Thursday, June 30, 2016


We have some seminarians living at St. Sebastian this summer.  One of them has rarely been south of 303 and so we have been introducing him to all that is Akron.  While doing so we thought of some things that will help you know of you are becoming a true Akronite as well as a dyed in the wool Sebastianite.  Here are some of the things with which we came up.  If you have any to add I would greatly appreciate it.

You have Akron legs.  You can walk around the neighborhood and not trip on the upheaved slabs that look as though we have just gone through three a major earthquakes.  For example, when someone trips you say, “You haven’t got your Akron legs yet.”

You are VERY careful when shoveling snow.

You can drive down Mull Avenue, the brick street that runs in front of parish, and know the secret path around all of the swells and waves of bricks so that you can go 35mph without destroying your car.

You know they used to skate in Forest Lodge Park and further you know that Forest Lodge Park is actually actually Elm Hill Park but you don’t care.

You know there are no Elm trees on Elmdale Avenue, in Elm Hill Park, or at Our Lady of the Elms.

You know exactly where to go if someone says, “Meet me at the brick parking lot,” and you know exactly what is meant by, “I heard it on the brick parking lot.”

You never hated LeBron James.

You have strong opinions about Catholic high schools.

You know the parish story about galoshes.  

You have a 50% chance of knowing how to play bridge or someone in your household knows how to play.

You know that between an old rusted piece of abandoned pipe and an ornamental lamp post, the one that will get hit by a car is the lamp post.

You prefer traffic circles to oddly designed five way stops.

You never realized that you realized that there are two identical statues of St. Mary on the parish grounds until someone points it out to you.

When you look up you are not terribly surprised to see a blimp.

If you want to come early or stay late at church you know better than to park in the undersized parking lot.

You refer to the local Acme store as Acme Number One.

You know where the devil strip is.

There is a 50% chance that you have something of Don Drum in your house.

If you see someone in the bell tower your first thought is, “The pastor must be trying to get away from it all,” not, “Is there someone up there with a rifle?”

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


So yesterday I wrote to you that I was going to be away from the parish most of the day with two of the seminarians who are staying at and working for the parish over the summer to go to Christ the Bridegroom Monastery to visit the sisters there and check on the progress of the St. Sebastian icon.  It is over in Burton, Ohio surrounded by an Amish community.  We passed a couple of buggies on our way.
We had lunch and chatted and then Sister Iliana FINALLY asked, "So, do you want to see the icon?"  It was killing me being polite while the anticipation built.  So we made our way to the icon room and got our first glance of St. Sebastian.
It is marvelous.  Better than I hoped.  But it isn't done yet.  She has to wait several months before putting on the last coats.  Everything needs to dry.  She was concerned about a delivery date but I assured her that we actually don't NEED it until 2018, the 90th anniversary of the parish.

On a whim she painted the background blue which turns out to be fortuitous.  The church building of St. Sebastian is largely blue in the interior due to the first pastor's devotion to the Blessed Virgin.  So that just turned out cool.
Across the street is a shrine dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  You can go visit it yourself.  A number of people visited it while we were there praying and looking around.  The first thing that you come across is this church.  It doesn't look like much from the outside but the inside is pretty cool and conducive to prayer.
Then you take a long walk back to the outdoor shrine.  
This is the main shrine on the property but there are many more minor shrines such as to Fatima and Lourdes.  Some of it is in disrepair but the community seems to slowly restoring it to what it once was.
Then there are these bells.  I need them.  I promised not to make too much noise but I had to ring them at least once and Sister was kind enough to let us have at it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "[I]n today's economy beauty is the great equalizer, a backstage pass."  from Hoah Hawley's, "Before the Fall"

QUOTE II:  "Sports is a meritocracy after all."  same source

QUOTE III:  "She hated him, he thought, but isn't hate just the thing we do to love when the pain become unbearable?" same source


I am taking much of today away with the seminarians staying here this summer to visit CHRIST THE BRIDEGROOM MONASTERY in Burton Ohio.  Read more about them HERE.  We are going to visit St. Sebastian, an icon painted by Sister Iliana and paid for by the Saint Sebastian Bridge Flights in honor of our 90th anniversary coming up in 2018.

So I don't have a lot of time to post today.  HERE is a new podcast site for the homilies from St. Sebastian.  If you listen to my homily from this past weekend (13th Sunday) you will hear the ONLY homily I have every given that got applause - mostly because I mention LeBran James.  Yes, we wanted a win that badly.  Only something a North East Ohioan can understand.  

Here is the next installment in a crash course in philosophy.  Ten minutes.

Monday, June 27, 2016


Modern technology, I begrudgingly admit, is wonderful.  I suppose now I have become so technified that if someone were to take it all away from me - say if I were dropped in the woods somewhere and told to survive for three days - at the end I would be bored, hungry, wet, and agitated that I couldn't check my Email.
I have exteriorized most of my memory.  Don't tell me anything at the end of Mass and expect that I am going to remember.  Unless I have an external device on which I can record it (paper will end up in the wash machine) you might as well be speaking to a tree.
I used to travel with my cousin who was a teacher.  When we were on vacation she would not want noise in the morning, or be asked anything that required her to make a decision, or be surrounded by too many people.  "I spend all day with a large group of children who constantly need me.  When I am on vacation, I want the exact opposite," she informed me.
I think I know how she feels now.  Quite often as pastor, people second guess every move you make which is understandable enough.  People are invested.  That is good.  But now even my car is in on it.

Friday, June 24, 2016


GIRM paragraph 84

I’ve always been fascinated by this prayer of the Mass.  It is said quietly by the priest just before he is to receive Communion.  The words prescribed sound a little bit like a parent taking his precocious son aside and privately saying in a calm but pointed voice, “Okay, this is your last chance.  Are you sure you want to do this?”  

“Yeah Mom!”

“Fine.  Then go ahead.”

The prayer reads in part, “May the receiving of your Body and Blood Lord Jesus Christ not bring me to judgement and condemnation. . .”

You know what? Wow.  We sugar coat SO MUCH.  “You’re fine.  I’m fine.  We are all going to heaven anyway.”  But here is the Church taking one of her sons aside for a moment and saying, “This is serious stuff.  Don’t mess around.  There are repercussions and consequences for taking this lightly.”  It is possible for the reception of the Body and Blood to bring about judgement and condemnation.  The Church chooses her words very, very, very carefully.  She would not bandy about “condemnation” if she didn’t mean it.  To receive the Eucharist being aware of serious sin on your soul is grave matter.  Since we believe that the Eucharist is not a thing but a Person, that means one has first rejected the Person out of their life (that is what mortal sin is) and then forced themselves on to that Person in this most intimate of actions. It, in essence, becomes a double abuse of His Love.

So let’s suppose that you are a priest and you take these things seriously and you come up to a wedding or funeral at which there are lapsed Catholics of varying degrees and many non-Catholics.  What do you do about Communion?  There are some options.  One is to let it go.  The argument here is that God is Love and can fend for Himself and if someone receives who shouldn’t, they did so in ignorance and God will let it go.

But that would cover over one of the biggest scandals of the Church:  That they may be one.  By recognizing that there is a division between us I have been afforded the opportunity to talk with non-Catholics who have come up to me and to discuss it.  At one point, with a Protestant minister, we came down to the point of, “Well, if you believe that, you need to consider becoming Catholic.”  I don’t think he did but he was shocked at how Catholic his ideas were after some Scripture study and perhaps there was a little healing of Christian unity there.  

That would not have happened with the “You’re Okay, I’m Okay, God can fend for Himself,” mentality.  

SO how do you get the message across?  One way is to have people read the USCCB statement usually found on the cover of the misselette.  It is an entire page of instructions to various persons who may be present.  The priest can also announce some instructions.  Some do it at the beginning of Mass, some do just before Communion.  That is what I do since the missalette is not in our pews.

Here is what I say:

It is always an honor and a privilege whenever persons of different faith backgrounds come together to worship our God.  Out of respect for you and out of respect for your beliefs, I can only offer Communion today to those Catholics who are properly disposed.  If you are unable to receive today, please pray for the unification of the Christian Church and make a spiritual communion with us.  Thank you.

There is a person who lives in our neighborhood who takes great offense at this statement.  She attended a funeral Mass years ago at which I made this statement though I will admit that instead of “Catholics who are properly disposed,” I said, “Catholics who are in a state of grace.”  I changed it because of her.  I suppose she sees me as causing too much division among Christians and I see her as causing too much division among Catholics she tries to dissuade from attending St. Sebastian.  I like to think we are both well intentioned.

But I digress.

Whereas the celebrant has specific prayers to pray before receiving, all others are giving leeway to pray as they wish that they will “fruitfully” receive the Blessed Sacrament.  The priest then shows the Eucharist to the people “inviting them to the banquet of Christ” and then all say an act humility borrowed from the Scriptures.  

Thursday, June 23, 2016


If someone asks the question, “Where you at ‘the parade’” and you live in northeast Ohio, you know exactly about which parade is being spoken.  Yes, outrageous amounts of people were converging on Cleveland to heap thanks and praise on the Cavs and in general being happy that we have something to be happy about in local sports and in our self esteem in general.  I will admit to getting swept up in things myself and was unexpectedly excited about the whole to do, even to feeling compelled to ring the steeple bells.

Of course, it is on everybody’s mind and preachers of all stripes are using the event to further the kingdom.  Some use it positively and others use it as a point of shame.  “Jesus shows up every weekend at Church, where are the crowds for him?”

Eh.  You know what, they were there when he entered Jerusalem on a donkey right?  And further, by an large we DO show up every Sunday.  That 1.3 million people in downtown Cleveland on Wednesday?  What SLIVER of them had ever shown up to an actual game?  How many of them didn’t watch a game until it became clear that there was a possibility for a win here?  If people turned out for Mass the way they did for this event, we would be very, very sad.  It is like everybody is Catholic when the pope is in town and then a week later the pews they suddenly occupied are empty again.

Here is the difference.  Basketball was invented only 125 years ago.  It is not even as old as the city of Akron.  The first professional basketball game was played in 1896.  The Cavaliers began in 1970, a mere 46 years ago.  As far as sports go, it is a relatively recent phenomenon which has every indication of continuing on for some time but things change.  It could die out like so many other sports in another 100 years.  

What makes this win something to me is LeBron.  He grew up in my town, went to school down the street, and came back to play basketball here and does an incredible amount of charity in the area.  He is an Akronite, raised on Lake Erie water and Midwest corn.  He is not a player who happens to show up here because we pay him and who will be gone after the money runs out.

And what we witnessed was not just a bunch of guys winning a ball game, but what a highly trained human person is capable of achieving when they put their minds, bodies, and souls into it.  It is truly something beautiful and inspiring to watch.  Hopefully it will motivate some people off of the couch or to achieve greatness in other ways.  “Fellow humans, we can accomplish such things as this.”

Would Jesus have gone to the parade with His disciples?  Maybe.  Who knows?  There were no professional basketball teams then to watch going to the championship.  But if there was, I bet He would be amused by the whole thing, he would still make sure they stopped and prayed, and He would keep it in perspective.  2000 years from now nobody may even know what a cavalier or a basketball is.  Nobody will gather every weekend to celebrate the athletic salvation of a city.  King James will once again refer to a particular translation of the Bible.  But today we celebrate human achievement and that it occurred with somewhat of an attachment to this area like a vision of the Virgin Mary on an overpass bridge - that is, we really don’t have any control over it, but we celebrate it because it happened here and we claim in as our own.  Then on Sunday, we will wake up, say our prayers, go to Mass, and celebrate something that is both universal and local, something that happens in time as well as in the eternal now, an action in which we actually participate and become part of, and that will still have immediate relevance next year even as basketball changes seasons and teams, when titles become history and we start asking again, “But what have you done lately?”

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  Here are a couple of quotes involving basketball since that seems to be all anybody is interested in around here recently (except you Adam.)

"I never worry about the problem, I worry about the solution,"  Shaquille O'Neal

QUOTE II:  "They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they'd make up their minds.”  Wilt Chamberlain

QUOTE III:  "All at once, I couldn’t figure out why I was methodically tossing a spherical object through a toroidal object. It seemed like the stupidest thing I could possibly be doing.”  John Green


This past Sunday was a great day.  It was Father's Day.  I got to hear one of my favorite Jazz trios.  Some major sports team or another won something . . . (Actually I unexpectedly freaked out and even rang the steeple bells)


"Hi Father Valencheck! We had an out of town visitor today at the 1 pm mass- Kevin James! He is in town for a show. As you can tell, Charlie is still in his cassock. I think he ran from the sacristy after mass to meet him. Best part? He told Charlie he did a good job serving today. Mr. James is best known for his role in the cbs show King of Queens. He was very kind to let Charlie get a picture with him while the rest of us older ones totally geeked out :).  Carey"

For those of you who have been following, all the birds have left my flower box and I have been able to water, weed, and clean it up.  

I know Father's Day is over but this two and half minute video is still worth it.  Thanks for sending it in PCV:

Sunday, June 19, 2016


I am of that unfortunate class of people born after 1964 - the post baby boom group.
And I don't mean that I'm just coming to the end of my 50th year.
Only a true native of the Cleveland area knows the tragedy of this.
It means I've been alive almost as long as possible without witnessing any professional championships.

Friday, June 17, 2016


When I was in junior high school (back when it was thought the concept was thought superior to middle school) one of the prizes handed out at carnivals was a necklace that had a heart on it that was broken in half.  The other half you were supposed to give to the person with whom you were going steady to show that you were one of the same heart.  (Eash.  Please tell me they don’t do that anymore.)  Of course, never mind the fact that they handed out millions of those things and so there was a good chance that any number of people were walking around with the other half of your heart.

But the cool thing about it is that, although trite and not efficacious, it does give an insight into the Eucharist.  Today we move from the part of the Mass in which the sacrifice was offered to the Father on behalf of mankind, and now (paragraph 83 of the GIRM) we prepare to become one in Christ and with each other as we partake in the One Body of Christ and share in His benefits.

So, in an action reserved to the ordained clergy, Christ’s Body is broken and divided among His brothers and sisters not unlike that heart that was divided between two people involved in the trials of puppy love.

Now obviously the analogy only takes us so far.  The necklace does not actually unite anybody.  And it is only an object, not a Person.  And the Eucharist is the entirety of Christ; Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, not just half a heart.

Christ’s Body is arced toward unity.  There is only the appearance of the Body being divided, but spiritually it is bringing us all together into unity with Christ and with each other.  Understanding this allows you to understand better Flannery O’Conner’s comment, “Because if it is only a symbol, to hell with it.”  And if I belonged to a Church that didn’t celebrate the Eucharist, if I didn’t like the music, I think I would stay home and pray with my family and maybe a couple of neighbors.  But if the Eucharist is what Christ said it was, what a magnificent event this is.  Nothing compares.  

Thursday, June 16, 2016


Who do you call father?

For many people it is not that easy of a question.  Simply donating part of himself in order for you to be created does not necessarily earn a man the title father other than on some governmental and ecclesial forms.  The coach that treats you well and teaches you how to be a man or woman might earn the title over the guy who gave five minutes of his time to see that you were conceived and then never had much of a positive role in your life again.

Calling someone your father or “father figure” implies a good and healthy relationship.  It means that there is a certain amount of trust and security between the two in order for one to call the other father.  It means that the title has been earned.

In today’s Gospel we are given permission to call God, “Our Father.”  We are called His children, brothers and sisters in Christ.  The ramifications are mind blowing.  In all of mythology, what other god asked to be called father?  In fact, most Muslims would find referring to God as Our Father as bordering if not downright blasphemy.  Yet we are instructed to do this by Jesus.

Jesus’ entire mission was to restore the rifts between each of us and between us and our Heavenly Father.  Original sin began the rift and His mission was to restore the relationship.  At the Mass, the highpoint of this unity with God is when we are present for the offering of Christ when the priest intones, “Through Him, with Him, in Him . . . all glory and honor is Yours Almighty Father for ever and ever” and the congregations cries out, “Amen!  Amen! Amen!”  At this point, assuming that we are in a state of grace, we are as closely untied to Our Father as we can be in this life.  And what are the first words out of our mouth after this moment?  We dare to say, “Our Father, Who are in heaven, hollowed be Thy Name . . .”

This Sunday is Father’s Day.  When you pray that prayer this Sunday at Mass realize the full import of that moment and that word and say it with awe, reverence, humility, gratitude, and love.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Years ago I was subbing at a parish that was in need of a priest to say a Sunday Mass.  I was singing the introduction to the Our Father and then the guitars kicked in and everybody started moving.  I was not sure what was going on at first.  It was if the gravitational pull of the middle aisle had suddenly increased and was sucking people toward it.  It took a few seconds to realize that everybody was scrunching together so that they could all hold hands (at least by the middle of it) during the Our Father.  They stayed there during my next part, “Deliver us Lord from every evil . . .” and then raised their clasped hands high at, “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are Yours . . .”  after which there was a bunch of shuffling during the next prayers so everyone could get back to a pew.

Nobody seems to know from where this practice of holding hands at the our Father came.  A former liturgist of the Diocese of Cleveland reported however that it began with some group, maybe AA, and from there speed through the Church.  Although a very nice gesture signifying the human unity of the community, I have failed to find anybody who is a serious liturgist who approves of the gesture.  The emPHAsis is just wrong at this point.

A good number of years ago, the same liturgist then introduced the orans position in the diocese to help rid us of the practice of holding hands (because really if we do this, then do we need the sign of peace?)  That seemed to work but messing around with the rubrics tends to have unforeseen consequences.  The priest (and concelebrants if there are any) are directed by the rubrics (red lettering that tells one what to do at the Mass) to pray the prayer with hands outstretched.  The deacon, however, is NOT to do this.  So if you are in a parish where the people pray the Our Father with hands outstretched, technically the deacon is the only one in the room who shouldn’t.

What is directed for the people to do during this prayer?  Stand.  Your arms do whatever your arms do during the rest of the Mass - hang at your side, folded in prayer, feeding your mouth Cheerios, whatever.  Nothing is bad about holding your hands up during the prayer unless you are forcing someone else to do it as being “more correct.”  But if anything, I think a better argument might be that the priest should not raise his hands as it is not a presidential prayer, but that is just an opinion.

So there is the envisioned way of doing it.  If you do it this way at our parish you get a gold liturgical star and can have an extra half brownie after dinner today.  If you do something else that doesn’t bother others who don’t want to participate, you may feel modern and enlightened.  If you are doing something that is distracting from the prayer and placing others in forced labor to do your bidding, I’m sure you can find a job at a parish as liturgist.

(Will that do Fr. O?)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016



The above courtesy of Fr. G. David.

So as it turns out there are TWO baby birds in my flower box, not one.
And this morning mom and one of her kids took off and this little guy is looking at me like I'm supposed to do something.  Am I?  I'm trusting mom to come home.

Ed sent THIS ARTICLE in:  Do you want to know who the next president is?  Ask the Pope.

Chad Engelland, former professor at our Cleveland seminary, sent this in:  "Forgive the mass email.  I just turned 40 yesterday, and to mark the occasion of death's being ever more imminent, I've published with Cascade Books an introduction to philosophy called The Way of Philosophy."  Read more HERE.

On that note we might as well continue with the Philosophy series:


So I know that I am overreacting.  But it is like I can't help it (though I know perfectly well that I can so maybe I choose not to.)  SOMEBODY walks their dog around the parish property and EVERY SINGLE DAY lets his dog do his duty (which I am okay with) but the LETS HIS DOG KICK A BUNCH OF MULCH ONTO THE SIDEWALK.  That gets my liturgical underwear in a bunch.
But I understand.  Sometimes a dog starts going at it before you know it is going to happen.  Fine.  I've been caught in that situation before.  It is embarrassing.  So I or somebody gets a broom and we sweep it up.  But every day?  And not just a little bit - HANDS FULL!  And we've lost flowers!  

So now the boiler in my gut is in full steam and I start hatching plans.  No kidding.  This happened just this morning.  I see a guy walking his dog up the walk from my office window and I watch him DARING his dog to kick the mulch.  (It didn't.)  But really, what was I going to do?
But OH!  I can daydream about it.
Then, God gets involved as he usually does.  The readings this morning punch me in the gut.
So I prayed for him whoever he may be and his stupid little dog too and try to find a nicer way.
I hope this counts for time off in purgatory.

Friday, June 10, 2016


Here’s irony for you:

You know what one of the biggest causes of division in liturgy?  The Sign of Peace.

Everybody has an opinion on the SOP.  Some think it should be moved.  Some think it should be done away with.  Some want a love fest accompanied by its own liturgical song.  Some want it literal, and some want it symbolic.  Most, it seems, are vaguely unhappy with it.

The arguments range from it being to much of a disturbance in the mood and flow of the liturgy to it being a wonderful uniting moment.  On the surface it sounds like such a good and simple thing, but like many things in life, in practice, it gets complicated with unforeseen circumstances.

A number of years ago the Liturgist for the Diocese of Cleveland began taking on the SOP.  His arguments was something like this, “The SOP is a symbolic action having to do with the Scriptural mandate:

23Therefore if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

In order to fulfill this, we have the symbolic gesture of offering a SOP to the rest of the Bride of Christ - the Church.  Therefore you should turn to ONE person, or maybe just the person on your right or left, shake hands, and say, “Peace be with you.”  By just choosing one person, you make it a symbolic act of making peace with the entire Church.  If you you choose multiple people, the three in front of you, the three in back of you, George across the aisle, a wave to your son serving Mass on the altar, then you have turned it into a literal action and made it a weak action unless you give the same sign to everyone in the congregation.

Good point.  But then a guy stand up and say, “So I have my wife, my children, my parents and best friends with me at Mass and you want me to choose just ONE person and ignore the rest.”

Another good point.

The liturgist responded, “Yes.  At the Mass we all equals.  They are not wife and children and best friend, Jew or Gentile, salve or free, male or female for you are all one in Jesus Christ.”  Galatians 3:28.

Another good point.

“Yes.  But,” came the counter, “You and I may understand that as savvy liturgists, everyone else will thing we are just jerks.”

Another good point.  

As a character from Fiddler on the Roof says, “He is right and he is right?  They can’t both be right.”  To which Tevye responds, “You know, you are also right.”

Paragraph 82 of the GIRM simply says that at this point a gesture as determined by the local Conference of Bishops is to be made.  But here is a tricky thing to interpret:  “each person, in a sober manner (HA - my insertion, not the bishops) offer the SOP only to those who are nearest.”  So does that mean only to one person or only those who are in reaching distance, or . . .

It is most interesting to note that this rite is not essential to the Mass.  In fact, Rome stated recently that it should be skipped from time to time to get this point across.  I am not choosing to do that at the moment however.  I think it would start Word War III.