Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
A Day in the Life: Father Victor Blazovich
Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the July 3, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
Father Victor Blazovich is pastor of St. Francis Xavier and St. Patrick parishes in Spokane.
Sometimes even Catholics have only a vague idea of what keeps a parish priest occupied on a typical weekday. Most know that Sunday is a priest’s busiest day. But what does he do Monday through Saturday? To answer this question, the Inland Register decided to a shadow a more-or-less randomly chosen parish priest.
On Monday, June 9, 2008, at 6:15 a.m., Father Victor Blazovich, 52 years old and ordained a priest for eight years, pokes at the off button on his alarm clock and rolls out of bed. His room is in the rectory of St. Francis Xavier Parish on Spokane’s near north side. Other days, when he presides at Mass in the convent of the Missionary Sisters of Charity, at the other parish he pastors, St. Patrick, he rises at 5:10 a.m.
Not big on breakfast, a cup of coffee and a couple of slices of toast soon get his attention. Then, for an hour, he prays the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. He also reads and meditates on the Lectionary readings for that day’s Mass, in preparation for the homily he will give.
Next, it’s exercise time: walking, hiking isometrics, and other activity.
Following a quick shower he heads over to the church. Today is Monday, which is the priest’s usual day off, but – no surprise to him – a couple of things have come up that he needs to be present for. (“I’m going to change my day off to Friday,” he remarks wryly.) So, with a couple of minutes to spare he slips into the sacristy of the parish church to prepare for the 8 a.m. Mass. He dons vestments, and at 8 o’clock sharp he enters the church’s sanctuary area and begins the Mass. Most of the 20 or so people in the pews are older folks, but there are also a couple of women with young children.
In the course of his brief homily, Father Blazovich comments on the mission of the prophet Elijah: “You and I, in virtue of our baptism, were anointed priest, prophet, and king,” he says. “Our job is to be a prophet. Have you ever had to tell someone bad things for their own good? Have you ever had to tell one of your sons or daughters to wise up or something bad is going to happen? Have you ever had to challenge your spouse on some aspect of behavior?”
Following Mass, back in the sacristy, as he removes his vestments, two or three people get the priest’s attention for a quick bit of conversation. By 8:35 a.m., however, Father Blazovich is behind the wheel of his Honda Civic for the short drive northeast from St. Francis Xavier Parish to St. Patrick Parish, where he enthusiastically participates in the community life of the students at St. Patrick School.
At 8:50 a.m. the students gather in church for morning prayer. First, youngsters lead the assembly in a series of petitionary prayers. One of the Missionary Sisters of Charity, who live in the convent on the parish grounds, leads the students in a decade of the rosary and gives a short talk on a faith-related lesson. Beads in hand, Father Blazovich kneels in a rear pew to join the children in their prayer time. After the rosary, the students who will celebrate birthdays during the summer months are called to the front of the church where Father Blazovich gives them a birthday blessing. He then gives the 8th graders, who will graduate in a few days, a few words of praise followed by a graduation blessing. As the students file out of church, the priest waves, getting shy grins in return.
At 9:17 a.m., the pastor walks from the church over to his office in the old two-story, wood frame former rectory that now serves as the main parish center for both St. Patrick and St. Francis Xavier. He calls greetings to students along the way. A dozen kindergarteners sit in a circle on the playground, and the words that Father Blazovich seems to use most often with them and other youngsters are “Wonderful!” and “Thank you, thank you!”
As the clock hits 9:25 a.m., Father Blazovich’s first appointment arrives, a man who wants to talk about scheduling a child’s baptism. A few minutes later, that issue dealt with, several people “pop in” to discuss everything from the school’s security system to parish e-mail.
At 9:45 a.m., the priest bends over some paperwork on his desk, but the door is open, so people keep dropping by to ask a question or simply chat. Fifteen minutes later, Father Blazovich is again behind the wheel of his car, driving to see someone who called a few days earlier to ask if he would stop by. Directions printed from an online website in hand, the priest ends up wandering around some, until finally he finds the address he’s looking for.
At 11 a.m., at his push of a doorbell button, an individual opens the door and welcomes Father Blazovich, thanking him for visiting. The person suffers from agoraphobia (fear of open spaces and/or public places), and thanks him again for being willing to come to visit. The priest talks casually, keeping the conversation light at first. Then he gives the person an opening to talk about what is of real concern. There are medications, a counselor, loneliness; a planned move to another apartment. One child who had shared the present apartment has left now. The individual is a lifelong Catholic who prays “a lot.” Do you have a Bible or a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church? asks Father Blazovich. No? He will bring copies the next time he visits.
Twenty minutes go by. The host is visibly moved by Father Blazovich’s visit and looks forward to his return with the Bible and the catechism. As he assures the person of his prayers, there are tears.
Driving away at 11:25 a.m., Father Blazovich turns his car toward downtown Spokane, where he’s scheduled to attend a meeting of the Catholic Charities Board of Directors, of which he is a member. Twenty minutes later, alerted to the availability of an unused space in the parking lot of Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral, he maneuvers into the space. Walking through the passageway between the back of the Cathedral and O’Connor Hall, two minutes later he is in the Catholic Pastoral Center’s ground floor meeting room. Catholic Charities has had sandwiches and salad to be delivered, so today Father Blazovich won’t have to figure out what to do about lunch.
The Catholic Charities lunch and meeting lasts about 90 minutes, concluding at 2:05 p.m. Father Blazovich takes the stairs to the third floor, where all the diocesan offices are now located, then walks down the hall to the Education Office for a brief conversation with Dr. Duane Schafer, superintendent of Catholic schools. The chat goes longer than expected, however, so the priest doesn’t leave the building until 2:30 p.m.
Behind the wheel again, he aims his car back toward St. Francis Xavier. Then, while still in downtown Spokane, Father Blazovich’s cell phone rings. It’s the secretary at St. Patrick. Is he available to visit a family to give a seriously ill woman the Sacrament of Anointing? Still maneuvering in traffic, he agrees. Mysteriously producing a pen and notepad, he hands them to his passenger. As the secretary gives him the name, address, and phone number, he repeats them aloud for the passenger to write down.
At 2:50 p.m., Father Blazovich pulls back into his parking space at St. Francis Xavier, where he has a 3 p.m. meeting with family members to plan a funeral Mass and vigil. The deceased man was a long-time member of the parish. The priest suggests that the discussion begin with prayer, “mostly to calm me down,” he says with a smile to no one in particular. The meeting lasts about half-an-hour, during which he answers questions, explains the Mass of Christian Burial, takes notes on personal information about the deceased, and jots down more notes about the family’s preferences for the vigil to be held at the funeral home. The meeting ends at 3:32 p.m.
During the quiet meeting, the rectory telephone rang and the caller left a recorded message. Father Blazovich walks down the hall to another room, pushes a button and listens to the message, then returns the call, leaving a recorded message of his own. Phone tag.
At 3:40 p.m., after going into the church to get a consecrated Host, which he now carries in a simple gold pyx on a cord around his neck, Father Blazovich leaves St. Francis Xavier behind again, for the second time that day looking for an address he has never been to before – only this time there are no directions from a computer website.
Driving through neighborhood streets lined with low-income housing, the priest soon finds the building he’s looking for. He walks around, looking left and right, until he spies the correct number. He raps on the apartment door, and immediately it is opened by a woman in her 30s. Father Blazovich introduces himself, and the woman, smiling, beckons him into the small room. A girl of about 10 or 11 peers curiously. “Is his first name ‘Father,’ she asks? A 30-ish man excuses himself and leaves by the back door. Another 30-ish man shakes the priest’s hand, thanks him for coming on such short notice, then sits on the carpeted stairs that lead to a second level.
The woman introduces the priest to her mother, an elderly woman seated in a wheelchair. A portable oxygen machine chugs away, its clear plastic tube leading to the familiar delivery device worn by the woman under her nose. She tells Father Blazovich that she has congestive heart failure.
The priest asks the woman if she is Catholic. Yes, she is. She was raised Catholic. She was Lutheran for 20 years, but she has come back to the Catholic Church. The priest probes gently for accurate, current information. (“I have to protect the sacraments of the church,” he explains later.) Satisfied that the woman is a practicing Catholic, he asks the woman’s daughter if this is accurate. Yes, her mother is a Catholic. Father Blazovich asks the woman in the wheelchair if she wants to go to Confession. No, she does not; the priest at the hospital heard her confession. Does she want to receive Communion? Yes. Father Blazovich opens the pyx, and the woman receives Communion reverently. He then goes through the ritual for the Sacrament of Anointing, tracing the sign of the cross with blessed oil on the woman’s forehead and open hands and reading the prayers from a small black book.
The ritual complete, Father Blazovich gives the woman in the wheelchair another blessing and says thank you for the family’s hospitality.
Outside, at 4:20 p.m. it’s pouring rain on a fresh spring day. Father Blazovich walks quickly toward his car. “You know,” he says driving back to St. Francis Xavier, “in this kind of situation you never know the impact you may have on people.”
Back at the parish rectory, Father Blazovich pauses for an hour for his afternoon prayer time. Sitting in the church, he turns once again to the Liturgy of the Hours. As 5:20 arrives, it’s time for dinner. Typically, the priest enjoys cooking for himself, preferring organic and simply prepared meals. Today, however, he accompanies his guest to dinner at a north side Spokane restaurant, a nice change of pace from the usual solitary evening meal.
Leisure time is limited, however, and by 6:30 p.m. the priest is back at St. Patrick Parish for a finance committee meeting. The small group gathers amidst good-natured kidding, but soon they’re down to business. Father Blazovich begins the meeting with a prayer. Agenda items include budgets, Sunday collection envelopes, fund-raising projects, and possible candidates to fill open positions on the committee. As the hands on the clock indicate 8 p.m., the meeting adjourns. As he leaves by the back door of the school building where the meeting was held, the asphalt playground dried quickly after the earlier rain, the evening air is fresh and clean, and the dark blue evening sky is clear and free of clouds.
At 8:20 p.m. the pastor of St. Patrick and St. Francis Xavier Parishes parks his car for the last time that day in the space behind the rectory at St. Francis Xavier. He’s home a little earlier than usual. After a quick check of his e-mail and telephone messages, Father Victor Blazovich gives the television a few minutes’ attention. Then, picking up his Liturgy of the Hours volume again, he prays Night Prayer. As the clock clicks toward 10 p.m. he hits the hay. He sleeps.