From the Pastor: Three Holidays This Week!
Monday is Labor Day! I think that, given how many baptisms we have here, Labor Day should be our parish’s Number Two holiday, second only to Epiphany itself. But that’s not the kind of labor they were thinking of when this holiday was established. No, they were thinking more along the lines of the laborers who toil so diligently around here making the grounds look spiffy; the Purgatorial Society ladies who labor so hard to keep the metal liturgical items shiny; the office staff who labor incessantly at their desks filling out forms, making appointments, scheduling meetings, and doing all those other pesky things that keep a parish humming; the countless volunteers who work so tirelessly making sure that everyone, especially our children, know, love and serve God in this life so as to be happy with Him forever in the next; and everyone else who grunts and groans and sweats and heaves and lifts and sweeps and fixes and all the rest of that good stuff. In short, we honor those who labor. Even in the secular world, we cannot get by without people laboring at jobs, many of which each of us individually would be unable to do, and most of which we would be unwilling to do, yet all necessary for our life as we know it.
This is how the US Department of Labor website begins describing this holiday: “Observed the first Monday in September, Labor Day is an annual celebration of the social and economic achievements of American workers. The holiday is rooted in the late nineteenth century, when labor activists pushed for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions workers have made to America’s strength, prosperity, and well-being.” The page goes on to explain the origins of the holiday, the “controversy” about who should get “credit” for starting it, and the way the holiday grew in a relatively short time from being an idea, to being celebrated in several states, to a couple of dozen states joining in, to being a national holiday. If you like holiday trivia, go check it out. They even have a “Labor Hall of Honor” in which men and women are inducted who have been somehow outstanding in their work for laborers rights, pay, and more. This list includes people of diverse backgrounds, and some of those who may be familiar to you include Ronald Reagan, Ted Kennedy (yes, both on the same list!), Helen Keller, and Adolphus Busch. More on this latter man later.
The next holiday is not a secular one and not even one that is seen as particularly important even in the Church liturgical calendar, but one of which I am particularly fond. Thursday, September 8 is the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and, although I don’t want to in any way detract from that minor feast, for me it is overshadowed by another feast not well known around here. It is the feast of Our Lady of Good Health. I have written about this feast several times over the years, as I try to increase devotion to Our Lady under this title. I give her credit for keeping me healthy enough to carry out my priestly duties. This is no little thing, for, without an associate priest as backup, if I get too sick to do my job, there is nothing to do but cancel everything that requires a priest! I still occasionally get the sniffles, the flu, and maybe even deadly pandemic diseases, yet she gives me strength to carry on even if I whine about it and go back to bed at the first chance I get. And no, I am not joking about this. A Religious Sister introduced me to this devotion which is quite popular in India, where the Blessed Mother appeared under this title, and I have worn her medal around my neck ever since. Our Lady of Good Health, continue to pray for me!
So the first holiday of the week is a secular one (although our parish office will be closed for it!) and the second holiday is a Catholic one, though not (yet) well known in the US. The third holiday is a Catholic holiday, too, but with ties to the secular holiday. Remember that I mentioned Adolphus Busch being in the (secular) Labor Hall of Honor? He is there due to his advances in the making, pasteurizing, refrigerating, shipping, and distributing beer. Notably, stated the site, he developed Budweiser, the best selling beer in the world. (I am not sure if this award means he gave laborers jobs in beer factories or because laborers often enjoy beer when the work is done!) Now, how does this man fit in with a Catholic holiday? Certainly, by now you have all remembered that September 9 is Buy a Priest a Beer Day! Good ol’ Adolphus made it much more convenient for this holiday to be celebrated, for you no longer have to take your priest to a Belgian Trappist monastery for a good, hearty, draught, since exceptionally satisfying beer can now be found just about everywhere. Several years ago I suggested that, “If you buy one for a Traditional priest, I suggest a full-bodied, flavorful dark beer such as a stout or porter, whereas for a Novus Ordo priest a more fitting choice might be something light and fruity.” Some of the more “sensitive” priests whimpered that I was making fun of them (no, not them personally—but, yes, I was!) so this year I retract that advice and simply change it to, “If the priest still has mask signs up at his church, you might want to buy him a Capri Sun and a blankie instead.” Even Mr. Busch would understand.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka