Pentecost XXV

We have two extra sermons from last week:
1) From All Saints’ Day: St. Therese, Clothed in Christ, by Bishop Dolan
2) From All Souls’ Day: I am Here, by Fr. Lehtoranta

✠ The Bishop’s Corner ✠

What a pleasant surprise was our attendance for All Saints and All Souls. The holy day drew almost as many souls as an average Sunday, which means that most of our faithful were at Holy Mass. There are always some visitors on holy days, and they are welcome too.

But it was the All Souls Day attendance which was really unexpected. It has been a long time since so many came to church for the Poor Souls, or First Saturday. The school children sang the morning Requiem and Absolution. We even had a good group on Saturday afternoon for the final three Masses that I offered. Had I known, I would have planned a sermon!

Fr. Cekada was surprised by Caravaggio’s “going away gift” to us last Tuesday morning, as we were leaving for Tampa and the ordination. The thoughtful feline presented a nice decapitated mouse, probably for a travel treat. Alas, they give worms, so Fr. Cekada tried to kick it off the porch. Caravaggio thought he was playing at first, but when the mouse indeed went flying, our cat was flabbergasted at the rejection of his gift, and sat in stunned silence. He seems to have recovered since.

Ernie used to say that “Ford” stood for “Fix Or Repair Daily.” Our old Crown Victoria has never given us any trouble, and even survived Fr. Cekada’s car accident in January, with Chip McClorey’s help. Last week we had just received one of those recall letters for possible steering column problems, and sure enough, Fr. McKenna called on Friday to say that it had failed, and will have to be repaired by some Ford dealership in Florida. So, as of this writing, we’re not sure when the McFathers will make it back. Always be ready to be surprised!

“The best surprise is no surprise.” This advertising line from Holiday Inn years ago has stayed with me, but it is not always true. Last weekend, we had another pleasant surprise. Saturday’s talented help was forthcoming from our young people, particularly in the shrine-making department (always a major element in our church life). The boys helped with moving statues, and some of our creative girls made a striking Our Lady of Suffrage shrine for the month of the Poor Souls. They cleverly went with red and amber candles, don’t you know, to suggest flames. Quite original.

I was also most pleasantly surprised by the cleaning potential of three girls whom I shanghaied almost at random, putting them to work on the altar boy sacristy, my bête noir. It’s not that the altar boys are so dirty, but that their room serves also as a high traffic corridor, and the place where torches are stored, lighted, and extinguished. I have only enjoyed occasional success over the years in keeping it clean, and this by employing a combination of pleading, charm and threats. Well, I’m here to tell you the girls did an excellent job! What a pleasant surprise! Girls, you’re hired. We’ll tackle the work sacristy next…

On to the ordination. I cannot say that this smoothly sublime affair was surprising, but it did have its elements. Two bishops were present, nine priests and now ten seminarians. The now traditional “last minute project” (side altars in open chapels) was masterfully completed by our Michigander, Mr. Philip Eldracher. Our own McFathers brought down some of the liturgical articles, and with Fr. Lehtoranta served adroitly as sacred ministers, and helped in the set up and last minute checks. I am very proud of and grateful to our own masterful MC, Rich Vande Ryt, for flying down for the ceremony, which he guided effortlessly and expertly. Fr. Cekada humbly served as second MC, flying around the spacious sanctuary as needed during the splendid three hour and forty minute ceremony.

Five priests vested in chasubles imposed hands, including two from Michigan: Fr. Saavedra (who just celebrated his 40th birthday the day before) and Fr. Ahern. Two choirs, sisters, and seminarians, provided the beautiful music. All of this was the culmination of the first tentative tries at communication from a group of young Catholic university students in Nigeria, just seven and a half years ago. We have two more seminarians after Fr. Nkamuke, and the work, which counts at least three missions in Nigeria, has already expanded to Ghana. Thank you for being missionaries with us, by your interest, prayers, gifts and sacrifices. The Little Flower, Patroness of the Missions, is surely pleased with you. Rejoice with us, and our Nigerian Catholics, who have their priest.

Well, that about covers my ordination report, save for the real surprise. After the ordination, Bishop Sanborn provided a fine dinner for clergy and guests. That is no surprise, as His Excellency is always a generous host. But this time, he served it himself, a blur of magenta and black, as he traveled about the refectory with his two clerical assistants seeing to the needs of his guests. It was an unforgettable dinner for both such a great occasion and for so distinguished a waiter. For everything and for all, Deo Gratias!

Our thoughts turn to gratitude at this time of year. Forty Hours next weekend, our true thanksgiving feast (the very meaning of “Eucharist”), calls all of us, who have received so much, back to the Source of all goodness – God Himself in the Blessed Sacrament, to give Him thanks. Plan to attend one of the Solemn Masses on Friday or Saturday. Set aside some time for a quiet visit over the weekend in adoration with Our Lord by night or day. Be sure to celebrate with our newest priest on Sunday, as he sings one of his first Solemn High Masses, and especially to receive his blessing. A reception follows the Solemn High Mass.

Don’t forget our Home Harvest Chili Supper after opening services on Friday evening. Bring the children to process with us! Bring some chili to share with us. Bring yourself to make it a fine Forty Hours, your best ever.

Earlier next week, Fr. Larrabee will be visiting us for a few days, leaving Friday morning. It will be good to see him again. I remember with gratitude that it was he who one year kept up the annual Nigerian mission, at some sacrifice to self and safety, to be sure. We look forward to hearing the news of his new life as Fr. Zapp’s assistant priest in the almond groves of Ripon, California.

And so it continues… Let us continuously give thanks to God-with-us, Emmanuel, in the Holy Eucharist, as we count 35 years of St. Gertrude the Great’s “pleasing abode in the Heart of Jesus.”

May He bless you generously with gratitude for your faith and church!

– Bishop Dolan