From the Pastor: Did You Have a Happy Birthday, Father?
For some strange reason, a whole lot of you got pretty excited about my birthday this year. I am not sure why. It wasn’t a particularly big one, as I turned 48 or 72 or something like that. In my family, we usually don’t get all worked up about even the “big” birthdays except for 80. That’s a big one for some reason. It is not like we find them unimportant, but with the exception of having mom bake a special cake for the kids and grandkids, perhaps made into a special shape, we usually don’t pay much attention to birthdays. Every fourth or fifth year it seems like my siblings and I remember to send a card or call or email or text a birthday greeting to each other, usually a few weeks late, and that’s about it. None of us worries about it and none gets hurt feelings when the day passes without hearing from the others. (Disclaimer: mom and dad always remember our birthdays, mom always offers to bake a cake, and both of them always send birthday cards. It’s just my generation that somehow lost the birthday celebration genes.) Now, I know that this seems strange to many of you, for many people really love birthdays, remember everyone else’s birthday, want to celebrate everyone’s birthday, and who may even do something special for their own birthday, like taking the day off of work, or going someplace special for dinner. And for some reason this year it seems like a lot of people were very curious about what my plans were (in advance) and what I actually did (after the date passed). Those asking beforehand got the simple reply, “Nothing much. It is just a regular day.” But now, for those who really want to know, I am going to try to show what a “regular day” is.
The alarm went off at 4:27 am. Time for a little exercise. (Stinking Exodus 90!) So I do push ups until I can’t. Only 27 that morning. I am getting old. I usually try to get at least 33, one for each year of Our Lord’s earthly life. But not today. After a shave and cold shower (stinking Exodus 90!) it’s time for a cup of coffee (sans cream --stinking Exodus 90!) while praying as much of the Breviary (Divine Office) as possible, for I know I won’t have time for it later. Leave the house at 6:00 to get to the Men’s Conference at St. Lawrence, where I will hear confessions until 7:25, praying the rosary in the car on the way. Race back to celebrate the 8:00 am Mass at Epiphany, praying another rosary on the return trip. After Mass, expose the Blessed Sacrament and hear confessions until the last repentant sinner is a saint, give the Benediction and go into the social hall to teach adult Catechism Class. Confessions ran late so class started late but I still tried to end (fairly) close to 11:30. After class I got back into my car and returned to St. Lawrence, praying another rosary as I drove. Heard confessions until 3:30 or thereabouts and drove back to Epiphany, praying another rosary during the drive. Took the Covenant Eyes books over to the church for the Vigil Mass and stayed over there speaking with those setting up for Mass and those coming in for it and, once it started (thank you, Fr. Dorvil!) came back to the rectory. With the exception of a granola bar at the Men’s Conference, I hadn’t had a chance to eat yet so I put the oven on and prayed the rest of the Office while a thin crust frozen pizza baked. Ate the whole darn thing. (This year my birthday didn’t fall in Lent but my mom still couldn’t bake me a birthday cake. Stinking Exodus 90!) By this time the Youth Group was outside playing soccer on the old school tennis/basketball court pavement (Go figure. All that grass around and they play soccer on cement!) so I went out to join them. The game ended at 7:00 pm when it became too dark to see the ball anymore (I wonder if they make glow-in-the-dark soccer balls?). They went off to eat and I went in to answer the Happy Birthday phone messages and texts which I had been ignoring all day. Finally, I hit the sack at 10:13 pm.
Although that day was not quite a typical Saturday in the life of a priest, it wasn’t too far off, either, except that I actually got a lot more “drive time” prayer in than normal and I absolved many more people than I usually do. But as I reflect on the questions, “Father, did you have a happy birthday? What did you do?” I can honestly say that I had a great birthday! Had I decided instead to take the day off, to sleep in, maybe take in an afternoon movie, or even go out to Busch Gardens with friends or family, as tempting as any of those may be, it certainly would not have been even close to being as fulfilling as what I actually experienced. None of what I did seems all too “exciting” when looking back at it. Some of it even seems to be not too enjoyable. Yet it was a great day. And I truly do appreciate your asking, for I know you really care and you want me to enjoy myself. Thank you for your messages, cards, prayers, and curiosity! Happy My Birthday to all of you!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
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