Saturday, January 27, 2007

My week

The gap from Tuesday to now tells the tale.

Tuesday was a down day -- almost. Yes, I did spend the morning drinking coffee and writing about the March for Life; but I also had to prepare for a funeral the next day, and visit the funeral home that evening. Not too bad.

Wednesday is usually my stay-home-and-write-my-homily day. This week, I had the funeral in the morning, then to the office for about an hour, then up to Maria Stein for a get-together with other priests ordained in recent years. Father Kyle Schnippel, our vocation director, was there, and he posts on this gathering here (please do go visit his blog and try to think of something nice to say).

Well, parish business finds you wherever: up in Maria Stein, Ohio, cell-phone signals are pretty rare, but one got through to me long enough to tell me about a funeral for Monday. OK.

Thursday. After the morning in Maria Stein, back to the office. Several problems awaited me, which I took a couple of hours to resolve. (You do realize, dear reader, that there are lots of things I never describe here because they involve people's lives and private business? You only get part of the story.) We had a penance service that evening for our children making their first confession, and I went over to church, with our youth minister/coordinator of religious education, to set things up. It was cold in church. We mashed buttons on the programmable thermostat (my idea to lower temp during non-usage times, to save $$$). Came back later, an hour before--it was now colder. Mashed more buttons, flipped the on-off switch, have no idea what I did that worked, but apparently I appeased the thing, so it started giving us heat. I promise never to offend the almighty thermostat again (this is why we keep the thing locked up).

Then I ran over to the other parish, where I had Mass at 6:30. The penance service started at 7. How was I going to manage this, no doubt you are asking. As follows. I had asked the parochial vicar--who isn't feeling well, as you know--if he'd be willing to lead the service. If he hadn't been, I'd have asked the retired priest to do so; but I thought the vicar would want to do it, and he said he would. Meanwhile, I went over and had Mass, but I kept things short. We normally have confessions at that parish, after Mass; I explained the situation in the homily, and said, "I'll happily hear your confessions, but I have to do it at St. Boniface." Some parishioners helped me out by putting things away, turning out lights and locking the doors. Thanks a lot!

I left my alb on, and drove back to St. Boniface. I got there just at 7, ahead of schedule; I figured on showing up a little late, and slipping in. So we all came out for the penance service. (But not before one of my many screwups came back to haunt me. A priest showed up I wasn't expecting. Turned out I'd talked to him, he agreed to come--but I'd totally forgotten to write it down. Boy, was I embarrassed! I apologized every which way, and he was nice about it, and as we really didn't need him, nor did I have a place set up for him to hear confessions, he went home.) Penance Service went fine, this year I didn't wear the cordless mic into the confessional. Unfortunately, our music director fell ill, so he couldn't provide music; our youth minister had to pinch-hit with his guitar, but he did a good job. Our children have things they call "sorry sacks" they wear, with sad faces on one side, and happy faces on the other; when they come out of the confessional, their parents turn them around. Then they go light a candle up front, and everyone gets a rosary, which the vicar blessed at the end. I provided the liturgical dance.

Haha, got you on that one, didn't I!

Here's a subtle thing for you to consider. There is one change I made from last year, in the certificate the children received. I changed the wording from, "____ received the sacrament of reconciliation" to something like, "____ participated in a celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation." Can you guess why?

I was supposed to have a Pastoral Council meeting on Thursday as well; and I very stupidly forgot to advise the president of pastoral council about the conflict until the day before. I told him I'd be willing to meet later, but he elected to cancel it.

Friday again found me running. I had Mass with the older schoolchildren at St. Mary, then immediately left there to head to Lehman High School for Mass there. Kept my alb on, which drew kidding from the priest chaplain when I walked in. I was in such a hurry, I left the vessels on the counter in the sacristy, at church, to put away when I returned, around 11 am. After putting everything away (Don't worry, I purified the vessels at the end of Mass), I met with the parishioner who is overseeing the work on the rectory at St. Mary.

Everything is going well, although it takes time. For example: they found a leak in one of the bathrooms on the second floor, and it was damaging the ceiling below, so that involves two repairs, and it slows the work below. The first floor is coming along nicely, however. What's being done is relatively straightforward: a new, full bath so that the vicar can live on the first floor, some fresh paint in most rooms, and some new carpeting in some rooms. In the front hall, we are taking up the carpet, and polishing the hardwood floor below. Other than some work in two bathrooms upstairs, again it's a matter of fresh paint; as well as some new drapes here and there.

There is also exterior work: new windows, a new roof, and tuckpointing a couple of chimneys, that sort of thing. The latter will cost serious money. But the interior work I described? We are getting it for a ridiculously low amount of money, thanks to several very generous people, who are either donating their own labor, or that of their employees, as well as donated materials.

After that I headed to the office. Realize this is now Friday afternoon, and I've been in the office a total of maybe 4 hours this week. I have stacks of messages, mail and emails. Still haven't written my homily. And I need to call the family about the funeral on Monday. I do reach them, and we agree to meet at 4 pm. So now I have about 2 hours in which to write my homily, while I do three or four other things. Well, I get a good start anyway. I help the family pick the readings for the Mass, as well as the music, and we have a good visit. Then I have a dinner appointment at 6, for which I leave late. Back home by 10 pm.

Saturday: I get to sleep late! So, naturally, I wake up at 7:30 am. The vicar had confessions; I told him I'd gladly take them for him--but he wants to be doing things. So I get to make coffee and drink it, and pray my office quietly, and do a little blogging. In a bit, I'll get cleaned up, head to the office for some appointments, try to refine my homily (it's too long; this may surprise you, but writing lots of words is easy; winnowing them down, down, down to something manageable and focused is what takes a lot of time), before hearing confessions at 3:30 pm, and Mass at 5 pm.

17 comments:

Jackie said...

It's good to know that priests really do come by the name Father for more than the spiritual relationship with the parishioners - clearly it's also by the juggling that happens when you are in a family. Glad to know it kept you busy, out of mischief, and off the streets!!

I have checked out Called By Name - the blog by Fr. Schnippel. It's a good blog - although I don't think he types as fast as you do (or another way to say it - maybe he's not a wordy as you are - your editing skills are probably better! :) ) So - I will go an try to say something nice. Glad you all had a good time getting together with your fellow priests from the seminary days, telling stories, lettig your hair down and taking a break!

Looking forward, as always, to your homily! God Bless

Anonymous said...

Father Fox,

During Holy Mass last
Saturday/Sunday, Deacon Tom McDonnell of the Diocese of Buffalo, reflected on the culture of death that is embodied in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Roe V. Wade and embryonic stem cell research. He also pointed out the error of catholic congressman Chris Higgins' voting record on these matters in light of our Lord's teachings that prohibit such disregard for human life. Congressman Higgins was in attendance at Mass where this instruction took place. Your thoughts on the matter, Father?

Ohevin

Anonymous said...

Try to say something nice?!?! I am always nice, unlike that pastor up north!

Just kidding, Father, had a great time this week, but the office was killer on Friday, :(

Father Martin Fox said...

Ohevin:

I would communicate rebuke or reproof in private, one-on-one; to do so publicly would require extraordinary circumstances. I can't, at the moment, describe what they would be, but I can see that there might be such circumstances. Whether those applied in this case, I don't know.

Rich Leonardi said...

... try to refine my homily (it's too long; this may surprise you, but writing lots of words is easy; winnowing them down, down, down to something manageable and focused is what takes a lot of time)

To borrow from Keith Richards, who in the late eighties was asked what he thought of Bruce Springsteen's marathon-like concerts: "Any fool can play for three-and-half hours; show me the man that can get his point across in forty-five minutes."

Father Martin Fox said...

Rich:

I do believe that is the first time I've been linked to Keith Richards.

Anonymous said...

I changed the wording from, "____ received the sacrament of reconciliation" to something like, "____ participated in a celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation." Can you guess why?

.....
Because we no longer "receive" sacraments, we "celebrate" them??? At least that's what we were told in a recent Diocesan class for catechists.

Father Martin Fox said...

Anonymous:

No, that's not the reason.

There's a very important reason I did it, although it's subtle . . .

Clare said...

I changed the wording from, "____ received the sacrament of reconciliation" to something like, "____ participated in a celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation." Can you guess why?

Because they must actually "participate" by initiating the Sacrament (going into the Confessional, making Sign of the Cross, say Bless me Father, etc.) and confessing their sins before actually "receiving" absolution?

It takes two for this Sacrament to be made manifest, thus participation vs. passive reception?

Clare

Father Martin Fox said...

Clare:

You're close.

Here's the thing: how can I sign a statement that any child actually received the sacrament of reconciliation?

I know they came to the service; I might even know that they went to be with a priest; but I don't know that they actually received the sacrament--only they and the priest know that -- and the priest can't say.

The only children I know, for a fact, received the sacrament, are those to whom I personally gave it; and I cannot say that they received it.

...Or, at least, I think I should not say. I will leave it to canon lawyers to say whether that, per se, violates the seal. In any case, I think it is important to teach the lesson, from the very beginning, the confidentiality of this sacrament -- and that is for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Father,

Diogenes, of Catholic World News, had the following observation about those who are obstinate in sin, yet present themselves for Holy Communion. He says,

"Bishops ought to think carefully before handing over Holy Communion to “manifest grave sinners,” like civil authorities who publicly promote contraception, abortion and same sex marriage. (Can. 915). Jesus was surely referring to the “chief priests” when He said to Pilate “he who handed me over to you is guilty of the greater sin” (Jn.18:35; 19:11)."

Relative to your pastoral reply to my previous query, I would like to believe that a penitent you have advised privately along these lines will take to heart your private rebuke. On the other hand, what Diogenes is saying concerning the authorities betraying Christ and then offering Christ to Pilate is akin to some priest (Bishops and clergy) today offering up Christ to obstinate politicians. You have to admit, Diogenes comparison is thought provoking.

Peace and good things to you.

Ohevin

Maria said...

....Penance Service went fine, this year I didn't wear the cordless mic into the confessional....

Father, I'd love to hear the rest of THAT story!!!

Clare said...

Here's the thing: how can I sign a statement that any child actually received the sacrament of reconciliation?

The only children I know, for a fact, received the sacrament, are those to whom I personally gave it; and I cannot say that they received it.

.... Or, at least, I think I should not say. I will leave it to canon lawyers to say whether that, per se, violates the seal.


Ah, I see! Excellent point....

Thinking about this further, a couple of questions come to mind:

(1) Is First Confession recorded in Parish Records like Baptism, First Communion, Marriage, etc.?

and

(2) Given the confidential nature of Confession, why would certificates given at all?

Very interesting logic puzzle this one!

Clare

Father Martin Fox said...

Clare:

No, the reception of the sacrament of penance is not recorded anywhere.

I would be fine with getting rid of the certificates; however, I can see where they'd be handy, should a child make his or her first communion elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

please tell me you did not wear a mic in confession!!!! please tell us what happened!!!!
occasionally our priests will still have the mic on when they are outside greeting parishoners after mass. it's pretty funny.

the Joneses said...

Re: liturgical dance - but Father, you're a (ex-)Pentecostal! Surely a good holy roller can show us how it's done properly :)

--DJ
(a deacon in the Charismatic Episcopal Church, but no, I don't do liturgical dance)

Father Klingele said...

Fr. Fox,
Using "a celebration of the sacrament" instead of "received the sacrament" is also a subtle change from definite to indefinite article. "A celebration" implies that you might receive the sacrament again. "The sacrament" is how many receive it. "Do we have to do that again? I've already got my certificate."

Unfortunately, many people see marriage the same way. "Father, we want to renew our Wedding vows." Father says: "Well, what have you been doing every day since you got married. Consecrated religious make vows. Man and woman give consent of the will. I will bless your marriage. We don't rebaptize, bishops don't reordain priests on anniversaries, and so couples should not repeat the act of consent in the presence of the priest. Invalid marriages, civilly recognized, can be convalidated unknowingly to all through such a 'renewal of marriage vows'."

Your change in wording suggests more properly than the Sacrament of Reconciliation is received regularly and not once like marriage, baptism, or priesthood. This is another good example of your excellent continuing work in Lord's vineyard, ad multos annos.

Why do all the rel. ed. experts only call this sacrament reconciliation, when every bulletin lists times for Confession, every person says, "I am going to confession" or "Father when do you hear Confessions", and as far as I know it is called the confessional, not the reconciliational. Yes, it is the sacrament of confession, reconciliation, and penance. Since the people who actually participate in the sacrament more than once call it Confession, maybe we should learn something from this. Hmm.
And as far as face-to-face confessions go, if you give 2-12 grade kids an unbiased option ("go whichever way you are more comfortable, just go") my experience suggests 80-90% will choose confession behind the screen (and these are kids who universally have been trained to make a face-to-face confession and whose only experience of confession generally is at large penance services where many stations did not permit anonymous confessions). Hmm.
To be clear, I have to tell you may preference is confession behind the screen. But my main desire is to get people to make a contrite confession with firm purpose of amendment. Any way, any how. Every penitent and every confessor has the right to ask that a confession occur behind the screen.

Because of recent circumstances of a few priests, many places are putting windows in their 'reconcilation rooms'. The last thing I want is people watching me while I am going to confession, maybe even reading my lips. Ditto for being confessor. Fixed screens protect against any innappropriate/sinful contact by anyone and protect all from false accusations. They also allow, for example, a pentitent to compose himself quickly and without the waiting penitents seeing him if he were weeping/crying because of his sins.