Day is done...

Walden Pond, Copyright by James Hoagland

This is our second weekend back on the regular weekend schedule after a summer season of only two liturgies on Sunday morning rather than three. Since I've not yet found a priest to help on weekends, I enjoyed the lighter pace of only two Masses.

Presiding and preaching at three Masses at 7:30, 9:30 and 11:30 is more tiring than you might imagine. I don't say that by way of complaint but rather as a matter of fact. This weekend has been full. I celebrated a 10:00 funeral Mass on Saturday morning and the 5:00 p.m. Saturday Mass. Three Masses this morning and a 10:00 funeral tomorrow morning, Monday, make a total of 7 celebrations of the Eucharist over 48 hours. Canon law has not caught up with contemporary parish life since by law a priest is not supposed to celebrate more than two Masses per day. There's wisdom in that law even if the pastoral demands of many parishes render it meaningless. Presiding at the liturgy with an alert, prayerful reverence and preaching a homily as freshly the third or fourth time as you did the first can be draining. (One good thing about such a schedule is that it encourages better homily preparation. It's tough enough to preach once a homily I'm not pleased with. Imagine what it might be like to preach such a text three or four times!) Again, this is not by way of complaint but simply sharing with you some of my experience.

This morning was a busy one: three liturgies, the third one including two infant baptisms. In addition, Gregory Burch, a parishioner preparing to be ordained a permanent deacon in 2008, served at the altar for the first time as an instituted acolyte. It was a great morning! I'm seeing the faces of many of who have been away for the summer and there's a real joy in those encounters at the church doors and in the communion procession. This morning's readers were particularly well prepared and proclaimed the Word beautifully. The musical repertoire was well chosen, the choir was back at the 11:30 and the sung response from the assembly was very good at all Masses. I was pleased with my homiletic effort (even if some were uneasy with my impugning the Patriots' head coach!). And the joy of the baptisms was a wonderful way to end the morning's work. Sometimes a priest goes home after Sunday morning and wants to do nothing but stretch out in his recliner and snooze. Other times, like today, the pastor finds himself energized by the peoples' prayer and the day's liturgies.

I'm working on finding a priest to help with one Mass each weekend. It's a delicate task. I'm not just "looking for a sub" but rather, I'm looking for a priest who will preside prayerfully and preach with preparation and understanding.

Priests around the world are stretched much more than I am here. In Haiti, it's not unusual for a priest to be responsible for a large parish and for as many as 20 small chapel communities spread over many miles. No, he doesn't get to each chapel every Sunday - perhaps only one or two - but the burden of knowing the needs of his people in those small communities can weigh heavy on his heart.

This rambling report is my day's end reflection. Please pray for priests and especially for those whose work is truly more than they can handle. And pray for priests like me who, even on the busiest of days, is blessed by a community of faith as beautiful as the one I serve.

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