Sunday, March 29, 2009


The weekly diary started as a series entitled, “Oh! The Places You’ll Go!” which took you with me to some interesting places from jails to porn sets - places that never quite seemed to make into the brochures advertising the priesthood. The more odd destinations seem to have dried up a little bit as I take on the responsibility of a parish and simply do not have the time. But the occasional excursion still needs to be made though this past week it was perhaps a bit more conventional.

Saturday after the usual parish responsibilities were finished I packed my U.S. Army Mass Kit, some vestments and liturgical books and headed out to Camp Manatoc to have Mass for the scouts. I used to camp there as a young scout but my last connection with the camp was in junior high school when the school went for our “wilderness experience.” It actually was a good time but my strongest memory was gaining school fame during the singing of “Hey Ladi.” (I am guessing on the spelling.) Mrs. McCalla (again I am guessing in the spelling) was leading us in a class sing along – always popular in junior high school – God bless her for trying. Everybody had to take a turn in coming up with a rhyme for the song and when it came to my turn I sang:

I know a lady named Mrs. McCalla
Hey ladi, ladi lo
When she sings the dogs all Holla
Hey ladi, ladi lo . . .

Driving out to the camp the radio predicted dropping temperatures and snow. SNOW! I have never had pleasant weather for an outdoor Mass – which is probably why I am generally opposed to them. As it turned out I was way overdressed for the evening.

A laughable sign along the long trail that led into the woods read, “Slow! Speed bumps!” It would have been more appropriate to inscribe the signs with, “Slow! Speed craters!” But the old Buick made it in well enough and at the administration building I was met by some sturdy young scouts who shouldered my load for me to the outdoor chapel. The chapel is built in the woods on the side of a hill and the 80 or so in attendance sat on rough stadium seating while I celebrated for them under a small shelter in rapidly declining light. I must say that I was impressed with the young men who, by and large, were very well behaved, attentive and best of all quiet as there is no sound system in the woods and any amount of fussing would have obliterated whatever I might have tried to say to them.

Later that night around a bonfire I was able to witness some cub scouts become boy scouts. The last time I was able to be at such an event it took place in a gym and because of fire regulations the bonfire was made of nylon flames with a fan and a red light under them, candles were battery operated, the bridge that the scouts were to cross over was of the kind you might find in a garden variety garden, and the gym lights had to remain on since there was not enough light produced by the “fire.” But late at night, with a true fire, rustic “bridge”, in the woods – and the emphatic charge to “turn off anything electronic” – the “rite” suddenly made so much more sense and was much more meaningful. It left me thinking about our various Catholic rites and how when we mess with them, making them less messy or more convenient or easier or just plain fail to do them well how we can strip the visceral aspects of them. They are supposed to be loud and soft, dark and light, oily, wet, smelly, difficult, and familiar. We should cross the bridge with smoke in our eyes, stumbling a little for poor lighting, bumping into others, being introduced to new thoughts while saying the same old words – to visit the same place every day and never find the same place.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

More than once during the evening did I hear something like, "That was a great mass!" or "That was really nice of Fr. Valencheck to come out and say Mass for us." Indeed. Thank you for saying Mass for all the cub scouts, boy scouts, and their parents!