From the Pastor: Yes, I was on a Driving Retreat
Evidently, some of you got a little worried about me a couple of weeks ago when I seemingly just disappeared. But the simple explanation is that I had a last-minute opportunity to take some time off and I took advantage of it! Fr. Vincent thought he might be able to spell me for a bit after his summer assignment was completed but couldn’t be sure until he returned. When he showed up one Saturday morning after the Mass, he gave me dates that he could take my Masses, starting with the next day’s 10:30 am and continuing for more than a week. I was not about to pass up this opportunity, so Sunday I celebrated the 7:30 am Mass and took off driving (with a CD of Pope John Paul II praying the Rosary in Latin plus 24 hours of talks by Bishop Fulton Sheen to help me make drive time retreat time) toward the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Wisconsin, which I wrote about last week. It really was that simple. The traffic was terrible. I didn’t have my phone set to GPS mode since I was planning on simply driving north on I-75 for the entire day, but after the second time I got stuck in traffic due to crashes ahead, I turned it on to see if it could plot an alternative route for me the next time. Over and over I heard, “Slowdown ahead. You are still on the fastest route.” Crash after crash after crash. Only once did I ever get re-routed around a major crash. I drove an hour or so down tiny, twisting roads through a beautiful part of Georgia to bypass a few miles of stopped traffic. At least I was moving and I enjoyed it enough that I later decided to stay off the interstate the whole way back down to Florida for a longer but much more interesting return trip.
Early Monday I pulled up to St. Mary in Athens, Tennessee, and, after their morning NO Mass, asked if I could celebrate a private TLM. The pastor, it turns out, is a transplanted Florida boy who keeps up with many of the goings on in Florida Church circles, and he graciously welcomed me. (Yes, I had searched ahead of time for parishes along my route where the TLM was celebrated, though I had expected to get far past this one on Sunday!) After spending several hours, both in great conversation with the pastor and with Our Lord, I took off for the one and only stop I had planned (two days prior!) other than my destination. A childhood friend of mine, whom I have not seen in a number of years now, lives in Decatur, Indiana. I spent a couple of days with him and his wife and celebrated Mass at what, especially for a small town, is a very large and beautiful church, St. Mary of the Assumption. During my stay we also took a trip into Fort Wayne, searching for a small community of Franciscans. We found the church we were looking for and found a priest inside praying. He was from a local parish but said he stops by there regularly to spend time in prayer. He told us that the church had been purchased and was being restored by a lay group after it had been abandoned by the diocese and was about to be demolished. Their ministry is saving once-beautiful old churches. It was being set up in such a way as to accommodate the community of cloistered nuns who were now there. We never found any of the Franciscan brothers or priests and it wasn’t “visiting hours” for the nuns but it was a very worthwhile trip. There is, of course, much more to the story than what I can relay here.
When I took my leave of my friends, I drove next through Chicago, where I stopped by the US Provincial Offices of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, which is the order one of our seminarians, Joshua, belongs to. He, by the way, arrived Epiphany during my absence, as he had a few weeks to visit his family before heading back overseas for further studies. Canon Commins, who celebrated Latin Mass once at Epiphany when his family attended here (his father was working at Macdill AFB) before moving back to France, is assigned there but he wasn’t in the day I stopped by. But I was still warmly welcomed and got a tour of the place. I got to see the major restoration work being done to their huge, beautiful church whose roof and interior were completely destroyed by fire some years back. It was absolutely amazing. And, of course, everybody there knew Joshua, for he had been up there for his first year of seminary formation. I think I may have been given extra special attention just by throwing his name around! (You know Canon Commins? That’s nice. You were his parents’ pastor? That’s even better. You know Joshua Heiman? Why didn’t you say so? Come on in and stay a while!) That bodes well for our future priest!
Somewhere in Chicago I got stuck at a toll plaza with a boom gate arm which wouldn’t raise up for me. The car in the lane next to me had the same issue but for half the time. Google maps timeline shows that it took 6 minutes for it to get raised, but it sure seemed like a lot longer. Anyway, there will be more next week. Stay tuned.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka