Monday, January 18, 2010


Last week I discovered just how deeply we have invested in becoming a two priest parish instead of a one priest parish. Our ever vigilant, hard working parochial vicar went away on retreat leaving me to man the ship by myself. There was no fear in this. It was a one man ship when I got here.

Then he left.

Then our priest in residence got the flu.

Then the pastors emeritus also skipped town.

And then there was one.

Then somebody inadvertently said the magic curse. Theater has a similar problem. A play becomes cursed when someone utters a line from Macbeth. “Out darn spot!” A careful ritual is observed among the superstitious to remove the curse (as can be seen in “Shakespeare in Love” in order to remove the curse and save the show – and in turn save box office receipts.

The line in parish life that causes similar strife involves the “F” word. No, not that one – the other one. And it is usually couched in this innocent enough sentence: “Gee, we have not had a funeral in a long time.” As soon as it was uttered I knew I was doomed.

Two phone calls came in rapid succession. There would be two funerals on the first day the parochial vicar would be gone! A day later another one came in for my otherwise day away. Later another came on for the week’s end. Not as many as some parishes – more than we are used to – and a lot for when you are suddenly and completely alone (priestwise).

There is a reason that priests of our diocese are released from their obligation to pray the Office on the day they have a funeral. Every funeral means there is a homily to be written, at least one meeting with the family to be had, phone calls to be made, paperwork to be filled out, a visit to the funeral home with prayers, the Mass, the trip to the graveyard, and the time rescheduling appointments that had to be cancelled.

This is not a complaint. It is why we are ordained. Firemen don’t get upset because their day was interrupted by a fire. It is what they are there for. But I bet they secretly wish that all the fires weren’t during the same week that all their buddies were away. I wonder if they have a similar forbidden sentence. I can imagine a rookie fireman saying, “Why don’t we fire up some brats on the grill?” and his fellow fire fighters jumping up, shushing him and saying, “Don’t say the “f” word!”

“What? ‘Fire?’”

“Arg! He said it again! Get him!”

But fortunately just then the fire alarm rings and he gets away with some dirty glances and the lesson to watch is language.


Anonymous said...

Father, Thanks for helping us to understand what priests/pastors do. You really had a busy week, on top of which, your homily on Sunday was one of your very best. I appreciate all you do for us. You, and all of our parish priests and deacon, are in my prayers.

Adoro said...

Actually, in all Emergency services, the bad word is the "Q" word: "Quiet".

As in, "Gee, it's been really quiet today" or "Seems we're in for a quiet night."

That's the curse...right there.

Anonymous said...

Dear Fr. V.
Sometimes we are overwhelmed by the things that happen in our lives, the struggle with illness, therapies, just getting there sometimes and accepting the changes then there are financial issues, family issues and deadlines for even happy things....
We seem to call on our Priests for help when we need to and we thank you for taking the calls and making the appointments when needed even when you may be overwhelmed in similar ways...
God Bless you all for everything that you do.....