Monday, April 03, 2006

A day in the life of a parish priest

People seem to enjoy this sort of thing, so I'm happy to write about a day in my life. Yesterday, in particular.

As usually happens, all sorts of things came together to make the weekend "complicated."

It was, of course, the 5th Sunday of Lent; so we had the 3rd scrutiny at one of the Masses. That meant making sure the reader knew to read different readings, and different petitions. It also meant a longer Gospel, and a different (shorter) homily from me.

Also, every weekend we have the battle of the announcements. I call it a "battle" because if I don't keep on them, they grow and expand out of control. This weekend we had five! Let's see if I can recall them...

1. We need signups for servers and other helpers during Holy Week -- especially Palm Sunday. Sign up in the vestibule. Adults can serve (meant both to fill server slots and motivate the kids).

2. Next Saturday, spring cleaning in church.

3. St. Clara Ladies will have their religious goods store open after all Masses.

4. Easter flower memorials -- sheet attached to bulletin.

5. Festival tickets for pick up in vestibule. (Advance sales of our festival tickets generate major revenue.)

Now, that's a lot of announcements. Only we had one more, a lengthy one! Because I am becoming pastor of a neighboring parish, in addition to St. Boniface, we have a "Future Committee" looking at all the relevant issues, and they were at Mass, the last two weekends, to report their recommendation on weekend Mass schedules. They recommended a reduction from eight total (for both parishes) to six, and they gave a brief explanation of the plan. That was a 4-5 minute announcement.

So for that reason, I wanted to be present at all Masses last weekend. So I was of course up early to be available at the end of the 7 am Mass. (It didn't help that we'd "sprung ahead" this past weekend; nor that the bar, across the street from where I live, had a loud band playing past 1 am. I can tell you, I slept very late today to catch up!)

Well, in addition, we had a special event this past Sunday: confirmation for my parish, plus the neighboring parish, plus some children from another parish. That followed at 2:30 pm. As soon as the 11:30 am Mass folks filed out, several of us set to arranging things in church. I was running back and forth from the church, to the school (where the Knights would get dressed for their role in the liturgy), to the rectory, where I'd greet the bishop and the concelebrating priests.

Thank God and the parents we had plenty of servers (none showed up for the rehearsal a week prior, so the youth minister did some serious phoning), and they were on the ball. One boy, God bless him, who I know well and is a good boy but too talkative (it's divine retribution for my childhood, I realize), kept interrupting my conversation with the bishop's master of ceremonies; so I just turned to the boy -- really to all the servers -- and said, "we need SILENCE!" I explained it to the boy later.

So I had to do a quick rehearsal for the servers, assign their jobs, and -- here's the thing with a special liturgy -- I had to explain to them, not what's special but what's the same. I've seen where kids get thrown (adults too!) by something new; they don't draw on their usual "script" for Mass. So I find it helps to explain, "this is a regular Sunday Mass, with a few extra things. And for the few extra things, the MC will guide you." This usually works.

The MC did a good job; but of course he changed some of the things I told the kids. I'm not criticizing, just one more complication, unavoidable.

So . . . well, back to the rectory to explain to the priests how we'll distribute the Eucharist. You'd be surprised how much thought I had to give to choreographing just the movement of the priests to the altar, to receive their communion, and then begin distributing the Eucharist to the servers, to the MC (who I hope received communion -- he often gets left out), and to the two extraordinary ministers who assisted.

The priests didn't do exactly what I asked, but it worked pretty well. The only other glitch was mine: I went to the back, but forgot to tell the ushers I would do that; so they had folks come down from the balcony (I was going up there). Also, I should have made sure I had more hosts; I ran out and from the back, it's hard to get more. (We don't usually distribute the Eucharist from the back, except for a crowd, as in this case.) I looked to the front, and they were finished! So I said to the 5 or so folks who hadn't received -- follow me! I led a little procession to the front, I got a ciborium from the altar, and gave them communion. I fear some slipped back to their pews in the confusion, but what can I do?

Well, everything worked out -- although again, I forgot to get hymnals for the concelebrants, so a quick scramble at the beginning of Mass to get them books. I think we didn't begin on time, which I regret. (Oh, and did I mention the steeple clock was all goofed up because of the time change? Fortunately, the bells still rang the right time--they're on a separate clock!)

Oh, and because church was packed -- what a nice sight! -- the MC had to get some more bread to consecrate during the bishop's homily, but that worked out just fine.

Well, once the Mass was over, auxiliary Bishop Carl Moeddel -- God bless him! -- went back into church for individual pictures. Considering he's still recovering from some very serious health issues, that's very gracious of him. Bishop Moeddel is always gracious and easy-going. I recall in the seminary serving Mass for him, and I was the thurifer -- the "smoker" as I tell the kids. I came to him with the incense, and I couldn't open the thurible! I was mortified, I had no idea what to do (and it's not easy working with something filled with hot coals!). With a word and gesture, he indicated to whack it on the floor (which was terrazo, no carpet). That did it!

After Mass, I headed back to the rectory to assist the bishop, and the concelebrants as needed, then back to church to clean up, more running around, eventually, over to the school for the reception, which was mostly over (but I did get some cookies!); then I locked up most things (the retired priest helped, God bless him!); then I sat and chatted with a priest from a nearby parish about some other issues of concern, then walked home around 5-5:30. Arriving home, I found the message light blinking on my machine. Uh oh...

It was one of the PTO folks. "Father, one of the outside doors to school is unlocked." I'd missed one; so back to the school to lock up.

Finally, around 5:30, I was back, I'd exchanged my cassock for shorts and a golf shirt, feet up in the Lazy boy, and I didn't move much after that! Much later, I fixed myself some dinner and had a beer (well, two).

I'm not complaining; I was pretty happy with how confirmation went. I have some ideas for next year. One idea I had this year was to do a Litany of the Saints, as the general intercessions. Only odd thing was it followed the celebration of the sacrament, but that's where the intercession come in the liturgy. But I think it worked well, otherwise.

Oh, and in all this, some things got neglected.

This past Sunday being the anniversary of our late holy father's death, I'd liked to have made more of that. As it was, I mentioned it in the bulletin, and added a prayer for him at the end of the intercessions, at 4 pm Mass; I didn't, at 10, because of the scrutiny. The retired priest mentioned it at 11:30; I don't know what he did at 7.

I should have had a petition for the confirmandi, although we did that several times in the lead-up to this weekend. And, finally, I'd like to have highlighted the request, emanating from the bishop in Iraq, to fast today and tomorrow for that troubled country. Maybe you can appreciate why I didn't. (Sometimes folks say, "why didn't Father mention... at Mass?" You can see why...)


Fr Martin Fox said...


You're absolutely right about delegation, and I hope that'll happen in the future. Here's the thing, I just got here, and I haven't got the full "lay of the land" in terms of who knows how to do what. I'm taking steps, but as you might imagine, it takes time to develop leadership. I'm sure I have people fully able to do this; I just don't know who they are, yet, and who it is I want to ask.

My youth minister would be a natural; but he's new, he wasn't ready for this, this year. But next year? I think so.

Of course, what I want is a head sacristan, or an MC.

And about Saturday night -- I confess, it occurred to me I ought just to go over there, since I wasn't getting any sleep anyway. But it's the kind of place that a biker bar doesn't want to be confused with . . .

Anonymous said...

You were busy.

Our pastor had changed sermons just to demonstrate about doing the things that you always do, and should do.

He forgot to change his clocks, and Fr. Carbone, our other priest, noticed, at the last minute that Monsignor was not ready for the 7:30 am Mass, so had to dash to get ready for it.

Decent sermon, and it's always nice to see the human side of priests.

DP said...

Our parish priest forgot to change his clock too and slept in and was late for the 8:30am mass. Ah, the poor priests just need their sleep!

Ellen said...

Okay, so multiply what you did by say 20, add driving around and you have the day in the life of a mom.

Serously, having become acquainted with our new pastor, I have a new appreciation for all you men do. I have learned to thank him for all he does for our parish that may go unnoticed to many.

Get some rest!