From the Pastor: How to Vacation in Lent
As I told you last week, I am now on a Lenten Vacation in a small hermitage. Since Lent has begun and you are no longer watching TV, scrolling through Factcheckbook, compulsively tweeting and twaddling, playing video games, or using electronic devices in any way, you have nothing better to do than to read about my life! So I figured that, although I am on vacation, I could write and tell you what I am experiencing so far. So, sit back in your pew and try to pretend like you are listening to the homily and read the story of my first impressions of the hermitage.
After the Ash Wednesday morning Masses, Adoration, confessions, and Benediction, I wanted to avoid stopping at the office one last time. I tried to sneak around the far side of the school and cut through the soccer field so as to avoid being seen because I knew that if the office staff caught me, they would have “emergencies” which I “had to” take care of before I could get on the road. But Kim and Mark are way too smart for me. They were simply waiting at the rectory front door, each with a sheaf of papers which needed signatures, approval, acknowledgment, etc., plus the last twenty or so urgent voicemails of people who absolutely, positively, had to see me before I took off. So, I dutifully signed a dozen more checks, filled out forms, muttered, “uh huh” a few hundred times as they blathered on about things that I wasn’t listening to anyway, and finally just pointed behind them and yelled, “Squirrel!” before making a mad dash around the corner of the house and jumping into the car, which Fr. Dorvil had pulled up and left running in a mostly successful attempt to allow my escape, for he knew that I could be held there for hours if he didn’t come to my rescue.
Kim was surprisingly spry and caught up to my Pilot as I took off. She managed to grab the roof rack and it took me weaving back and forth through the cars in the church parking lot before I finally threw her off near the front gate. I saw in the rear-view mirror that she got up without any assistance and brushed herself off, so, guessing that she was alright, I headed out for my time off. If she is upset with me, I hope she gets over it before I return!
After speeding for the first few miles I slowed to a leisurely pace, jamming to a duet of Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias chanting the Rosary in Latin, Spanish, and what Willie thinks is English. They explained at the beginning of the cassette tape (yes, my car is old enough to have a cassette player) that after collaborating on “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” they both realized that they each had only one girl whom they truly loved, and that was the Blessed Virgin Mary. This rosary tribute to Our Lady was done in a way that not only combined languages but also blended Gregorian Chant with Country and Pop. The reason I like it so much is that once you get it in your head, it stays there for days and St. Paul’s admonition to “pray always” is attained whether you want it to be ringing in your ears or not.
Alas, all good things must come to an end in this world, and I eventually made it to my destination. I had to stop the tape and pay close attention to my GPS to find the place. I was looking for a hermitage but didn’t really know what one would look like, so I thought the directions were off. The woman in the map kept saying, “You have arrived at...passed by your destination” when there was nothing but a swampy forest all around me. I was picturing the desert hermits who built themselves a little dwelling on the side of a cliff after finding a natural cave and moving in. But Florida doesn’t have any cliffs or mountains so there were no caves to be found. I finally saw a little-used trail through the saw palmettos and turned to drive into the wilderness. A few miles in I found the hermitage. It was perfect! It was little more than a rough-hewn hut with a door and two glass-less window openings. On the floor at the rear of the room was a mattress made of a burlap material stuffed with old, dry, vines, with a rock set for use as a pillow. Mosquito netting in desperate need of repair hung from the palm frond ceiling above. Along the side wall was a cedar plank altar and hand-carved reredos, simple but beautiful, especially in this rustic setting. A three-legged stool was the only piece of furniture. Outside there was a simple little “shed” with a half-moon on the door and a pile of corn cobs piled next to the seat inside. On the outside of that shed, a garden hose was hanging and the other end was draped into the swamp water a few yards away. It had a hand pump to bring the colorful, aromatic water through the hose and it worked quite nicely as a primitive shower. This is going to be one great Lent and vacation!
That’s about all I have for now. One thing I forgot to mention, though, is that there is obviously no electricity or wifi in the hermitage, so I had to write this article before I left for vacation. I usually tell you such things in the first few sentences...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka