Friday, May 22, 2015


GIRM paragraph 45
Watching some news programs is very interesting.  While the anchor is talking, there are scripts running, pictures flashing, and sub-screens with other faces patiently waiting to interrupt and talk.  If the main message is boring you, there are constantly other visual things to occupy your mind.  It would be ridiculous (though probably very beneficial) if the news anchor would say something like, "That last story has a lot of implications for how we are forming ourselves as a culture and what it means to be a human being and how we should treat each other.  Let us take a moment to quietly reflect."

There would be a unified remote control button pushing across the nation.
Yet that is exactly what we are asked to do during the Mass.  It is very counter cultural.  For those who can practice it, it is very life giving - almost essential.  For those totally plugged into the modern lifestyle and can feel as though, in every moment that is passing, something inside of you dies.  But it is NOT a moment of rest.  It is a time of liturgical work.
Priest tell people all of the time that there are no passive roles at Mass.  The person praying as a baptized priest in the pew is not doing less than a lector or altar server.  When we attend Mass and pray, making our offering, we are fulfilling a real role in the offering of the sacrifice. 
But what happens when the celebrant says, "Let us call to mind our sins," or "Let us pray," and then doesn't give the silence to call to mind those sins or to recollect what it is that needs prayers?  How might something in homily be contemplated for a moment if we just go on to the next item?  How much more deeply might we grow in Christ if, after communion, we spend a moment with Him instead of rushing to the closing prayers?
Silence is difficult.  It is a discipline.  And like all disciplines it requires work.  Liturgy IS work.  Priests need to provide that time for that ministry that is the outcropping of silence. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Spend days and hours learning.


Keep prayer at the forefront.


Be convicted.


Remembering that you won’t convert a soul but that the Holy Spirit does it, give Him the best opportunity.  Often what wins people over is not the perfect answer or your surety in your faith, but rather the WAY in which you reach out to them.
I often tell people to be inviting rather than telling people they should go to Church.  On the radio the other day I heard this, which gets to the point of what I am trying to say, “Often people don’t remember what you said as much as they remember how you said it.”  No matter how right you may be, if the person bristles when you say it, it won’t soak into the brain – or if it does, it will do so as a poison rather than a medicine.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "It is easier to discipline the body than to control the soul."  from Abraham Joshua Heschel's "God in Search of Man"
QUOTE II:  "It may be true that not all joys lead to God, yet all joys come from God.  Even lowly merriment has its ultimate origin in holiness."  same source
Mary sent in THIS LINK about a company from the 1700's that is still making clothing for clerics in Rome.  But what was really interesting was THIS FORM that requires brutal honesty (humility?) when describing yourself for the perfect fit.
Lynn sent this video in about an interview with John Rutter on why choral music isn't just one of life's frills:

Monday, May 18, 2015


It was a killer weekend!  Not only was there ordination and his reception, there was a funeral and a wedding, two concerts, PSR May crowning, and the parish reception and Fr. Leonard was filling in for another parish whose pastor was away.  We are all rather dragging today.
It took A LOT of people A LOT of hours to make everything seem smooth and effortless.  Below (center) is the newly ordained Fr. Jeremy Merzweiler from St. Sebastian, to his left is his very capable MC Fr. Kovacina who was in charge of the cast of thousands, and me whose main job was to smile and pretend that I had anything to do with anything.
Fr. spent hours giving first blessings.  This was a rare moment of rest for him (below) with Fr. K and our DRE.  (They all kinda match.)  In the background you can see a couple of glasses.  There was a stack of them back there.  People feeling sorry for the kid priest kept bringing him something to quench his more than quenched thirst.
Then it was back to work! 

And what a great day it was.  Fr. Merzweiler became the 28th man ordained to the priesthood from this parish.  We figure that so far, these 28 men have given 1,230 years of service to the Church. 
May God bless you Fr. Merzweiler!

Thursday, May 14, 2015


I don’t know if this will help the situation but it is getting pretty chronic.  If you can help with this, it would be greatly appreciated.  It may sound somewhat light, but souls might be at stake.
So I am sitting at breakfast this past week and one priest told the story about a phone message he had received.  Someone identifying herself as a parishioner and crying profusely asked that he call her back to help her in her distress.  Unfortunately, through her sobs, he could not make out the name.  Worse yet, her phone number was garbled enough that he could not make out what it was despite listening to it three times and calling staff members in to see if they could make it out.


The secretaries were instructed that, if she should call back, apologize profusely and do not let her through to voicemail until a paper copy was made.  He is left wondering if she is now angry at him and/or the Church thinking that her call is being ignored.
This happens more often than is acceptable.  It happens sometimes too that a person will leave an incredibly long message and then at the end say, “Aaaaaand youuuuuuu can reaaaaaaaach meeeee at, uhm, let’s seeeeeeeee, 5htu8u8eh.  Thank you goodbye.”
Sometimes I wonder if they really want called back.
To better guarantee that your message will get through, I would like to suggest the following:  When leaving the message leave your name and number first.  Speak SLOWLY and DISTINCTLY and REPEAT.
“Hello, this is Father Valencheck from St. Sebastian.  My number is 3-3-0---2-2-2----2-2-2-2.  Let me repeat that . . . I’m calling today concerning . . .”  Then for good measure repeat it again at the end.  “Again, this is Father Valencheck 330-222 . . . “
Cell phones do not always give the clearest transmissions.  Answering machines sometimes cut off long messages.  The speaker on the office phone may not be state of the art.  Play it safe.  If you don’t hear back in a day or two, call back.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Tis the season of ordinations to the priesthood and assignment changes for priests and some people want to do something nice him.  Monsignor Manners finds himself cornered quite often by persons demanding to know what they “could get” for a particular cleric.  By and large the etiquette for buying gifts for clergy are the exact same as that for anybody else.  To that extent, Monsignor Manners recommends that you go on line and look up advice written by Miss Manners.  Examples are HERE and HERE.
Unless you know your priest well, there are a couple of things I would recommend avoiding.  Plaques would be at the top of my list.  Granted, it may be different in your situation.  You may know the priest well and know exactly what to get him.  Unfortunately when people are stumped, they tend to buy plaques.  Considering the sheer number a man might receive it is good to remember his living conditions.  If he is newly ordained he will most likely not have that much room.  He will have an office, a bedroom, and possibly a sitting room.  And he will only be there for a limited amount of time.  In the Diocese of Cleveland that would be four years.  Now, Monsignor Manners has been blessed in that he has always been assigned to parishes with ample rectories, but that is the exemption more than the rule.  So keep in the back of your mind limited space and the need to be moving around the diocese as he is transferred at the beginning of his ministry
Also be careful about gift cards.  Miss Manners finds these horrid excuses for gifts in general but there is also the problem of where the priest may end up.  Is that store convenient?  He may end up in a place where travel to the store is inconvenient and your fine gift will turn into a fine gift for that company.
There is one important area in which Miss Manners and Monsignor disagree.  That might be overstating it a bit, for, in fact, most of the time I would give the same advice.  It concerns the giving of cash as a present.  Although in polite circles it is considered a thoughtless gift, in this particular case it is needed, appreciated, understood, and acceptable especially with the newly ordained.  They have just left the seminary.  Some seminaries do not allow the priest to work because they need to focus on their studies.  They have probably been driving an older car and will need something reliable.  They will be in need of a new wardrobe and books and other articles.  More than likely they have some sort of debt such as student loans.  And though they will be well taken care of, they are not going to be making a lot of money.  A monetary donation is as much of a funding of new ministry as it is a gift.
But don’t be afraid.  I received four books of blessings when I was ordained.  One went to my first parish that didn’t have one, one in my office, one travel version in my car, the other I gave to someone who didn’t have one.  Spiritual bouquets are also appreciated.  He will need lots of prayer.  That you thought of him and think that the life he has chosen is meaningful to you too means the world.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "The are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that there fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease.  But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution."  G. K. Chesterton (h/t to Adam)
Pat sent in THIS interesting article about the top ten ways to drive new parishioners out of your parish.

Is not Sebastian the cutest dog in the whole world (save for yours?)  *sigh* I already miss the snow.

Jeanette sent in THIS article from Ignatius Press about introduction kids to art.
From the Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter is THIS article about a diocesan wide retreat for separated and divorced Catholics. 
Here is a five minute video by Bishop Lennon about how it might be easier to become Catholic for some than one might think

Monday, May 11, 2015


You are invited to the priestly ordinations for the Diocese of Cleveland this coming Saturday at 10AM.  It is a particularly happy one for St. Sebastian since one of her sons, Deacon Jeremy, will become Father Jeremy Merzwieler.  (I'm so proud!)
This past Saturday he and a bunch of seminarians descended upon St. Sebastian parish for a rehearsal for his First Mass of Thanksgiving which will be held at St. Sebastian this coming Sunday at 11AM to which, once again, you are invited.  Below you will see Fr. K directing the cast of a thousands into an organized, fighting machine.
Dinner on the lawn followed and a crew of the more brave ventured to the top of the bell tower where it proceeded to rain.  Hard.  So that we were soaked.  It didn't rain once drop other than the five minutes we were up there.
But then again, it only made it more memorable.

Friday, May 8, 2015


How about a new topic for Friday Potpourri?
Why don’t we take a wild romp through the GIRM.  In geeky Church circles this is pronounced like “germ.”  But you don’t get cooties or anything like that from it.  It is an acronym for the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.  In other words, it is the instructions manual for having Mass.
Let’s start with paragraph 45 shall we?  That is where things start to become a little more interesting.  Well, interesting for people who find these things at least vaguely interesting.
SILENCIO!  One time I was able to visit the Sistine Chapel.  There were people there whose sole job seemed to be going around and shushing people.  This was a place to contemplate God through the art or in some other way pray, not lean over to your pal and say, “Look Abner, that dar one looks like your cousin Luigi.  How’s he doin’ anyway?  I haven’t seen him since Shep was a pup.”

Likewise, our churches are more than halls at which prayers services take place.  They are blessed (and consecrated) places set aside for the worship of God and so activities that we do in them are somewhat limited.  So there is something different there than the sanctuary of the non-Catholic church where, when I was growing up, we held our Cub Scout meetings.
This is particularly true around the time in which the Mass is to be celebrated.  It is not an absolute moratorium, but we are asked to be quiet before Mass.  “It is a praiseworthy practice for silence to be observed in the Church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred celebration in a devout and fitting manner.”
Think about it:  You pried the kids away from their computers, got your spouse moving, put up with the question, “Do we have to?” 50 times, ran over a toy in the driveway, remembered that you were supposed pick up the parish envelopes that are now sitting in the dresser, got stuck behind the slowest driver ever, are late so you have to park in the north 40, and your youngest dirtied his diaper and the oldest just jumped into a mud puddle.  You don’t jump right into, “Our opening hymn will be . . .”  You aren’t even really there yet.  Silence!  “Be still and know that I am God.”
Of course getting people to cooperate with this is another thing.  Especially if you have a parish in northeast Ohio without a gathering space.  Add to the mix two people who haven’t seen each other for a week and silence is the LAST thing on their minds.
So how does a parish accommodate a happy medium?  It’s a little like the fallacy of having a smoking section in a dinette or a toddler urinating section in the local pool.  The two worlds just don’t really fit together.
Isn’t it amazing that we have survived together for 2000 years?

Thursday, May 7, 2015


When I was a young man, old enough to have a driver’s license but not yet having one, I was given permission by one of my parents to drive the family car around the block.  Back then it didn’t really strike me as any big deal.  Today I wonder if I would have let my son do that.
Something on the news recently made me think of that day and what would have happened if I had been pulled over and issued a ticket.  I think I know exactly what would have happened.  My parents, acting very contrite, would have guided me through the process of taking care of the infraction going with me to the courthouse.  They would have probably (in this case) covered the costs for me.  I (we) would have learned our lesson and that would have been (for the most part) the end of it.
So here is what is bothering me.  This was a news item on NPR.  They ran a story on some pretty serious trouble makers in a particular city.  Here is a typical story:


A young man gets caught driving without a license.  He is issued a ticket.  He has neither money nor the motivation to go take care of it.  Perhaps he doesn’t live the best life but at some point he decides he to straighten up.  By now the fines for the ticket he avoided have mounted.  He has no job and to get any kind of real job he needs a driver’s license – which he can’t get until he takes care of this growing debt.  So he works under the table in his neighborhood for less than completely legal work.  It continues the downward spiral from there.
It’s one thing for someone to fall into such a pit who has social connections (understanding and knowhow) and resources.  It is another if you don’t even know what to ask let alone who. 
Here is an analogy:  When I was going to Zimbabwe to work with the poor, there were some who chided me for the effort saying that there were poor in our country; poor that didn’t even have food in their refrigerator.  What they failed to realize was that the people we were going to see didn’t even have refrigerators – or kitchens – or electricity – nor were they at least in a community where SOMEBODY had electricity – where nobody has any kind of representation in government.
There are different kinds of poverty.
Throwing money at a problem is often not much help.
This is why in the Didache (one of the earliest Christian writings) it says, “Let your alms sweat in the palms of your hands until you know to whom you are giving them.”  It is necessary to make sure you are fixing the correct problems.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


I honestly can't think of a blessed thing to say today. 

So let's go outside and play.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "There is always one person in a relationship who loves more."  Nathan Panwar
QUOTE II:  "Romance is a sweet enough enterprise but it makes you lonely to watch it."  Daniel Woodrell
Mary sent in some things about the Lyceum Cantorum in Cleveland.  It is the choir of a classical Catholic college preparatory school.  See more HERE.  Here is an example of their impressive singing:

She also sent in the following video about an atheist who became a Catholic priest:

Dennis sent in THIS ARTICLE about the San Francisco Chronicle's treatment of Bishop Salvatore.

Finally, Adam sent THIS in about an ice cream truck that plays Schoenberg.

Monday, May 4, 2015


I am finding that homilies are taking a lot longer to compose than they used to.  And it isn't because I am about to turn 50.  Well, at least not entirely.  In part, it has to do with my phone.  As it gets smarter I seem to get loopier.

It completely destroys the thought process.
I know, I know . . . turn the sound and vibrations off.  But then I forget that I've done that and it stays off for days until someone sees me and yells at me.  "Why don't you ever answer your (impolite word) phone?" 
I try to leave it somewhere where I can't hear it - out in the hallway or some such thing.  Then I have to have one of the other priests call me so I can remember where I left it.  (Maybe I am losing my mind.)
One thing that does help is finding a place to think where there are absolutely no distractions of any kind.

Friday, May 1, 2015


Wherever you are reading this, consider the people who surround you.  If you are at home, consider the people in your house (or who will be in your house,) your neighbors, the people walking down the street, maybe the people doing work on your road or the mail courier making a stop.
If you are at work, there are your co-workers, customers, and the people making deliveries.  At the coffee house there are all of the other patrons and the barista.  At school (I’m sure that you are not reading his during class) there are your fellow students, teachers, and support staff.  Well, you get the idea.
So here is a question for you:  Of all the people you considered, how many were Catholic priests, deacons, or religious?  My guess for most of you the number would be: NONE.  For some, it might be one but probably in passing.  So how does the Gospel spread in these areas? 


Here is the answer:  You.  The last of the Precepts of the Church (I know, it’s been awhile hasn’t it?) is “Joining in the missionary spirit and apostolate of the Church.”  It’s the only this thing works.  Because, if not you, then who?
It doesn’t mean you have to carry a sign and mention Jesus’ name in every other sentence.  That tends to drive more people away than attract.  99% of it is striving to be a good Christian – trying to set a good example.  The rest is taking advantage of opportunities afforded you. 

Here is an example.  My Father was a confirmed Catholic but had become a Non-botherist.  He didn’t necessarily believe or not believe in God – the question wasn’t even on his radar though he was generally opposed to any organized religion.  (That made for interesting conversations with his priest son.)  Toward the end of his life he would ask me to help him – inferring helping him get over his illness – and I would say, “Dad, all I got is sacraments and prayer,” to which he would make a sour face that said, “as if that would help.”
One day after saying, “All I got is sacrament and prayer,” he said, “Okay.”  It took a while for that to register.  After clarifying that he actually meant it I told him to hold on to that thought as I RAN out to my car to get my oils (I’d long stopped bothering to carrying them in) and anointed him.
Missionary spirit – taking God where He is not found – giving example, having patience, an attitude of invitation, and keeping an eye and ear open for an opportunity.

Thursday, April 30, 2015


How can we imagine the Catholic parish of tomorrow?

There is little doubt that many of the Catholic institutions of today will not be around for the next generation.  But that is to be expected.  We are not the same people we were 5 generations ago.  Can you keep offering what was vital to Catholics 5 generations ago to people in the next generation?  The Church has always adapted to its times.

Some things just will not change.  The Eucharist will be the source and center of our lives.  That won’t change.  Sacraments – Scriptures – worship - education – and all of the usual suspects.  But how do you present it?  How is it lived?  What will touch people’s hearts?  What is attractive while not sacrificing truth?


More recently I have been engaging people in a conversation on how to reimagine Catholic Akron.  What can we do now to prepare for the city as it will be in the near future?  It would be a mistake, I think, to wait until we have empty buildings and then say, “Okay, now we have an empty (school building – convent – what have you) what can we do with it?”  At that point you are already losing your audience (pardon the term.)  The risk that is being run is that you are dropping out of the greater public consciousness. 


Here is an example of what I am thinking:  There is a new paper about town called “The Devil Strip.”  (Akronites and Barbertonians will understand that term.)  There is an extremely interesting section where they ask a cradle Akronite and a new Akronite what they love about the city.  The arts always rate extremely high.  Now, there is a local neighborhood that is known for being “artsy.”  The Catholic Church has no presence there whatsoever.  As a matter of fact, in my collar when I am there one gets the distinct impression that there is an element of anti-Catholicism.  Of course there is.  When we don’t mix and mingle it is the rotten story that has a chance to germinate. 
Why aren’t we there?
So at St. Sebastian we are trying to be involved in the art scene.  Hopefully we are developing an arts friendly place that is attractive to those who shape our culture.  The Academy of Culture and Arts opened with the intent of being open to greater community at all age levels.  We are fortunate that we have a healthy school.  What if we didn’t?  We will already have an institution that could make use of the building and continue to be relevant to West Akron Catholic and non-Catholic residents alike.  (The champagne problem at the moment is that both institutions are healthy – I could actually use another building.)
That is one example.  There are a few other ideas in the pipeline that will slowly be rolled out as they seem feasible.  BUT what ideas do YOU have for the Catholic parish – the Catholic presence in the future?  Things that we can do that are within our control?  Not something like, “Start ordaining married men.”  That is quite out of our control as Pope Francis has reiterated.


If you have any ideas, I would be excited to hear them.