February 2: you can find me in the same place year after year. With the smell of pine pitch stuck to my hands and clothes, I just spent the afternoon taking down the Christmas decorations at Old Saint Joe's. At least the outdoor decorations were still full of sap -- I cannot say the same about the almost life-less decor inside.
You might be surprised that I'm just now removing the decorations -- most churches did that long ago, all the way back to January 12, the official start of Ordinary Time, the day after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. And yet here at OSJ, I keep the decorations up a bit longer so our students -- who are normally away for the duration of the Christmas season -- can see how beautiful the church looks while they are away. Given we continue to chant "Alma Redemptoris Mater" up until tonight, and given the decorations at the Vatican are usually removed today, I think I'm in pretty good company!
While I'm certainly walking a bit slower tonight given all of the physical work undertaken today-- including going to great heights -- the day was wonderful, to be sure! The time alone enabled me to work on a couple of homilies, consider this blog, come up with some ideas for Lent, and welcome the many number of perspective students who are touring the college during these "SNC Shadow Days." Normally the visitors will see me donning the white habit -- today they found me in wind pants, running shoes and a Catholic University of America hoodie. The parents and perspective students didn't seem to mind the look as much as I did. One high school senior even stated, "even in that outfit, you're still representing the Church." Yes, that's true, but I'm also representing the competition, so to speak!
At one point while dismantling the decorations today, I remembered that it was actually two years ago today that I wrote to you for the first time via this forum. Back then, a bit saddened by the removal of Christmas imagery for yet another year, I wondered how I could keep the Christmas spirit alive and well in my heart. For me, it would be the conception of this forum where I could tell you a bit more about my life, and how I see Christ piercing this life lived with my Norbertine Confreres while serving the people I love most in life: my students, parishioners, prisoners and Packers -- reaching out to them [hopefully] in the same love the Baraniak family extends to me for 42 years now.
I often feel a bit distant, knowing that I'd like to spend more time here offering whatever I can. But juggling all the balls while wearing a few different hats -- with even more projects in my mind -- finds the reader seeing the same old picture or reading the same old title day after day and sometimes week after week. I thank you for your patience; I'll try my best to be a bit more regular; naturally, as time allows. And yet on the second anniversary of "Keeping Contact With the Canon," a new aspect of this blog might be unfolding.
I returned to the Priory today to find an email from Bonnie from Catholic TV. She mentioned that she came across the blog -- only the Lord knows how! -- and that she is intrigued by the sight. I'm suspecting she's not as inspired by the writings as she is intrigued by the unique ministries in which I am involved. She first mentioned her interest in my work at GBCI. I appreciated that! So often it is the work with the Packers that catches the readers' eyes. For some reason, Bonnie mentioned the ministry to the inmates first. Often times, Thursday mornings amidst my "captive audience" is the highlight of my week. Compared to my other ministries, it's pretty quiet work, pretty unnoticed. And yet it is there, beyond the metal detectors and under the watchful eyes of the blueshirts, that I am engaged in extraordinarily fulfilling work. That does not suggest the other daily work is not as satisfying, but here I feel a different fulfillment -- almost inexpressible.
Bonnie asked if I would allow this sight to be featured on Catholic TV's website. Further, she asked if I would be a guest on an upcoming episode of This is the Day. Given I am in Packerland and the studios are in the heart of Patriot territory, the interview will most likely be conducted by telephone. I will respond to Bonnie after I take a bit more time later tonight to check out the Catholic TV website; in all honesty, I am pretty unfamiliar with their work. So far, while just briefly tapping into the sight, I can say that what I've noticed is very impressive: they seem to do very good work. Their work reminds me of the impressive efforts of Catholic Athletes for Christ, Catholics Come Home and Catholic Vote.org. As a matter of fact, when looking over the sight, guess who I stumbled upon?
.....Confrere and buddy, Father Alfred McBride, O. Praem., a fellow Priory second floor resident! We'll have much to talk about upon his return home from directing a retreat in Duluth! So I'll give you an update once I see what Bonnie has in mind; at this point is seems as though Catholic TV is finding their own way of keeping the mystery and the joy of the Incarnation alive and well far beyond the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord or the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, commonly known as Candlemass.
Today at Old Saint Joseph Church -- twice before the dismantling -- and in churches throughout the world, the faithful were greeted with this proclamation:
"Forty days ago we celebrated the joyful feast of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today we recall the holy day on which he was presented in the temple, fulfilling the Law of Moses and at the same time going to meet his faithful people. Led by the Spirit, Simeon and Anna came to the temple, recognized Christ as their Lord, and proclaimed him with joy."+ Roman Sacramentary
Today I entered the church, not necessarily led by the Spirit, but prompted by the calendar and drooping poinsettias. Early on in the experience, I felt my back aching in such a way that I was convinced, "Next year, I'm lighting a match!" That's my sarcasm setting in, you know!
And yet, isn't that what Candlemass asks of us? This feast inspires us to see how complete life can be once we encounter the Lord. It's our opportunity to see how the Spirit is working in our lives: aching back, pitch stained clothes, perspective students, homily preparation, Lenten lessons, blog meanderings, surprise emails, life on a ladder... ... ... Simeon and Anna had their own ups and downs as well. Yet, they were people of the Light! These two had the faith and the courage to proclaim their sacred findings with joy.
What about us? Might we also be inspired to light a candle instead of curse the darkness!
Two years later, "God's flock is in your midst; give it a shepherd's care!"
you have kept your Word.
You let your servant go in peace.
With my own eyes I have seen
the salvation which you have prepared
in the sight of every people:
A Light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people, Israel!
Simeon's Song of Praise!