Saturday, November 03, 2012
The exciting life of a parish priest
Today was one of the more interesting days for me.
It started in an ordinary way: I had an appointment at 10, so I was able to sleep a little late, and have a leisurely breakfast before the couple, preparing for marriage, arrived. Breakfast: scrambled eggs, bacon, and black coffee. Priceless!
The couple arrived, and we talked about what it means to call marriage a sacrament--the third meeting (see below). When I prepare couples for marriage, I routinely do the following:
First meeting: begin by reading the account of the wedding of cana, and then a short discussion of the reading; then I ask the couple to tell me their stories, and we talk about how what "discernment" means--how they tried to discern what God had for them, in each other, and how God led them to this point. I explain that this same discernment is what a man seeking the priesthood goes through--and it's what they are trying to do as they prepare for marriage: discerning God's plan for them. I explain what we'll do together over several meetings in that light, and ask if that sounds like a good plan. We do an inventory called "FOCCUS" which measures communication, and then we schedule another meeting. And I give the couple homework: NFP classes, strongly encouraged; or else Pre-Cana.
Second meeting: we spend almost all our time reviewing the results of the "FOCCUS" inventory--which is not a test, even though it seems like one. I have, over the years, developed a series of "vignettes" that I tell, from real life, that serve to help illustrate some useful insights from the inventory. I hope it's truly helpful. The couples say it is. Homework: a set of questions on various subjects, which we talk about in the...
Third meeting: we discuss the questions, and I focus on the questions about what it means to call marriage a sacrament, and what it means to say the couple are "ministers" of the sacrament "to each other. I explain the classic Baltimore Catechism definition of a sacrament: "an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace"; I use passages from Genesis and Ephesians to explain both natural and sacramental marriage and I touch on issues such as cohabitation and openness to the gift of life. I talk about John Paul II's theology of the body--briefly.
Fourth meeting: prepare for the "big day" and plan every detail--so that the rehearsal goes smooooooothly.
Well, as often happens, I go a bit past the hour and so I had to race over to church to open the doors for confessions. Apologized to those waiting. Raced to the confessional. Did my job which is a joy.
Mass at Noon. Did you know that, in the Archdiocese, today was a special feast day? The anniversary of the dedication of our Cathedral. That meant different readings, a Gloria, etc. I did all that, and preached on the meaning of the feast. I hope it was edifying for the folks present.
After Mass, I had some downtime. I watched the Bearcats win, and read the news online. But I also had to get my Mass kit in order, because this evening I offered Mass for a special group.
Did you know that, from time to time, a call comes into the Archdiocesan office, asking if a priest could come and offer Mass for (a) the Reds; (b) the Bengals; (c) a visiting team? Earlier this week, such a call came in, regarding the Broncos. Guess who got the call? Yours truly.
So, tonight, I was scheduled to run down to one of the hotels downtown and have Mass for members of the Broncos organization. I never did that before.
I was asked to begin Mass at 7:30 pm--and I had 30 minutes! Be quick, Father! I said I'd do my best.
Well, I didn't want to be late--that would reflect badly on our Archdiocese! So I arrived before 7 pm! I followed the directions, and headed up to the third floor. The escalator from the second to third floors was closed--but the fellow working for the hotel let me through. When I got up there, I understood: all the ballrooms and meeting rooms had signs reading, "quarterbacks' meeting" and such; and sure enough, one said, "Mass." No one was there yet; so I got about getting things set up.
So, I got everything set up--I was told to expect 30 folks, maximum--and I vested, and sat down and waited. Eventually, some of the guys showed up. The players introduced themselves to me; and I asked one of the coaches to let me know when we were ready to go. And off we went.
I did everything "by the book"; I preached a homily and everything. It wasn't a big group--less than 30--but the guys were praying. I tried to make a joke, after Mass, about being a Bengals fan, but it didn't seem to work. They were pretty keyed up. They headed out pretty quickly afterward.
Did I mention that they were rather generous to yours truly? Two tickets to the game tomorrow, plus a gratuity. The gracious pastor here has told me I am welcome to keep such things, so...woo hoo! On top of that, one of the players gave me an extra gift. I told him that wasn't necessary. Wow!
So I packed up--the players, I think, were either off to a meal--I saw a buffet set up--or maybe another meeting, or perhaps they got to relax. I shook their hands and wished them well.
So now I'm going down the escalator, with my Mass kit in tow, dressed in all black, my roman collar visible--and I see assembled at the bottom of the escalator, behind a rope line, a gaggle of girls!
To my unpracticed eye, they looked to be between 16 and 25. About eight of them, I reckon, all gazing eagerly up the escalator.
"Did you meet someone famous?" one of them asked as I came down.
"How do you know I'm not someone famous?" I replied.
"Oh, sure, you are, but what about the players?"
"Who did you see?"
"Did you meet Peyton Manning?"
"What were you doing up there?"
"Did you get any autographs?"
"I had Mass for some of the players and coaches."
"Can you get us past security?"
"But you have the power of God!"
"Yes, but that isn't to be misused."
They seemed impressed with that answer.
I asked them: "what are you girls doing sitting here?" They laughed--but didn't give any other explanation. So I wished them well, and moved on. My moment was over.
So I descended the escalator, took the Mass kit back to my car, and thought--maybe I'll eat at one of the really nice restaurants downtown on the Broncos! So I drove over to the Archdiocese's offices, and parked in the lot, and walked down to--gasp!--Jeff Ruby's! This place is really expensive! Should I go in there? I almost didn't--it seemed so extravagant. But...I did!
When I got inside (my first time), the place was crowded! I backed out.
I walked down Walnut, and looked at the menu at Nicholsons: all bar food with a Scottish angle. Hmmm....no. I wished the fellow in the kilt well and moved on.
I ended up at Roma Trattoria on Sixth Street. I've never been there. It didn't look very Roman, but the food was good, and it cost half of--or less than--what Jeff Ruby's would have. Another time, perhaps.
Back here around 9:40 or so, and I wrote this post and now I'm going to watch a little football before I hit the hay. I have three Masses tomorrow, before a priest-friend meets me after Noon Mass, to race down to Paul Brown Stadium for the game. Seats on the forty.
See what interesting things happen when you're a priest? Give it a shot!