Thursday, February 26, 2009

'you don't feel much more priestly...'

I'm sitting in the office, doing a few things. My energy is a bit low, as I've been pretty tired lately. Many meetings, long days, plus a head cold that involved some coughing last night. As I tell everyone else, I expect to survive!

I'm waiting for a meeting tonight--actually two. First we will have a joint meeting with both pastoral councils, to get a report from the school board. Given the negative economy, everyone is having to make some cuts, and the school board has done its job and will give the details to all involved. Then one parish will continue with its pastoral council meeting, which I'm sure we all hope will be short.

Here's what I've been up to--besides all that relates to the above information...

Ash Wednesday started with 6:15 am Mass. I don't like getting up early, so I set up almost everything ahead of time. I didn't expect a server--we don't normally have 6:15 am Mass, but rather a communion service, but I offered to have a Mass--so I arranged everything as if, no server. Plus, I was mindful that at that hour, people need to head to work. So...I put the chalice and a covered ciborium on the altar, and the missal, and the water and wine to one side. Then, when Mass began, I was at the altar the whole time, except for when I went to the pulpit or handled the ashes and distributing the Eucharist (one species). No homily, short prayers of the faithful, everything moved along. It still took 29 minutes, which surprised me. No one complained. Since I never sat down, I found myself thinking, this is like a low Mass in the old form, and how easily I could have offered Mass on the other side of the altar--i.e., facing the Lord. But I do not judge the moment to be opportune for that. Too much catechesis is needed on too many things beforehand. About 40 came for this Mass.

Mass again at 9:15 with the schoolchildren--I talked to them about the three tasks of Lent: pray, fast and give alms and gave them suggestions. A full church.

We had Mass again at Noon and 7 pm, but the other priests offered those. I was able to come back and hear confessions from about 5:45-6:45; one of the other priests was there from 5 pm. I would happily have stayed during Mass, but I had a Bible Study at 7pm; maybe next year, I'll cancel it, but I hate to cancel something like that, because regularity is so helpful to getting people to come ("is it on this week? oh, well, I don't want to go if it's not...")

This morning I had to write something up for the bulletin and send it around to various folks for comments, racing the clock as it has to be photocopied early tomorrow so it can be inserted this weekend. Various items came up today and kept me busy for several hours at my desk. A staff meeting at 1 pm, then around 2:15 pm, I drove down to the next town, the county seat, with another parishioner, to visit a prisoner in the county jail. All I was allowed to do was talk to him through the glass, that's how it works. The parishioner came along out of a shared concern--I did not actually know the prisoner--but the parishioner couldn't visit. I could as clergy. (I'm omitting details to protect identities.)

Then I called on other prisoners at a second jail, this out on Highway 25-A, part of the county system. The downtown building I think is more temporary. I've been visiting the county jail for some months, as a result of first one parishioner being there, then another, then another, then word got out and many more wanted to see the priest. So, I made arrangements for a communion service (no Mass because I cannot bring wine into the prison, even if I alone will consume it). I didn't actually expect to have a communion service today, I thought I'd set it up for another time; so, alas, I brought no vestments. My bad, as the saying goes. The room was very drab, just some picnic-type tables and a chair in the corner.

So, when all the prisoners arrived--I think we had about 12--I told them we'd pray, and I'd give holy communion, but I would hear their confessions first. So I began with the sign of the cross, then stepped over to the chair. I explained they'd have to whisper in my ear. I couldn't very well do it anonymously, because while I didn't feel any lack of safety, I didn't think the guards would like it if I turned my back, and I didn't want the guys to get raucous and have the person in charge--who was totally cooperative--decide this had been a bad idea.

Many of the men spoke Spanish. "Mi Espanol is pobre," I told them, "pero, yo tengo los oracciones in Espanol," holding up the book I had. Thanks to the Archbishop, who told me where to get a bi-lingual ritual book for such purposes. I still fumbled with the Spanish, but the men were fine with it.

Well, if I'd been wiser, I'd have had them all say the act of contrition beforehand, which is a legitimate option, it would have kept things moving and we didn't have much time. After every man who wanted to be absolved came forward, we continued with the communion service. It was pretty bare bones--I told you, I didn't expect it to happen today, but I did come prepared to meet individually with whoever I could, and that is bare-bones. I said many of the prayers and readings in both English and Spanish. I gave a homily about how when you receive "el Pan de Vida," you become the "Pan de Vida" por todos los hombres aqui! I talked about how San Pedro, San Pablo y San Maximiliano Kolbe were all thrown into prison, and they brought Christ there.

Then we prayed el Padre Nuestro/Our Father, and then I gave each the Holy Eucharist and a final blessing. They each had things they wanted me to pray for--another mistake, as I could have gathered those petitions beforehand.

I might add, for those thinking about a priestly vocation or wanting to foster it--you don't feel much more priestly than when you brings these sacraments into a jail. I found myself thinking, can I just do this all day? No es posible, que lastima!

Back to the office, for some phone calls, routine work, and that brings me to the present moment. Soon I head over to the meeting, after making a few copies first.


TerryC said...

Bless you father,
I tell any young men thinking of the priesthood to check out your blog. It is just the kind of information they need to begin to understand what a priest really does. Sometimes giving up of self seems so ordinary, a journeyman laborers string of tasks, day after day that leads others to salvation.

Anonymous said...

I have "Cuidado Pastoral de los Enfermos," but I don't think that's the book you used. What's the title, that I might get a copy? Sadly, I've forgotten more Spanish than I remember, but I do know the formula for absolution in Spanish. I'm taking a class in this last quarter of seminary in pastoral Spanish, and I think such a ritual book would be helpful.

Father Martin Fox said...


That is the book I used--it has a communion service in it, albeit for the sick, and it contains los oracciones necesarios for anointing and confession, but you have to flip around a bit.

It works in a pinch.

Fr. Larry Gearhart said...

Bless you, Fr. Martin.

El said...

God bless you, Father.