First Part: But not the beginning!
This is a story, a story which fails at being brief despite the authors best intentions. In the beginning, it seemed to be a personal story that wouldn’t be of great import or interest to others, but one fine day while on this journey the author and your humble servant, had the happy occasion to discover a rare blessing… an internet connection! O happy day! Feeling inspired and impulsive, he posted a note on Facebook. Crazy and unexpected, folks seemed to appreciate an opportunity to peer into this pilgrimage adventure, of sorts. The following day became like the previous, in greater number folks expressed a desire for more of the unfolding story! Well, one post become six. Now, the pilgrimage is at its end, but the story needs a beginning even though it isn't really the beginning of the story. The heart of the story, really, is that sometimes when the journey doesn’t seem to make sense… stay calm, trust God and go where the Spirit leads!
The beginning begins with a story that belongs to another. And as stories tend to do, beget new stories in the lives of others, our pilgrim was invited to become the writer of a new chapter in what was already an epic story of a parish community, an epic which began almost two centuries ago. So, the stories converge and give rise to the one herein told about a priest on a pilgrimage who desires to pray for himself, the faithful, the mission, the ministry and to discover the joys ahead.
Friends, I’m pleased for you to share this part of the journey with me. This is a journey that both began decades ago and yet is being guided at one and the same instant into the past and the future to be embraced, albeit a wholly unexpected turn with a wholly unexpected future. As a Catholic you will know and understand that once a year Priests are moved about between parishes as needed and hopefully as often as we pray it would, the Holy Spirit seems to will a particular kind of move. Our protestant friends will not be so familiar with this manner of moving the members of the Clergy, but certainly all can see, should they care to look, the ‘humiliating’ nature of what seems to be, from the outside, a game of musical chairs with its attendant randomness. And yet is made possible by the beauty of humble obedience to the will of God made manifest in a Bishop and which may not, at the end of the day or next month for that matter – ever actually make sense to the one being sent.
Such was the case for this Priest, your humble host and pilgrim. Invited as I was to become the pastor of so great and storied Church, itself recently raised to a Basilica. A parish of strong traditions and even stronger roots in the hearts of its faithful spiritual children who through the ages ensured it would presently be a home to the faithful as much as it was for them. A parish where these same faithful are and have always been, sacramentally reconciled to God with more frequency and greater numbers than any other in its diocesan family of parishes. As well, it is where the Mass is still celebrated from the High Altar, weekly, according to the Extraordinary Form of the Missale Romanum of 1962! This unique feature of this unique and extraordinary Church is the beginning of this story, the pilgrimage prompt you might say. You see, what you don’t know is that I am a new Priest albeit not a ‘young’ one. I’m also a ‘convert’ of sorts. A convert who's best friends are the great saints of the past whose stories spiritually formed me.
But I am also very much a Catholic of Vatican II inspired by St. John Paul II. And that my friends, means I don’t own a Cassock, I never learned Latin, never experienced the Tridentine Mass and never ever imagined I would ever, EVER… well, you get the idea! What's a priest to do… well, Keep Calm, and Learn Latin! But where, how, when… Keep Calm and Pray! Wait, no… how about telling the Bishop how there must be someone else, much better suited and much more ‘seasoned’ than I! Yep, seems the obvious thing to do, right? Nope, it was a conversation that ended with being joyfully told, ‘I have the utmost confidence’ in you! So, okay, back to Keeping Calm while praying and learning Latin.
Fr. Blair Gaynes has been in the Diocese since 2008.