From the Pastor: Strange Things Happened
If I were posting on social media and using clickbait headlines (for the older folks, clickbait is the online version of those sensational tabloid headlines that have just enough truth to allow denial of outright lying, but with enough of a slant toward something so extremely bizarre and impossible that people’s curiosity is peaked enough that they buy the paper), I would have titled this article something along the lines of “Skin painfully rips off priest’s scalp. Is hospital visit to blame?” It’s kinda true but sure doesn’t tell the whole story. So let me fill in some of the details.
It is true that I visited someone in the hospital. But that is quite common (outside of the recent Year of Covid Fear) and nothing particularly spectacular happened during the visit. No exposure to chemicals, no bite from a gamma radiation mutated spider, no accidental needle stick, or anything of the sort happened. Just prayer for the sick. But afterward I was hungry and realized that I hadn’t yet had anything to eat. It was Friday so I couldn’t just stop for a drive-thru hamburger and I didn’t know if I had both peanut butter and jelly and fresh bread at home. Fortunately, there was a Publix right around the corner so I stopped in to see if they had any ready-to-go fish at the deli. They did. I had them bag up a few pieces and a couple of shrimp and got back in the car. As I was buckling up I saw directly in front of me in the next aisle an amazing sight. A priest dressed in a cassock was putting on a helmet and was about to get on a motor scooter! I couldn’t just let him get away without finding out who he was, so I jumped out and headed quickly across the way. He spotted me and called out something to the effect of, “A priest in a cassock? Don’t you know that that is illegal?” We introduced ourselves and he asked if I was SSPX. The answer of, “No, I am a diocesan priest” floored him! Then he turned the tables by stating that he belongs to a traditional Carmelite order. That floored me, since he was in a black cassock instead of brown Carmelite robes. “Can you imagine me driving this scooter with a brown cape flowing out behind me?” he asked with a laugh. The members of his order wear the cassock for reasons that were never made clear, unless each of them rides scooters!
He is an American but is on mission in Spain, and was just back for a quick visit to his brother, who lives in the area. We talked for almost two hours out in the baking sun. Numerous people stopped by to ask questions and comment on this strange but glorious sight. Catholics and non-Catholics alike found it a powerful witness to the priesthood. Were we hot? Yes. Were we sweaty? How could it be otherwise, barring a miracle? Was it worth it? Absolutely. I learned about an order that I had never before heard of and he met a diocesan priest who actually was able to identify a holy card with St. Simon Stock receiving the Brown Scapular from Our Lady and properly identify the brown and white striped habit he wore as the very traditional and long-since changed Carmelite habit. We solved most of the problems with the Church and the world in the parking lot that day, or at least gave it a good shot. But, and this brings me back to the click-bait headline, my poor head got very sunburned that very sunny afternoon. As I write this, the skin has been peeling off and raining down like an old, shedding iguana with a bad case of dandruff. It has been very painful this whole week to brush my long, flowing locks. I had to use my blow-dryer on the “cool” setting, since the heat was too much, and even my curling iron was used more sparingly than usual. Or maybe I just spent too much time out in the sun and am imagining that I have a need for any of those wicked contraptions. Anyway, if my head seems a bit more pink and splotchy than normal, now you know why. If it weren’t for global warming this probably would never have happened. Or maybe I should blame covid instead. Either one or both of those two must be at fault for my tender noggin.
But that wasn’t the only strange thing that happened last week. And not the only strange thing that involved clergy, either. I also had a nice visit with a religious brother and a priest and all three of us were in cassocks! They probably would have been a bit embarrassed to be seen with me, with my head all flaky like it was, but a saturno covered it up nicely. Hmmm... Come to think of it, the other priest was wearing a fedora, so maybe he had encountered the mystery parking lot priest, too! There is something in the air right now that is bringing the cassocked clergy together. I don’t know for certain what it is. Maybe the end is near. Maybe the Great Tribulation is about to start. Maybe Mary’s Immaculate Heart is about to Triumph and usher in a period of great conversion and peace. But for me to meet and greet and spend time with three cassock-wearing clerics from three separate orders all in the span of a few days says that something big is up. You might want to keep your beeswax candles handy!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka