This past week-end was quite an exercise in sacramental theology as well as one of strength and stamina. It must be something akin to hitting a home run and then having to run and touch the four bases. On Saturday I began with a large confirmation at St. Paul’s parish in Carrollwood, Tampa. 197 young women and men presented themselves for the sacrament which for me translates into about two hours of energy to be expended. They were a wonderful class, well prepared and very serious. I was constantly conscious of the fact that about two hundred of their family and friends were unable to find seats and would be standing throughout the Mass. About two-thirds of the way through the confirmation rite itself, a first occurred. A young man after I had confirmed him and spoken briefly to him asked, “May I give you a hug?” Before I could answer he had enveloped me in a big hug and said “thanks” and then departed. I looked at the pastor, Father Len Piotrowski, who said to me “that was not in the script!” Before long it became the thing to do, with about another fifteen men and women leaving me with a big hug. I could only think “how long would we be here if all 197 did the same?” We would likely still be there on Monday.
Saturday evening at the Cathedral I celebrated the Mass and preached at a nuptial Mass for one of my long time servers at St. Jude’s during his High School and College days, Brian Christian and his new wife Kelsey. Brian’s uncle is Father Jim Johnson, the pastor of Our Lady of Fatima parish in Inverness and Director of Good Counsel Camp. He actually performed the marriage ceremony. It was in many ways a simple wedding and a simple reception. As I have mentioned here in prior posts, it is a good thing that I do not do many weddings as I am very rusty and could easily skip a major part, like the Nuptial Blessing if not careful or with assistance. I was honored to have been invited to participate in an event which focused mainly on the marriage moment and not so much on the reception which would follow.
On Sunday morning I began by visiting one of our pastors, Father George Rozycki of St. Joseph’s parish in Zephyrhills, who is in Tampa General for tests and exploratory procedures. Please keep Father George in your prayers as at this moment his situation seems ominous. Those of you who know Tampa General know that it is possible to get lost easily and walk miles from car to bedside. It took me twice as long to find Father George and return to my car as the thirty minutes I was able to spend with him.
From the bedside of a pastor to a celebration of fifty years of priestly ministry, I then drove yesterday morning to St. Cecilia parish in Clearwater where the parish, family and friends celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of ordination of Monsignor Aidan Foynes, its retired pastor and a wonderful priest of this diocese. Monsignor preached and I sat entranced and entralled by his words. I mentioned to the gathered that bishops do not often get a chance to hear their priests preach because when we are present we seem to trump them and are always called upon to preach. What a pity because Monsignor Foynes with a wonderful combination of Irish wit and deep insight into the mystery of priesthood almost brought me to tears at moments and to laughter at others. The love in the Church for this gentle servant of the Gospel was palpable. So the third base sacrament this week-end was a renewed sense of gratitude for Holy Orders.
But there was one more to come as I rounded third and headed to St. Mark’s parish in New Tampa for yet another confirmation, this time with 97 candidates and thankfully no hugs. The ceremony was beautiful, the Church was packed, the music great and the young women and men serious and well prepared. I came home exhausted, climbed into bed and thanked God for the home run opportunity He gave me this week-end to celebrate four sacraments of the Church.