As the week's end approaches, I am finding myself completely tired -- yet wired -- both at the same time! I will be leaving town on Sunday for Vocation Ministry and then a few days off. I will return to the college in time for Junior Knights and Days next Friday. Anticipating the time away, it seems as though I booked each hour of the day and night to tie together any loose ends in a attempt to address some outstanding pastoral, sacramental and administrative issues. Amidst all of that busy-ness, several issues and appointments regarding the diocesan Advancing the Mission campaign took up an inordinate amount of time coupled with an already intense week.
Looking at my open calendar while I write this excerpt, I am humbled -- nonetheless -- of how energizing many of these activities really were! Highlights of the week include a Community Mass and House Chapter for the Norbertine Community of Saint Joseph Priory. It is such a blessing to consider how well the thirteen of us get along. We are all very different in personality, political persuasion, age and philosophy, but it is very obvious that we are often on the same page together -- striving to really become "one in mind and heart on our way home to God," just as our patron, Augustine, would hope for us.
Wednesday was also a great day -- at least a great afternoon! I was struck by the goodness of those who approached the Sacrament of Reconciliation that we offer each Wednesday afternoon in our church. It is often the goodness and sincerity of the penitent that makes me feel so unworthy to be sitting in the confessor's chair. After spending an hour in the confessional [30 minutes beyond the scheduled time!], I recalled the wisdom inscribed in Michael Heher's book ntitled, "The Lost Art of Walking on Water." Father Heher writes,
"Frankly, I often go over to my confessional tired from other activities, hoping there will be just a few in the church seeking the sacrament. I would welcome a time to relax, read, or give further thought to what isn't working in my upcoming homily. But once I hear their voices, their words of candor and contrition, of frustration and worry, my reaction is a welcome identification. I hear why I am there, for I am no more aware of myself as sinner than when I am a confessor. A philosophy professor got me started on this path years ago when he asserted that, "if there is a sin you cannot imagine yourself committing, you probably don't know yourself very well!" I have my druthers, of course; certain sins are more attractive to me than others. But I am coming to see my sinful self more and more in each penitent. Precisely because I know their struggles as my own, whatever word comes to me -- of forgiveness, encouragement, challenge, or question -- is more likely to find a home in my penitents. Ironically, my sinner's words are more likely to tell them what Jesus may want them to hear!"
The goodness of the day would continue as the parish celebrated its February Faith Festival. Jordan Lentz invited me to teach the high school students of the parish about my role at the Green Bay Correctional Institution. As I shared my ministerial experiences with them, I was struck by their sharp attention and participation in the presentation. I may not be the best teacher in the world, but on Wednesday night, I believe I was treated to some of the best students I ever had the opportunity to teach. Hopefully, those opportunities will continue.
And what could possibly top it all off? The 9:00 PM Mass in Burke Hall! This, too, is often one of the week's highlights. I knew that I was headed there with low energy. Nevertheless, the great spirit of the many students who gather there week after week coupled with Justin Wrzesinski's passionate piano playing made the entire night a pastor's paradise!
Thursday was equally loaded with appointments -- but they were not burdensome. The inmates were very reverent on Thursday morning. That's not always the case, but when they're on -- they're on! They provided a nice start to a long day that was filled with some great-- albeit intense -- meetings. This weekend will also be full as I continue with the ATM, attend a scholarship luncheon for perspective students, preside over a wedding at 4:00 PM and then try my best not to make a fool of myself on the dance floor at the annual Parish Dinner Dance. If any cameras pop up -- I'm out of there! I'm not exactly the 'Lord of the Dance,' you know!
As it's time to turn the page on the calendar, it's also time to call it a night. You know, I find that using a calendar is not solely useful for keeping your days in order or to plan ahead. Further, it allows you to look backward as well as forward and to re-consider in a prayerful manner all of the events and activities and people that have filled one's day, one's life. As I look forward to a different sort of week next week, I am grateful for this past week in all of its stresses and joys, blessings and hardships, trials and tribulations. Perhaps you can look over your own calendar in a moment of free time this weekend. And in doing so, perhaps you, too, will discover that, "God's flock is in your midst, give it a shepherd's care!"
Yours in Ss. Norbert & Joseph,
Father James Baraniak, O. Praem.
PS: I realize I will be away for Valentine's Day on Wednesday -- or as purists would say, the Feast of Ss. Cyril & Methodius. Upon my return, I'll offer a few thoughts about some of our students who have become engaged recently. God's blessings on them and all of you throughout the week ahead. Thanks to Cathie in the office and my Norbertine brothers, Father Sal Cuccia, Father Brian Prunty and Father John Bostwick who will help steer the boat while I'm away!