, if everyone did their part, tuition for everyone would stay lower.  That is the theory.


What would you do?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "A young man may keep himself from vice by continually thinking of disease.  He may also keep himself from it by continually thinking about the Virgin Mary.  There may be a question about which method may be more reasonable, or even about which is the more efficient.  But surely there can be no question about which is the most wholesome."  from G. K. Chesterton's, ""Heretics"
QUOTE II:  "Nobody has any business to use the word 'progress' unless he has a definite creed and a cast iron code of morals.  Nobody can be progressive without being doctrinal . . . For progress by its very name indicates a direction; and the moment we are in the least doubtful about the direction, we become, in the same degree, doubtful about the progress."  same source
Today and next Tuesday mark the last two organ recitals at St. Sebastian for the Advent season.  The noon hour of adoration is accompanied by a local organist.  This Sunday at 3:30 is our annual Advent Lessons and Carols.  Also this Sunday St. Sebastian, St. Vincent, and St. Bernard will have the confessionals open and manned from 6:30 to 8:30PM!  Get in while you can!
A couple of people sent THIS in:  Pope wishes to de-stygmafy autism. 
This three minute video I found while looking something up on the St. Bernard website:

Sunday, December 7, 2014


Being advent it is confession season again.  Lot's O' school confessions, long lines at regular confession times, and extra confessions such as this coming Sunday when St. Sebastian, St. Vincent and St. Bernard will have a night of confessions at each of our places from 6:30 to 8:30.
That also means listening to the Act of Contrition a lot . . .
It is more difficult than you might imagine helping someone "finish" any particular Act of Contrition.  It depends how old they are, where they went to school, and what was in fashion at the time.  If they employ "Thee"s or "You"s is only a minor consideration.  Sadly, the grand, awe inspired, pleasings sounding "O" seems to be passing away.  When someone is stuck, it was easy to say, "O" and they would run on with, "my God I am heartily sorry . . ."  Oh "O", I am afraid that you have gone out of fashion.  But I shall keep you in my trunk of "old fashioned" things (such as vinyl records) until such day we discover we have no idea how we lived without you.
Trying to figure out from where some of these Acts of Contrition are coming, I (actually) looked on Wickipedia to find out.  (Not a place I would normally go for such things.)  But lo!  There they were!  They were titled:
"Popular American English Version"
"Popular Catholic American English Version"
"Another Popular American English Version"
"Popular Canadian English Version" (Which seems to be the one making the rounds now.)
"Modern Version Taught in Religious Education"
Most of them are SO close.  And often people mix them up anyway half way between the one they learned in grade school and what they are currently teaching their children.  So when they get stuck in the middle and say, "Ugh!  What's the next line Father?" I don't know.  The chart below shows why.  It is all the possible directions it might go.
Sometimes I try.  Sometimes I say, "You know, you can make it up."  Sometimes I say, "Just repeat after me."  But here is a sure winner from the Rites book:

Friday, December 5, 2014


Chapter 2 of Lumen Fidei
Christianity is the opiate of the masses!” or so said Karl Marx and it is absolutely true if faith is not wedded to truth.  If faith is not wedded to truth than it is no better than a sit com on TV that allows us to forget our worries and be happy for a little spell. 
But true faith is all about truth.  Today’s Catholic cannot lose sight of this.  On the one hand there are those who only believe in things that can be measured, viewed, and reproduced.  At the other end of the spectrum are those who only hold to what is true for the individual (it’s true for me even if it isn’t true for you.)  But there is a deeper understanding of truth that lies in humanity’s memory.  It grounds faith and far from being a hard dictator, is something that brings us freedom when properly understood.
If we do not think of freedom as something that we possess, then we can engage others in faith.  Truth is rather something that possess us and therefore we can walk with others who have are on a sincere search for truth and faith.  It is this truth and faith for which all sincere seekers are looking.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


In the “revolution” for sexual freedom, Chesterton suggests we ask the question, from what we are seeking freedom.  To that we might add, “And is what we are doing actually bringing us into greater freedom?”


A sure sign that a community is breaking down is that it relies more heavily on its officials to keep the peace rather than the community making sure that nothing nefarious is going on.  I could not get in trouble as a kid much as I may have wanted to.  Our neighborhood was so tightly knit that if I dropped a penny on the way home my parents would have received three phone calls that “little Johnny was throwing money all over town.”  This is one of the reasons I became a priest.  Why bother being bad?  I couldn’t get away with it anyway.

That neighborhood has changed dramatically.  Today if you would call many of the parents on the street and tell them that their kid was spray painting graffiti on someone’s house you would first be met with refusal (not my kid) and then anger, “How dare you!  What did you do to cause my child to have to spray paint Mrs. McDonald’s house?”  A that point the police move in, not because the community is stronger and so can bring them in, but because it is beginning to fail; it must bring them in.  It is weak.
In our new sexual freedom, we have seen, from professional sports, to college campuses, high schools, celebrities, politicians, and now even Joe and Mary down the street, not the community holding up standards and keeping individuals responsible, but more and more bringing in the state to make people responsible for their actions.  This is not a sign that we have more freedom, more respect for each other, or that we are more empowered, or that women are better respected, or that we have less to hide, or even that we are, as a whole, happier, but that we are less empowered and so must rely on the big stick.
Granted, there have always been persons who were not able to be kept in check by the community.  That is why there are police forces and soldiers.  When society is healthy, these services are there to protect our freedoms, not enforce them. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


One of the goals of faith is to live in freedom.  Freedom is a prerequisite for joy.  The freer you are, the greater capacity for joy that you have.  It is why Christ wants you to live in freedom.  It is why the Church is such a promoter of freedom.  But it is a freedom properly understood.
Freedom for our nation comes much closer to the notion of license; I am free to do whatever I want.  But license to do whatever one wills often leads to a lessening of freedom, not a greater expression of it.
Let us take just one example:  Anger.  There is righteous anger about which Scripture says, “If you are angry, let it be without sin.”  Then there is destructive anger.  How many times I have been taught by well meaning people to let all my anger out.  What they don’t mean is deal with anger, what they mean is to scream into a pillow or punch the couch.  This is not letting your anger out, it is practicing it. 


Remember when you mother used to say, “Don’t do that (use that word, make that face,) because one day it will come out when you don’t want it to.”  Mom was spot on and she didn’t have to go to seminary to learn that.  Practice your anger enough, and it will come out at the wrong time.  But also your anger then has control over you.  People, things, and situations also have control over you.  Long after the guy cut you off and has completely forgotten that you even exist, he still had control over you if you are steaming and mad and looking for vengeance.  He is enjoying the latte that he has just picked up out of his cup holder and you can’t think straight, are plotting revenge, and planning to kick the dog when you got home.
That is not freedom.
WARNING HERE:  This does not mean one does not deal with angry feelings.  You can’t just push them down.  But there are alternatives to letting your anger take over.
What if every time someone cut you off on the road you said a Hail Mary for them instead of doing finger exercises?  What if encountering a rude person at the mall drove you to a prayer for them instead of a curse?  What if being on hold gave you the opportunity to say a rosary instead of playing projectiles with desk implements?  What if nobody could control you again?  What if you went wild?  What if you were happy?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "We will not be defined by a trophy he often said, but it was easy to say that you would not be defined by something you didn't have."  from Michael Koryta's, "The Prophet"
QUOTE II:  "He saw the falsehood of that almost universal notion of today, the notion that rites and forms are something artificial, additional, and corrupt.  Ritual is really much older than thought; it is much simpler and much wilder than thought.  A feeling touching the nature of things does not only make men feel that there are certain proper things to say; it makes them feel that there are certain proper things to do.  The more agreeable of these consists of dancing, building temples, and shouting very loud; the less agreeable, of wearing green carnations and burning other philosophers alive."
You should go on a little get away for advent and Mary wants to help make that happen.  HERE is an interactive 3D experience of the temple.  If you take the self tour, she sent THIS floor plan to help you navigate around.  She also sent THIS picture of model to give you an idea of what it might have looked like.  Thanks.
She also sent this in:  Dear Fr. V., I thought AA readers may be interested in knowing that the Vatican Museums 3-D film will be in North Canton at Tinseltown next week on Wednesday, December 10, at 7:00 p.m. There will be only one screening of this special event.  For more details and more locations go HERE.
This a 5 and a half minute video on the spirituality of Advent: