I know it’s been a while since I’ve made a blog entry. It’s been a bit of an unusual summer, as readers probably have figured out. To add to the fun of moving this summer, I was scheduled for two surgeries. The first took place June 7 when I had my gall bladder removed. Then in July it was time to pack, move and unpack just in time for more surgery on August 4. Last Thursday, I had two hernias repaired with mesh. Ouch! I am happy to report the surgery went well. The first two days afterwards were a bit rough. The amount of swelling and soreness somewhat surprised me.
Since Monday, I’ve been doing pretty well and have been up and moving around. I’ve even made it across the street to the office each day for a while to check voice mail (I haven’t figured out how to retrieve it remotely). Probably should be taking more easy than I am, though. Tuesday afternoon a technician came by to install cable and devices so I could get internet and another T.V. hooked up in the rectory. I couldn’t stop myself from helping pull cable and was up and about more than I should have been. I’ve been feeling some pain.
I didn’t preside at Eucharist last weekend. Two of my brother priests filled in for me and I thank them. One was able to bring me communion in the rectory and anoint me Sunday morning . It seemed odd not to preside or at least participate in Mass on Sunday. I guess that’s because Sunday Eucharist is such an important part of my life. I wish it was for more of the members of the Church. How can they just decide not to attend? So, I thought about sitting in the sacristy during Mass while the visiting priest presided but then the mattress of my bed seemed to exert a magnetic force I could not resist while a fresh dose of pain medicine kicked in.
I am very thankful to my sister, Mary, who was able to take a few days off of work to be with me post-surgery for a couple of days. She’s sacrificed a bit of income, I’m sure, to be able to be here for me. I realize not every one has such a supportive family member. Her willingness to sacrifice some of her own time and treasure is a sign to me of the presence of Christ in my moment of suffering. She’s part of the healing ministry of Christ at work through his Body, the Church. So too is the skill of the surgeon and anesthesiologist and nurses who took care of me at the hospital. St. Mary’s Hospital in Clayton has been a very good experience for both surgeries.
I also have to thank a friend, Tony, who spent the day at the hospital, again, to keep my sister and I company. He helped back in June, also. I asked why he’d be willing to spend a boring day in a hospital to which he replied, “That’s what friends do.” Seems Jesus said something similar “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend.” Now Jesus was talking about death for us and my friend certainly wasn’t offering to die for me. But, he did lay aside his life, his interests, his obligations for a day to focus on my well-being. That, too, is part of the Paschal Mystery that is always present in our lives even when we don’t particularly notice it’s there.
People in the parish have been very understanding. Unfortunately, I had to have another priest preside at the first funeral to occur in the parish since my arrival. I felt a bit guilty. Here I am, pastor and I can’t care for my parishioner in their grief. I managed to walk over to church an sit in a back pew of the transept during the “final farewell” rite determined to at least give a small visible sign of my desire to “be there” for the folks of St. Mary in their need, to “lay down my life for a friend.” Yet, I guess I still need to learn that letting go of life means letting go of the need to be in control and determine timing of all of the events in my life. I’m not in charge; God is and God will work on his time-table, not Joe’s. Others, not just me, will be able to show God’s compassion to this parish revealed in the ministry of Christ. In fact, it is necessary for the priest to learn to let others minister to him lest he miss the opportunity to encounter Christ and not just be the alter Christus our ordination makes us. Thanks to Fr. Jim Buerster for filling in for me.
Finally, thanks to those who have inquired about my recovery from surgery, how things are going in the new parish and for your prayers and well wishes.