This wasn't the Christmas I anticipated.
Yesterday, after 10:30 am Mass, I expected to help get everything ready for Christmas -- and I did help -- but to my surprise, my energy level started dropping; I was so tired. So we populated the manger (sans il Bambino), got all the flowers and candles in place -- it looks beautiful. Finished around 1 -- I had a few hours before 4 pm Mass.
Well, I went home to eat something and rest. I didn't feel a lot better when 3 pm rolled around, but I went over to church to make sure all was well. This was the first year for a 4 pm Mass -- in years past, the two parishes had simultaneous 6 pm Masses. So the question was, how many people would come to this, the first Mass of Christmas?
As the 4 o'clock hour approached, I felt terrible. I sat in the corner of the sacristy and relied on others to do everything. I am very grateful for all the help. I wondered if I'd have to call one of the other priests, but one is 88, and the other is in ill health himself, so I'm the healthy one. We started Mass, which included a trip, first, to the manger scene, which I blessed; then to the altar. Incense of course!
I sat down during the Gloria, rose again for the opening prayer. During the first reading, I knew I had to exit, so I ducked into the north, "work" sacristy. Let us say this much; there is a sink there -- and I left the sacristy a few minutes later, feeling a lot better. But I had the server shut the door...
Well, I proclaimed the Gospel (I was going to chant it, along with most of the Mass), I gave my homily, thought, "the worst is over." Unfortunately, that drained my batteries down very low. I sat as much as I could after that -- kept sending a server to get me water -- and I had to lean against the altar during the incredibly long time it seemed I was there. I am sorry to say I used the shortest Eucharistic Prayer, but the reason should be obvious. I was almost to the point where I was going to say, "I'm going to offer Mass sotto voce, please follow along or pray silently as I do" -- but not quite. Right around the Lamb of God, I explained the obvious -- that I was feeling a bit light-headed -- and would another extraordinary minister come forward to distribute the Eucharist? I distributed the Body and Blood to the servers and extraordinary ministers, and sat down.
At the conclusion of Mass, I reassured everyone it was just a stomach thing, just bad timing, and I was sorry not to give them my best. God bless the servers, they did everything just right, including the incensation at the elevations.
I had someone drive me the two blocks home, and I got a real Coke out of the fridge -- that always helps a sour stomach. Well, it didn't. Nothing did any good, and around 10 pm, I realized Midnight Mass was out of the question. I called the other priests, asking the retired priest to take Midnight, and the vicar -- who is battling cancer -- to take the 7 am Mass the retired priest already had. I hoped to be fit for 9 am Mass. By the time I went to bed, I was able to drink a little ice water.
Despite not sleeping well, I did feel a lot better this morning, but still weak. I made it over to the other parish for 9 am Mass, again doing the minimum. I proclaimed the Gospel sitting and my homily as well, and asked someone extra to help distribute. No incense, and again, EP II. A parishioner, who owns a grocery store, brought me some Gatorade, which is supposed to help. I'm drinking it now.
I never thought I'd be so grateful for saltines! But I have been able to eat a few of those, and then a biscuit, and some coffee. I just prayed the first part of my office, at 1:30 pm! I didn't pray evening prayer or night prayer at all last night.
I'm also very grateful to be able to sit awhile, and look at my tree, with lights but no ornaments, and the nativity scene. I had an invitation for dinner later with parishioners, and they're going to call to see if I'm up for it. We'll see.
No, not the Christmas I anticipated. I really hated to miss Midnight Mass, the music was wonderful I am told--and I'm sure it was. But I'm sitting here, it's very quiet, I'm safe and warm, I've offered the Mass, and I'm on the mend.