Tuesday, November 20, 2018


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Yes, I am well aware that the goal of modern humanities education is to unmask the old authors and expose their writings as the poisoned fruit of a corrupt socioeconomic system, or of racism, sexism, and other approved targets of moral opprobrium.  Yes, I know many of you think that, when we read "texts" for truth or wisdom, we are being at best naive, at worst making ourselves complicit in spreading a hegemonic ideology, perpetuation the interests of the dominant class.  Yes, I know professors should know how to write long, jargon-laden sentences.  Yes, I know that professors are not supposed to use worlds like decency, nobility, and virtue without irony or scare quotes.  I recognize, in others words, that the reform of the humanities in universities will proceed one funeral at a time."


I went to visit Mother Mary Thomas last week with some friends.
 She is the nun that painted this monumental work:
 And in her 80s she is still at it!
 Find out more about her and her art HERE.


E.F. sent in THIS article from Dale Ahlqueist's visit to The Franciscan University of Steubenville.  

P.V. sent in THIS article of male students asking a Catholic University to put a filter on the Wi-Fi

Two videos this week:

Here is a 5.4 minute video of the restoration of St. Sebastian Parish for its 90th anniversary:

Here is Jordan Peterson in Slovenia (where my family is from.)  Over an hour.

Monday, November 19, 2018


So about a year ago, I take Sebastian the dog, then almost 12, to the vet and received some news:
It seemed logical, then, to get another dog.  Sebastian could help train the new rectory employee and perhaps the new dog could give Sebastian some re-invigorated life and companionship in his twilight years.

A kind parishioner helped me to find Chester, named after G. K. Chesterton.  The two dogs got along gangbusters.  Chester adores Sebastian and Sebastian has really taken Chester under his wing so to speak.  It was a good move.  Having two dogs is much trickier than I imagined it would be but things have been working out well under the circumstances.


Skip ahead a year.  Sebastian is almost 13.  We go to the vet:

And that's how I ended up with two dogs.

Friday, November 16, 2018


It was while drying dishes that I noticed that the dog was acting oddly and was off his food.  On the one hand he seemed to need lots of attention – cried for it - but when given, he did not seem very interested, whining and turning in circles.  But I was exhausted and it was more than I was interested in handling at that late hour.

Then that somebody remembered there were more dishes in the living room.  Going in to clear the dishes, though stuffed to the brim, the glutenous side of me had the intention of tasting just a little bit more of the spicy, meaty treats.  Looking at the platter I was shocked to see that we had finished off more of it than I had realized and that the choicest, spiciest selections  disappeared completely.  But the more I thought about it, the more sure I was that we had not, in fact, consumed that much food.  It would have been almost physically impossible.  Then the truth of it hit.  Sebastian!  The dog had helped himself to hot and spicy sausages and cheeses.  And that was also his emergency.  He was desperate to get outside and pass the burning mess inside him onto the grass.  I understood then he had been doing the dog version of a human with bulging eyes and crossing his legs doing his darndest not to let an accident happen.

“Come on boy, let’s go outside.”  The relief on his doggy face was palpable.  The door was opened and he shot out like a bullet, came to a screeching halt a few feet from the door and relieved the terrible, burning pressure.

I’ve never trusted him around such accessible and delicious food again. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018


What does God want me to do with my life?”

Often I come across people, usually young adults, who feel stuck in concerning their life’s path.  “If only God would tell me His plan for me,” is what they want to know.

You may not want that.

Suppose you did know.  Then you could never do anything else or you would be acting against God’s plan.  What a terrible pressure to carry on with what you are doing even if you are bad at it or extremely unhappy.

Still, for some people there is a definite life path.  Through discernment and openness to all of the clues around them, and with the assistance of some sort of spiritual advisor, it is pretty clear.  “Ah!  This is to what I am called!”  That sort of happened to me.  That’s a longer story maybe I’ll share some other time. 

But for some people, it isn’t clear in that way.  This is because what God might need from you is not for you to take “this job” or “this vocation,” it may be that His life plan for you is to live whatever you choose to do in a special way.  It isn’t WHAT you do (within reason) but HOW you do it.  For some people then, they may be asking the wrong question.

There was once a young lady who came to see me with what I thought was good news.  She was accepted into a religious order about which she was very excited.  But when she came to my office, she was in inconsolable tears.  After a little while she was able to explain that a young man with whom she was hanging out, upon discovering that she may actually be going into the convent, proposed to her.  This was good news.  It wasn’t as though she needed to choose between life in prison and the death penalty.  These were to good vocations.  They are both pathways to holiness.  They are both ministries to the world lived correctly.  God was not sitting on a cloud saying, “Pick the right one that I want for you or I get to punish you!”  More likely He was looking lovingly upon His daughter and saying, “I have given you two wonderful presents from which to choose, but you may only have one.  Pick one and live it with relish, power and grace and help Me transform the world.”

If you are stuck in a “what is God’s plan for me” mode, be open to signs, be open to what people of faith people may be saying to you, be open to spiritual direction and be patient - but not TOO patient.  Don’t let the process be that time takes away all choices and you get what is left.  In the mean time, also be open to the idea of not WHAT but HOW and start living it with gusto!  Live life as though you ARE the son or daughter of the Heavenly Father that you are, that you are among the kings and queens in the heavenly court, that you are a disciple, that you are the person of prayer, sacrament and grace, that you are fully what God is calling you to be.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "In the midst of our applauding the feats of civilization, the Bible flings itself like a knife slashing our complacency, reminding us that God, too, has a voice in history."  from Abraham Joshua Heschel's, "God in Search of Man."


E.P. sent in THIS article about the resurgence of the St. Micheal Prayer.

I displayed a silver icon of the Last Supper in the back of the church with the explanation in the picture below.  I think someone may have accidentally taken it home thinking we were looking for a good home for it.  If anybody has any information about this or can kindly and confidentially tell the person who may have mistakenly taken it to return it?  THANK YOU.
Bonafacy Obts was an expert vestment maker that our very own Karen Spangler met with to get some tips died recently.  Karen recently put his tips to use in the making of our 90th Anniversary vestments.  Carly Smith made the appliqués.  They did a wonderful job!  Notice the front appliqué matches the angels over all of the church doors:

The back appliqué exquisitely matches the pelican motif on our altar rail:

Well done!

Saw this sign and had to take a picture.  I LOVE AKRON!
Fr. Pfeiffer stopped over on Sunday night to visit.  I snapped this picture of him at the piano and thought it was so cool that I needed to share it with you.
Here are some quickly approaching events:

E.F., a fellow Chestetonian, sent out this video of Dale Ahlqueist's talk, "G. K. Chesterton: The Critic's Critic."  I recommend skipping the first 13 minutes or so.

Monday, November 12, 2018


As I have shared with you recently, it is time for glasses.  Not all of the time.  Mostly just for reading.  And sometimes they are really, really needed and other days not so much.  All this makes it difficult to keep track of glasses.  If I need them they move around with me.  If not, I leave them somewhere or in a shirt pocket making them difficult to find the next time they are needed.  This, I am sure, has been been a problem for those who wear glasses since they were invented.  BUT there is an advantage that a priest has to help him in this regard:
As difficult as it can be to live without your glasses, people do - and their keys - and their wallets - and all manner of winter clothing.  So occasionally I will look through the Lost and Found box:
And then it is time to wait.  Months.  We put notices in the bulletin, display all of the items (usually at the end of winter) in the back of the church (it's fun when someone is reunited with a glove or something that was a Christmas gift) and then it is all returned to the Lost and Found box where it is taken - if it is in serviceable condition - to charity.  

BUT - if the glasses are still there . . .

And this works out great.  The rectory is a large building.  The living space is quite spread out and then there are our offices.  I have been able to accumulate an assortment of serviceable glasses and place them in various places: on my desk - at my chair - by my bed - so that wherever I am there will be a pair of glasses.

Except that I have the terrible habit of flipping them up on the top of my head - wearing them to my chair where I want to relax a little and taking them off and putting them on the side table so that I don't break them (in case anybody recognizes them and wants them back.)  But this habit kind of ruins the careful planning.

Friday, November 9, 2018


One day, knowing that I did not have a cook, a pastor (who had once employed me as a painter when I was a seminarian) and his cook who always wowed me with her culinary expertise offered to come to St. Sebastian and throw a dinner for the three of us.  Late in the afternoon a car pulled up and bags of groceries, enough to feed small village, were loaded into the house.  Organized pandemonium ensued.  Pots clanged, flour filled the air, and arguments worthy of a Nero Wolf novel concerning the correct amount of some herb or spice filled the house along with the smells of cooking.  The dog and I were sequestered to a corner of the kitchen where we were allowed to watch and ask questions.  My main job was to keep uncorking wine bottles to keep the cooks fueled and watch the unraveling drama. 

A couple of hours into the process there was a sudden silence.  Dinner needed some time by itself to finish up.  But in the meantime, there were hors d’ oeuvres in the living room that required our immediate attention.  

The low table in my office/living room was loaded down with spicy meats, cheeses and wonderfully breaded and deep fried things.  Dinner could become superfluous if we were not very careful.  This alone was a feast set for a king – a most gracious house warming gift.

The cook for the evening having slipped away to finish up things in the dinning room returned to announce that it was now time to eat.  We prayed and headed to the table.  Our hostess for the evening inquired about the prudence of leaving the unguarded food on the low table with Sebastian around.  “He has never so much as made a request of people food,” I proudly informed her, “I think we need not worry,” so, in great confidence, we descended upon the dining room table.

After dinner we took coffee out on the newly dubbed loggia.  It was looking quite sporting by now.  The security light had been removed and replaced with a simple candle chandelier that had been purchased at the end of the camping season for a song along with a “last one” floor model garden fountain.  Both of my friends who were serious hobbyists, antiquarians, and infinitely curious after expressing their delight in the room asked the question, “But what is under the Astroturf?” 

The truth was that I wondered myself.  Why would anybody put down that green plastic atrocity if it were not for a very good reason?  I surmised that it was probably just a cement floor and this may have been an improvement.

“Are you sure?” asked the cook setting down her coffee cup.

“Well . . . no.”

The priest set down his coffee cup and leaned forward.  “Haven’t you checked my boy?”

“I’m sure it’s nothing special.  If it was it wouldn’t be covered then would it?”

They looked conspiratorially at each other.  This night was not going to end well.

“If I were you and this was my house,” said the cook in a tone unmistakably underscored with a challenge of an adult speaking to a child, “nothing would keep me, at this very moment, from taking up at least a corner to see what was under there.”

“Yeah, but who knows what mess we might get ourselves into?”

“But my dear boy,” said the priest, “think of what great discovery there might be!”

I opened my mouth to say something but realized it would only postpone the inevitable and it was already getting a bit late.  We got up and went to a corner and I prayed that we would find nothing but cement under the floor covering.  I bent down and started prying up a corner.  The two conspirators loomed over me.  An initial lifting revealed two, grey, unimpressive sandstone blocks.  “Doesn’t look like much,” I said.

“Keep going.  Just a bit further,” they encouraged.

Another couple of inches revealed square tiles in burnt hues of yellow, red, and orange.  It was the worst possible news.  I heard a gasp over my shoulder.  “Look,” I said trying for one last dodge, “Surely there is a huge crack or a space they had to patch with cement in order for them to have covered nice tile in Astroturf.  I think we should stop until we are better prepared to deal with the mess we are making.”

But they were undaunted.  “I’ll clear the plates and keep the coffee heated in the kitchen,” cried the first, “And I will help the boy clear the porch of all this furniture!” cried the other.

An hour later (and into the dark part of the evening) there was a lawn full of furniture, yards and yards of plastic grass to haul to the dumpster, the coffee had grown tepid, but we stood on a wonderful discovery: a floor of five squares of tiles the color of late fall surrounded by blocks of sandstone.  The floor was in almost perfect condition under squiggly lines of black glue.

That the daring project turned out so well made the odious task of reassembling the loggia less of a burden.  Unfortunately almost everything used for the dinner was not dishwasher safe and we had a long time to recount the adventure over washing a drying more plates than any three people should use in one sitting.  

Thursday, November 8, 2018


It is one of the most short sighted agendas in our culture that our poor need food, shelter, clothing and medical attention and that then we have done our job.  What a horrendous mode of existence.  It is one of the terrible blunders of housing for the poor.  We build large, ugly buildings in which to warehouse people and wonder why they are not more inspired.

In the Holy Land, the places where we visited were not beautiful places to live.  (I have been assured that in other locations there than the ones we visited the case is much different.)  There was very little in the way of public art, in many areas the litter was as abundant as leaves on the ground in Ohio in the fall, there were few parks and, for the most part, I was not inspired by the architecture.  (There are many reasons that this should be the case, but just the same, this is the way I saw it.)  What was beautiful were the places of worship.  Entering in, one would see (often) good and inspiring architecture, art (some great, some adequate) music, order and (to varying degrees) cleanliness.  They are places (at least in theory) that are open to the rich and the poor alike.  It is a God send (quite literally) that they exist.  One is transported from the traffic and crowds and heat of he day to a place of serenity and beauty of which the poor are particularly in need.

One might say that in the United States, we have plenty of publicly accessible art to inspire rich and poor alike and that we should spend all of the money on the poor.  (Let us set aside for a moment that the largest contributor to the poor in the world - governments included - is the Catholic Church and that most of the people making these accusations do so while not living in ugly houses in order for them to give more money to the poor yet not invited the poor in to enjoy their homes.)  But even so, where is the public art the inspires anyone in our Christian Judaeo heritage?  Such art is eschewed today.  It is not funded.  

Add to that the amount of public art in West Akron that no longer exists.  The Indian on West Exchanged was removed albeit for safety and preservation reasons.  A statue of the early pilgrims that once was on the property of ACME #1 was removed with promises that they would provide a new piece of art (which has yet to happen.)  Where is the ONE place you can go to be inspired by truly and unapologetically Christian art?  Your church (at least I hope.)

Not only that, if we do not inspire artists where will they hone their skills?  By people who will hire them.  If we do not - look around at who will willingly pay them and what messages are being delivered to our culture.  

Not only is it patently not hypocritical for the Church to engage in the mindset of being patroness of the arts, she is grossly failing her people, particularly the poor, if she does not.  A pastor who allows his parish to order “art” out of a catalogue should be horsewhipped.  (Well, maybe he should just go to confession.)  The parish is the original “free museum.”  The keeper of a culture in a greater culture that is increasingly divergent.  To do anything less is woefully negligent.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2018


FINDING TRUTH WHEVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "[To] borrow a warning from the great French writer Charles Peguy, we may never fully know the acts of deceit and cowardice that, 'have been motivated by the fear of looking insufficiently progressive.'"  from Archbishop Chaput's, "Strayers in a Strange Land."

QUOTE II:  "Spirituality is about man's search for God, while Catholicism is about God's search for man."  from the same source


This Saturday we are celebrating a special Mass at 4:30 to celebrate our 90th Anniversary and you are invited.  There will be great music and the unveiling of new vestments made by our own Karen Spangler with appliqués by Carlie Smith.  Hope to see you there!

 Some other events for you consideration:

 Thanks to Marcy Smith I had a pumpkin to carve this year:
Somebody found something to roll around in at the farm this past week:
And somebody else no longer smells like skunk or so attests my sister
This icon was gifted to the people of St. Sebastian from the Christian community in Bethlehem.  It will be on display this weekend by the St. Joseph altar.
 This is young Daniel after his organ concert.  I hope you were able to hear it!
He didn't do this piece but this is a taste of what he could do a year ago. (1:45)

Monday, November 5, 2018


We received a letter from our Bishop this past Friday afternoon.  He asked that it be placed in the bulletin but unfortunately it was too late for us to be able to do so.  We did post the letter on the doors of the church and read it at all of the Masses.  But it is such an awesome request that it is replacing Monday Diary in hopes of getting the message out.

It is part of the great history of our faith that, when we face difficult times, we were called as a body to acts of prayer and penance to bring healing and ask for guidance.  We read about people of faith fasting, praying and wearing sackcloth and ashes as we as a people look to realign ourselves with all that God calls us to.

Currently we face a scandal in the Church.  Moreover, the we fully acknowledge when it had not been responded to well at all.  The bishops of the United States will be gathering beginning November 11th to call each other to accountability, develop a response and be better shepherds.

During this week leading up to their meeting, our Bishop is dedicating himself to prayer and fasting and has asked us to pray along with him:

For healing of those who have been abused.

For the just punishment and conversion of the perpetrators and those who covered up abuse.

For the bishops, that they may be holy shepherds who will do all they can to keep the sheep entrusted to them from harm.

I will join him and prayer and encourage you to do so also.

God bless,

Fr. Valencheck

Friday, November 2, 2018


One of the most interesting spaces in the house is a room that runs along the back of the garages, a half flight of stairs down from the main hallway It is about ten feet wide and forty feet long.  Two walls are solid brick and the other two broken up by a series of six, floor to ceiling arches of screened windows that look out on to the park across the street.  The ceiling is of dark timber with two copper light fixtures (another having gone missing and been replaced with a ghastly security light) and, at the time of this part of the story, it had a floor covered with Astroturf and the space packed with boxes and furniture.  It was a storage room.  The potential and desirability of the room was immediately evident and space was found to store the boxes and furniture elsewhere, patio furniture was excavated from out of the garage and re-commissioned, a tapestry from a local thrift shop was tacked to the wall, and plants and some old decommissioned candle sticks gave the room the final touches.  It easily became one of the favorite rooms to hang out in.

My sister was the first to voice her disapproval of the word “porch” for this space.  Remember that our experience of a porch was the newspaper stoop.  This room was too nice a space simply to be called a porch or breezeway.  A contest was launched to find a better word for this space but they all felt just as bland or definitionally deficient.  Then one day, in the record’s room in the basement of the rectory, trying to put some organization to the blueprints of all of the parish buildings, from the floor plan for the rectory a new word was added to my vocabulary.  Written in the architect’s hand where the room struggling for a name was to be found, was the word “loggia.”

As it turns out, a loggia is an open sided, roofed gallery that runs along the front of a building.  This is exactly what this room was before a second story was plopped on top of it.  All being satisfied with the word, from then on we retreated to the “loggia.”  (It was about a month into using this word that my architect brother in law pointed out that the “g”s in the word loggia were soft.  Ooops.)

Thursday, November 1, 2018


Well, I’m no saint . . .”

Here’s the bad news/good news about that saying:

You are NOT getting into heaven UNLESS you are a saint.

Purgatory is not a second chance for Catholics.  At death you are hopefully going to heaven because the alternative is just hell.  But for most on the path to heaven, there will be a cleansing of our un-heavenly desires.  WHATEVER THIS IS (and it is not exactly clear) that is what purgatory is.

Here’s the good news: Despite what most people think and what our statues might depict, saints are not perfect people.  They are human beings.  From Peter, to Jerome, to John Paul II, saints are people who erred in many aspects of their lives, were in ample need of the sacrament of confession and like Saint Paul said, I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”  Romans 7:15-20.

The difference between saints and non-saints?  Saints are faithful.  Do you want to begin to understand what it is to be faithful?  Think of the most faithful friend you ever had - or what you would like in a most faithful friend.  Then start by being that to God and you are well on your way to sainthood.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Every ideal is a judge . . . You put something up as an ideal and it stares down at you and says you aren't what you could be.  Every great piece of art does that."  Jordan Peterson.


IF YOU RECEIVED AND EMAIL FROM ME asking for a favor to buy something for me - don't believe it.  My Email account was hacked.  I spent way too much time this morning trying to figure out how to send a mass Email.  Online it says it should be easy peasy but I can't figure it out!  But no, if I need an iTunes card, I can buy it myself.  I cannot imagine needing an emergency one.

If you go HERE you will find a link to a documentary on Eric Armusik that is on German television.  Unfortunately about half of it is in German.  If you skip to the half way mark you can hear Eric speaking in English.  You will notice some of the paintings that are here at St. Sebastian.  

Here are some events that might be of interest to you:

This is one of my favorite pictures from the Holy Land.  We are in Masada in an ancient mountain fortress.  The mountain was completely surrounded by the Roman army that wanted to take it.  If you can spot the square far below, that was one of the Roman encampments.  Could you imagine waking up everyday knowing that they are down there waiting to find a way in????
I took a note from Fr. Trenta's playbook.  This is the first meal I had coming back to the United States.
Fr. Pfeiffer at a fundraiser with me for the Poor Claires this weekend.  He is multitasking eating and playing that Heads or Tails game at the same time.
This is phenomenal!  5 and half minutes.