Saturday, May 27, 2006

Another day in the life of a parish priest

Folks seem to like me recounting my day from time to time . . .

Today, our youth group took a trip to Kings Island amusement park. I decided to go, because I enjoy roller-coasters immensely (although I would enjoy them more were I in better shape), it would get me out and about for the day, and most important, give me a chance to spend some time with some of the young people, and with the adults involved.

So, I was up early to have coffee and a light breakfast, and pray my office through Daytime Prayer. I was tempted to pray Evening Prayer, in view of the day ahead (and I would have if I really thought I needed to), but I didn't. '

I slathered myself with "50" sunblock (you may laugh, but I sizzle like bacon if I don't trowel it on). I met the youth minister, the other adult chaperone, and the 10 kids, in the parking lot around 8:45. After the youth minister made sure everyone turned in money and permission slips, and received a tshirt (all the kids dressed alike -- do you know why?), we were off.

Other than reminding them to behave as Catholics should, we gave them simple instructions: two check-ins, don't be late, keep your shirts on, and travel in groups of no less than three. If we found any pairs or singles, they got to walk with the grownups until we found more kids! Off they went.

The young people handled themselves in an exemplary fashion! I told them so at the end of the trip.

So, the kids went on their way, and the other two adults and I walked around the park. We rode some rides--the youth minister, who's 23, was hesitant about some of the roller-coasters, although he tackled some gamely, but refused the more extreme ones, while the mother, who is close to my age (I'm 44) and I were completely undaunted.

Alas, I displace more atmosphere than I used to, and I am less "toned" -- and I am 6'1" -- so I don't fit easily into all the rides. I got a little banged up, and my back feels as though it isn't arranged exactly as God intended, but it will adjust itself in time. After riding the "Son of Beast," which in my opinion is the finest ride at Kings Island, followed by the "Vortex," I decided, "I'm done; that's two strikes, I don't want strike three!" As it was, we were about ready to go anyway.

Now, I will at this point reveal what I wore, since priestly attire is a subject of interest to many, something I've discussed here: I wore a light colored golf shirt, khaki shorts, walking shoes, and a hat. (Cue gnashing of teeth from hardliners.)

If you think I was going to walk around, in full sun, for 9 hours, dressed all in black, you are crazy. I am not crazy. Right after I was ordained a deacon, and began wearing clerics, I said to someone, "now I know what an asphalt parking lot feels like, baking in the sun!" Yes, I do want these young people to see a priest in clerical attire, and almost all the time, they do. Such are the practical decisions one makes.

Well, after our second check-in, we retired from the park, and found a nearby Burger King, for dinner. Because of how we all went through the line, with me last, the kids were all eating by the time I sat down, so I didn't lead grace, alas. But I'm so proud of one young man: he came to me, as I was getting my sandwich, and said: "Father, could you ask them to put something different on the TV?" (They have tvs at Burger King now, apparently); I turned to the fellow behind the counter, who had heard it, and looked at the young man, as if to say, if you want, tell him, or I will, and the young man repeated the request. The man behind the counter had a curious look, but nodded, and a moment later, changed it to some car race or something.

As I went to the table, the young man said something like, "they said they were going to show something 'not suitable for children.'" (Now, I just now went back and replaced "boy" with young man. Adults will understand that calling a high school fellow "boy" is not meant in any way to demean him; but he might just read this, and I'd hate to demean him in any way. But they're my kids, you know what I mean?)

Well, after that, we headed home, and the youth minister and I waited until every child had been picked up. They all said they had a great time, and I think they did.

I got home around 9:30; last night, I'd had all the windows open, but today, it was hot in the house, so all windows closed, a/c on. I popped several aspirin, fixed myself a little bourbon on the rocks (it's medicinal), and fixed a little snack, and sat down, and finished my office for the day. As I wait for the house to cool down, I'm doing a little blogging.

I have the early Mass tomorrow, and I told some of the kids, "we'll see how I'm doing in the morning. If I don't genuflect, or if I do, but don't get up, you'll know the answer!" I said I might just genuflect, then stay down, telling everyone, "we'll begin Mass today by prostrating ourselves in prayer..."


mrsdarwin said...

I went to Kings Island with my youth group once or twice, but like you I sunburn (and how!) so I found it less than thrilling to stand baking in line for an hour waiting for a three-minute ride.

For my money, the best coaster was the original wooden Beast, but I don't know if I ever rode the Son of Beast. Or maybe the line was just too long.

I hope that Bourbon soothes your back. I prescribe another one tomorrow night; that's when you'll really want it.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Oh, I went on the Beast, which is a marvelous ride, but it was one of the tighter fits. I had a terrible fear I'd get a charley-horse while wedged in; all thanks to God, my patron, glorious Martin de Porres, and my guardian angel (who is probably having a bourbon too!), that did not happen.

The Beast is second- or third-best. Alas, I did not ride each coaster as I would like to do; but for such an outcome, one must go only with another coaster nut.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Fox,

Glad you had a good time and hope the parish started Mass upright!! - and that you did too!!

To let you feel your age - my company rents Kings Island for the weekend in September for 'Dividend Day'. Hence the park has MANY fewer people and the ride lines are VERY SHORT if not non existent. My son and his buddy ride all day and have done 15 - 18 roller coaster rides in a day - clearly some repeats. They leave the park REALLY happy and I, who though not tall, still live with the effects of the actions of my teens and 20's, hurt for them - having ridden 1 or maybe 2 roller coasters. (Typically, I got a book read when I still had to go and spend the day - don't have to do that anymore!)

Finally - as a pre-emptive comment for any whining about the non clerics - in addition to baking in black at an amusement park - let's face it - you have been there a year and, based on what you have written, they have seen you in clerics 90%+ of the time - they KNOW you are a priest and a father. The clerics start it but your actions - saying the Mass, hearing Confession, and every day interactions - continue their understanding not only that you are a priest but, more importantly, what kind. A trip to Kings Island in khaki shorts and a golf shirt is NOT going to offset what they have learned (good or bad) for the last year. It also lets them know you are also a man who likes to do the things that other people like to do. (Priests are people too - sort of thing.)

I agree with Mrs. Darwin and join in her perscription of another Boubon tonight.

God Bless

Anonymous said...

The kids all had to wear the same shirt so you could find them easily ... at least, that was the rationale behind our blazing yellow WYD shirts ;)

And as for your choice of clothing, I think it was more than suitable. Glad you had fun and hope you aren't suffering too much!

Ellen said...

Sounds like you had a great day. Hats off to you for remembering that you are a person who likes to have fun and just hang out too. Can I go the next time?

Anonymous said...

Fr Martin:

love the Kings Island story

and love the homlies, I read them every week

St Albert the Great parishoner

DP said...

Your tale of the amusement park and spending quality time with the youth clearly shows you care about the young people in your flock. . .

Makes me think of the bishop I saw sleeping in a sleeping bag in the field in the same section as I was at marienfeld the night of the vigil at WYD. He slept in his cassock and looked mighty uncomfortable but he obviously cared about the youth of his diocese! Yeeshhh... impressive to say the least. Quite literally. I'm sure it made an impression on the young people. I dind't have the guts to go talk with them, but someone else I was with did and spoke with the bishop who when asked why he was sleeping in the field simply responded "I am a pilgrim like the rest of you."

Anonymous said...

Well said, Fr Fox. All of the teens know and recognize that you are a priest, so it was nice that they could think of you as a "regular guy" as well. Often, it is an eye opener for them to see that a priest isn't necessarily what they portray in their minds from when they were children. I personally think it was funny to see their reaction to you in your "roller coaster element". You are now a "real" person in their minds, and that is important. One day, it will encourage one or more of them to become a priest or religious.

As for the back pain...I second the bourbon on the rocks, may I recommend Southern Comfort - a personal favorite of my Southern self.