Friday, February 12, 2016

Christmas 2015



As Lent begins, I return to Christmas with my annual letter.

+++++
January 2016

It is uncommon to hear the voices of angels singing.  Not so rare, however, that I was not tempted to stop as I drove between Kadoka and Martin on Christmas Eve as the moon shone full on the snow covered Badlands and prairie lighting them in hues of silver and indigo.  Surely had I paused, I would have heard them celebrating the Holy Night when Christ was born.  But I hurried onward.  The Holy Mass is delayed for no one, not even melodious angels.

I arrived in my new set of parishes six months ago excited and anxious, with vigor and with trepidation, grateful for the prairie and sad to leave the hills.  A half year later, the angst has disappeared, and a routine of Mass, confessions, teaching, and driving has taken its place.  With around a thousand miles to drive for ministerial purposes each month, I am glad for the natural beauty of my new home.  I am less glad for the kamikaze deer, suicidal pheasants, and AWOL cattle.  These creatures and I are engaged in a cold war, deterred from armed engagement only by our shared acknowledgement of mutually assured annihilation.

No such friction exists between the bipedal residents of my parish and me.  The Lord has blessed me with kind and generous people who are eager to help me, gentle in chastising me, and willing to try new things (or at least not to complain much when I decide to try new things).  The Lord constantly catches me off guard with moments of grace as I come to know my new people more deeply.  I find myself awed at their own experiences of God’s love.  In truth, I find myself caught off guard by God’s love more often than I ought.  By now I should know that he is generous giver, and yet I was still moved nearly to tears during my annual retreat as he once again reaffirmed his love for me despite my own inadequacy.

Driving recently, I contemplated the question of when one actually becomes an adult.  Two conditions, I concluded, must be met.  One must possess an armchair of one’s own, and one must have spent Christmas Day apart from one’s family.  Early in my priesthood, I had already met the second of these conditions. It was strange, nevertheless, to come home to an empty house after sharing Christmas Dinner with Deacon Cal and his family.  My chair, however, was eager to welcome me.  

To own an armchair was something I achieved only in my second month in Martin.  It is brown, it appears to be leather, it reclines, and when I sit, it embraces me with a tenderness usually reserved to lovers.  It has become, as it were, the sign of my ascendancy.  It troubles me that I occasionally find myself speaking to it.  Even without the chair, though, I would be happy.  In spite of icy roads, snowy drives, and the lack of a stream to fly fish for trout, I find myself exceedingly content and filled with gratitude that God has entrusted the souls of this place to me.  Martin and Kadoka have become home.  

There is a great deal for which I thank God these days.  Among the gifts he has given me is you.  Thank you for your kind words and deeds, and all your generosity toward me.  Know that I am praying for you.  May all of God’s richest blessings be yours in this New Year.
 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Fraternitas, not Fraternities

If you have have never watched the television miniseries "Lonesome Dove," it is time to do so.  It is available for streaming subscribers of Netflix.  I have not seen it for many years, but I find that there are several scenes branded into my memory from the time when I watched it as an early adolescent.  Perhaps most poignant, however, is (Spoiler Alert) the hanging of Jake Spoon.  The playboy ex-Texas Ranger falls in with a crowd of horse thieves and murderers.  When this group is finally captured by the principled Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call, even though they are friends with Jake Spoon, justice is swift and blind.  Below is the dialogue from this scene:




Woodrow Call: Didn't you hear me? I said get your boots off
Dan Suggs: Damned if we will. I said we were horse traders
Gus McCrae: We're more persuaded by the bodies we just buried. Get your boots off
Dan Suggs: I don't know what the hell you're talkin' about
Gus McCrae: You're a black liar sir
Dan Suggs: Just ask Jake if we didn't buy them horses
Woodrow Call: 'dyou buy them three cowboys you shot? 'dyou buy them two farmers you burned? Pea, you & Newt get your ropes; tie 'em up
Jake Spoon: Oh you don't need to tie me up, Newt. Hell I ain't killed anybody. I just fell in with these boys to get me through the territory; hell I was gonna leave 'em first chance I got
Gus McCrae: I wish you'd taken that chance a little earlier, Jake; a man who'll go along with five killin's, takin' his leave a little slow. Go ahead Newt
Jake Spoon: Pea, you know me; I ain't no killer. Deets you know it too. Gus I ain't no criminal; now you know that. It was Dan that killed them two sod-busters. Hell I didn't kill nobody
Dan Suggs: You shut your damn mouth, Spoon
Woodrow Call: Put 'em on their horses
Roy Suggs: Where's he goin'?
Gus McCrae: Pick out a tree to hang you from, son
Jake Spoon: Gus, I...
Gus McCrae: You know how it works, Jake: you ride with an outlaw, you die with an outlaw. I'm sorry you crossed the line
Jake Spoon: I didn't see no line, Gus. I was just tryin' to get through the territory, without gettin' scalped; that's all
Gus McCrae: I'm sure that's true, Jake.

You ride with an outlaw, you die with an outlaw.

I cannot help but recall this adage as I watch young men I know go to college and join fraternities.

In my cursory exploration of the history of campus Greek organizations, I was somewhat astonished to discover that in their origin, they were intended to promote scholarship and virtue among collegiate men, and to foster free thought that was discouraged by ensconced university faculties.  I was not surprised to discover that they were generally racist, misogynistic, and anti-Catholic.  That part of their tradition, as best I can tell, is still alive and well in the fraternities on college campuses today.  Moreover, they traditionally have strong association with the Masons (Yes, those Masons.  The ones to which Catholics cannot belong.) and many appear to fit the description of a secret society (to which a Catholic in good conscience may not procure membership).  Like all things, fraternities have evolved through the years, but as opposed to becoming forces for the good, they are have become dens of sin.  We cannot look at fraternities through Animal House colored lenses permitting us to see only impish boys sticking it to the overbearing authorities who deserve whatever befalls them.  Fraternities are houses of formation.  They are shaping boys into men (sort of), and they are doing it badly.  No number of famous and influential members of a particular fraternity, and no amount of community service can offer satisfaction for systemic, inveterate, wanton, and obstinate promotion of drunkenness, fornication, and all manner of vices.  A young man I know, now, to my dismay, in a fraternity, often used to comment,"Show me your friends, and I will tell you who you are."  We become like those with whom we associate.  We do not excuse members of the Nazi party who claim to have joined because they support Nazi economic policy.  Nor can we excuse a fraternity brother who is a member for social benefits.




One must necessarily ask why these organizations, clearly antithetical to the values with which our sons left home, can become attractive.  To this there are a variety of responses.  First, young men, driven by an ephemeral notion of success from their first moments of self-awareness, are looking for every opportunity to get ahead.  With the prospect of jobs to be procured from older fraternity brothers, a Greek House is a powerful network.  Similarly, in spite of the negative implications of fraternity membership, a fraternity member associates himself with famous and powerful fraternity predecessors.  Likewise, membership in a fraternity can represent a cost savings for a young man already beleaguered by obscenely high college fees. Mostly, however, I think that men are attracted to fraternities for precisely the reasons the name implies.  Within the vomit-soaked and liquor-stained walls of the fraternity house lies a promise of brotherhood.  In a fraternity one can find remedy to loneliness, companionship in homesickness, support in struggle, and perhaps most importantly, affirmation that one exists.  When a young man walks onto a college campus, he is often alone and anonymous, struggling to find his identity and discover where he fits.  He desires to determine who he is as an autonomous individual while simultaneously seeking a group by which to define himself.  Fraternities are well prepared to help fill this void.  With words like honor, loyalty, and dedication ready at hand, fraternities stir a young man's passions with a desire for participation in something larger than himself.  To then present the existence of a house of men with promises of fun, challenges of initiation, the perception of a common mission, unconditional positive regard in the face of poor decisions, and no reprimand for moral shortcomings, who could fail to be interested?  It is not accidental that terrorists recruit by much the same means.  Men want brotherhood - fraternitas.  Men want to share in a common mission.  Men want to give their lives to a cause.  Men want something that motivates them to greatness.  Men want a reason to be all in.  Fraternities promise it.  And they fail, oh so miserably do they fail, to deliver it.  Evil never looks like evil when it first attracts us.  Lucifer cackles with glee for every new pledge who is deceived by the promise of an organization who assures boys of becoming men only to cause them to become more infantile than when they began.  Misery loves company, and vicious men assuage their vicious consciences by attracting new men who likewise become vicious.  They treat sin as virtue, cowardice as courage, imprudence as wisdom; they degrade what should be a gift of one's entire self offered with reverence to a spouse to the point of becoming a soul-depleting, person-using, base, Dionysian conquest.  This is brotherhood?  This is honor?  Loyalty? 


What is saddest about this reality, at least with regard to our Catholic men, is that the fraternitas they long for is to be found, if they look for it, in the Church, among men also striving for virtue.  Men united in pursuing vice and sin are not friends or brothers.  They are enemies.  Wittingly or unwittingly they are killing one another.  Moreover, words like loyalty, honor, and dedication have no real meaning except as rooted in Christ.  Only by trying to become more like Christ does one find what is good, true, and beautiful.  Goodness, Truth, and Beauty are the only things for which one might worthily die.  There is no honor in selling one's soul for sin.  There can be no loyalty to sin, because sin is necessarily untrue.  How can one be loyal to a deception?  Dedication to error makes one a fool, not a hero.  Brotherhood in, around, and through Jesus Christ is the only meaningful fraternitas.  And brothers of this variety do not encourage one another to sin.  They do not rejoice in wrongdoing.  They challenge us.  They call us higher.  They remind of of who we are in Christ.  They hold us accountable.  They remonstrate us in our complacency with our own mediocrity.  The puke-reeking vileness of the college "fraternity" is a mockery of the word.  Fraternity brothers do not have one another's backs, except to be positioned to push one another down the stairs and through the portals of Hell.

So, if a young man wants a brother, a comrade in arms, a friend, someone who really will have his back, he needs to find a virtuous man.  A college fraternity is no substitute, and no number of reasons for imperiling one's soul as a member is sufficient.  What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul?  If you ride with outlaws, you die with outlaws.      

Thursday, September 24, 2015

World Meeting of Families 2


We departed some earlier today in order to arrive at Mass in time for co celebration today. I panicked upon arrival to see the priests processing in two by two. Fortunately, there is plenty of time to vest when their are 500 priests in procession. Highlights from today include hearing the confession of a homeless man on the street and listening to Cardinal Tagle speak. It would not surprise me to see him as Pope in the future. 

The big events of the day, however, took place after the conferences. The relics of St Maria Goretti are here, and we took time to pray with her. From there we hopped to the Cathedral to pray at the relics of St. John Paul II, Giana Molla, and the parents of St. Therese.  At the same place was a glorious grotto to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. 

The insane traffic and closed streets required a short walk to get on the bus, but now, night prayer having been prayed, we are going to sleep. 


















Wednesday, September 23, 2015

World Meeting of Families 1


It had not occurred to me that Rapid City should send a pilgrimage to the World Meeting of Families until Fr. Adam Hofer suggested it to me. A phone call to the Bishop later, and I was a pilgrimage leader. It was for this reason that I found myself gently shivering outside the Cathedral rectory at 4:30 AM on Tuesday morning, wondering where chauffeur Jackie was.  By and by, she arrived and deposited us Rapid City Regional Airport a few minutes after 5:00. Fr. Dillon and I checked in and waited for our group. Said group was apparently more eager than we were, as they had already cleared security and were wondering where the priests were. 

The flights were crowded but uneventful. Soon enough we found ourselves in Newark, NJ. there we were to catch a bus to the convention center with Archbishop Chaput. We waited.  Then we waited some more. We received a call that the bus was near. We waited still longer.  When we found the bus, we were too late to make it to amass. We headed to our hotel, and with the tour guide's help, we arranged to celebrate Mass at the Cathedral in Trenton which is only five blocks or so from where we are staying. 

This morning we loaded the bus with pilgrims from Sioux Falls, and prayed Morning Prayer on the way to the convention center. Arriving in Philedelphia, it quickly became clear that we would be too late for the priests to co celebrate the Mass. We sat in chorus. The keynote speaker after Mass was Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. He emphasized the importance of harmony between Church Teaching and Pastoral practice. From there Fr. Dillon and I went to the exhibition Hall to buy me a good manly rosary and to Speak to Courage (outreach to homosexual men and women, who will be in our diocese to address the priests next month). By then it was lunch time. One cannot go to philly and not eat a Philly Cheesesteak. So we ate a Philly Cheesesteak. 

The afternoon presenter was Helen Alvare. She emphasized Man's call to relationship, and his fulfillment of this call in the family. The family trains us to love our neighbor. 

Fr. Dillon and I spent most of the afternoon chasing down tickets to co celebrate the Papal Mass on Sunday. As evening drew on we made our way to the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal, a beautiful shrine dedicated to Our Lady. We sang Marian Hymns on the bus ride to dinner, and now we have all trundled off to our rooms. An early day tomorrow made earlier by a two hour time change. 

Our Group


Cathedral In Trenton


Evening Prayer outside the Cathedral


Curried Goat for supper last night


Scenes from this morning


Cardinal Sarah


New Rosary


Shrine of the Miraculous Medal


Flowers for Our Lady








Friday, September 11, 2015

Disasters of the Culinary Kind

After my mother began working away from home, I assumed responsibility for most of the cooking for my family.  Goulash, spaghetti, burritos, and basically anything that could be mixed with cream of mushroom soup were the typical fare.  These, however, rapidly became boring to cook and to eat.  I desired something more exotic.  Thus, I attempted stir fry in the deep fryer.  It didn't work.  I tried chocolate pancakes, adding cocoa powder to the pancake batter.  The result was less than satisfactory.  

High school required little cooking, and from that time until my arrival in Martin, I have been fed by others.  It has come as a rather pleasant experience, as a result, to begin cooking for myself again.  I fear, however, that my my inclinations toward alimentary experimentation have gone away.  It was for this reason that I decided I would attempt authentic New Orleans red beans and rice.  I followed a recipe, and for hours slaved over this dish.  The aroma was enchanting.  Until I added chorizo.  A word to the wise: When a recipe calls for chorizo, they mean Spanish chorizo, not the red slime masquerading as Mexican chorizo found in South Dakota grocery stores.  To make a long story short, after forcing myself to eat it for three meals, I was forced to send the remainder to that great kitchen in the sky via the garbage disposal.  It was a disaster.

So, here's to hoping that the sauerkraut soup turns out better.



   

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Share a Diet Coke with Tyler: A Lexical Montage

Who the heck is Erin?
 
To finally have purchased a Diet Coke bottle emblazoned with my name seems a moment of sufficient gravity to necessitate a blog post in celebration.  This is a big deal.  The passenger side floorboard of my pickup attests to the vigor of my search for such a bottle.  Alas, having found it, I forgot to take a picture. . . Lest it seem, however, that my life in Martin, South Dakota is measured in sips of Coca-Cola products the bottoms of whose bottles promise but never deliver satisfaction, here are a few things.


+++++

I bought a bed.  The parish was planning to buy one anyway, so I went and chose a new one for the master bedroom.   Fr. Marcin and Fr. Dillon went with me.  Fr. Marcin insisted that I try out several mattresses that he liked.  We laid on them together.  #lovewins  It is a very nice bed and a very soft mattress.   


+++++

 I also bought a recliner.  After a misadventure trying to purchase a recliner in Spearfish wherein I ended up with a chair that Msgr. Michael wanted, my new dark brown recliner represents a place of refuge in my new rectory where, as it turns out, I also control the thermostat.  69 degrees baby. (In point of fact, 69 degrees is a little chilly.  I had to turn it up.)


+++++

  There are a lot of questions I do not know how to answer.  Grieving widows are one thing.  Knowing which line item under which a purchase should appear in the budget is quite another.


+++++

I had assumed moving to the prairie would involve little contact with the Chancery.  I assumed poorly, it would seem, as they call about twice a week.  They also ask questions to which I do not have answers.


+++++

Vacationing with Frs. Dillon and Hofer at Leech Lake in Minnesota was as much fund as I have had in ages.  It was good to be with priests.  The fishing was not terrible for late July, though the fishing muse failed to shine her ever-loving light on me.  I was skunked.  Kevin Woster, however, has intimated that he would like to go fishing with me.  Perhaps I will have better luck with him.


+++++

Life is developing a rhythm (the bass line of which seems to be provided by 'The West Wing" on  Netflix), and my Mass Schedule is basically in order.  I want to introduce Eucharistic Adoration at some point.  I am waiting for school to start to see how things flow before I add that.  I also want to add more confession times.


+++++

I finally had a decent homily last weekend.  I was beginning to feel like a babbling idiot after my first couple of weekends.  It is harder than I remembered to preach to a community one dos not know.


+++++

My semiannual flat tire necessitated a ride to town with a stranger to buy a handyman jack, a maddening wait on the phone with GEICO's roadside assistance operator, and a tow truck before all was said and done.  I had all four tires replaced today, assured by the tire fixer people that this time I would not be back for a long time.  I know how to change a tire.  But I broke my jack.  I also know when to admit defeat.  Several old men tried to convince me to try the handyman one more time after the pickup had fallen of of it four times already.  I pay for roadside assistance.  I should use it from time to time.


+++++ 

I do a lot of driving.  According to my calculation, I drove around 1800 miles in business miles in July.  That does not count any personal travel.  I am going to need a more fuel efficient vehicle.


+++++

I enjoy cooking for myself, though I have had to learn how to cook without milk given that I cannot use even a quart before it goes bad.  Maybe I need to start drinking it in my coffee.  I also find it disappointing to have no one but myself to blame when I graze at night and find nothing in my house for snacks.  Sometime soon, however, I will need to find a use for a head of cabbage (quartered and roasted in the oven? Boiled with ham and potatoes?) and two pounds of dried kidney beans (red beans and rice?).  I used to think I could eat spaghetti every day, and I wondered at those who suggested that they could grow weary of pasta.  I am now fast approaching that threshold.

+++++

Washing dishes is a pain.  I have no dishwasher.  My water heater spews water from the tap that could be used to scald a butcher hog for scraping.  So, washing dishes consists primarily in filling the sink with soap, water, and dishes, waiting for the water to cool enough to touch, then rinsing the dishes.  But it is still a pain.


+++++

Where does all this mail come from?  And what am I supposed to do with it?


+++++

It is now time to do some laundry, go to a parish council meeting, and then come back and watch the Republicans clobber themselves in the debate.  It is kind of nice living alone.
   
    

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Great Names


I commented, in a letter, a couple of years back, "Names are powerful.   In a way, it could be said that a name becomes the shorthand expression of the very essence of who a person is.  To use a name is to make present the depth and breadth of a person.  A name is more than a name; it is who a person is."  Over the last couple of months, I have had occasion to consider the thought of a number of women with really exceptional names.  This post has no real purpose except to begin a collection of fantastic names.  I begin with the women.

 
Corrie Ten Boom - A protectress of the Jews from Nazis.

Carrie Nation - The intemperant leader of the temperance movement.

Flannery O'Connor - Unflinching Observer of the American South

Who would you add?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

An Exhortation to Sinners

Since the time he first sinned, man has experienced nothing so vexsome as being sticky.  It is simply intolerable.  To soil my hands in general is unpleasant.  My faingers and palms have been sullied by a variety of substances ranging from grease to cow excrement, but none of these holds a candle to being sticky.  It is unbearable.  To whit, when breading meat in the kitchen, I have to wash my hands between each piece.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches must be eaten with tremendous care.  Ice cream should generally not be eaten from a cone, and the spoon should easily reach the bottom of the vessel from which it is eaten without the hands brushing the vessel's sticky sides.

I recall a moment from childhood wherein I was seated to view the circus.  In her generosity, my mother had purchased cotton candy.  As I ate, my fingers got sticky.  With no source of water to wash, I tried licking my fingers between bites to alleviate my stress.  It became worse with large tufts of the spun sugar now attached to my fingertips and melting there.  It was pure misery.  Later, in my career as a professional dishwasher at Wall Drug Store, I would be forced to reach my entire arm into ice cream tins to wash them.  It was nearly unbearable.

I find, because of this aversion, I avoid the following (a partial list):
  1. Unwashed toddlers
  2. Regular sized candy bars
  3. Honey
  4. Pancakes, French toast, and other syrup covered breakfasts
  5. Vinyl
  6. Varnished pews in hot, humid churches
  7. Pine sap
  8. Watermellon
Which bring me to my point.  There is no summer tradition so vile or offensive as the smore.  Apart from being sticky themselves, they make everything around them sticky.  I have yet to attend an event involving these abominations wherein I have not become, despite considerable precaution, at list a little sticky.  The marshmallow bag gets sticky.  The chocolate wrappers are sticky.  The forks upon which the marshmallows are incinerated are sticky (and someone always lays the sticky end right on the ever-loving table).  The hands of those consuming the smores make the not-sticky ends of the mallow prongs sticky.  God forbid I sit where someone used a bench to mash the abomination together.

I cannot fathom for what reason, apart from his fallenness, a man might even consider taking a fire - something so capable of producing reflection and introspection, so capable of uniting souls in camaraderie - and wrecking it with a smore.



I fear I will spend purgatory sticky.  At least I will be accompanied by those who made me so in life.      

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Ut Unum Sint


Roy and Dorothy Dennis

I find, beginning around mid-May each year and persisting until the end of June, that I enter into a period of nostalgic reminiscence.  Both of my paternal grandparents were born in May and I was ordained a priest at the end of June.  As a result, I find myself considering from whence I come and toward what I might be proceeding.  

My grandparents would have been 101 years old this year.  Both lived through two World Wars, the Cristero Wars in Mexico, the Great Depression, and the Cold War.  They grew up using horses of necessity and before dying saw a man land on the moon (though my grandfather insisted it was a hoax created in a television studio).  My grandfather died just as the internet was arriving on the scene, and my grandmother died when everyone was buying cellular phones.  The 100 years since they were born have seen the most radical technological and cultural changes of any century in human history, but neither lived to see me ordained.  I prayed for the repose of both of their souls as I concelebrated the Mass the evening I was elevated to the dignity of the priesthood.

Grandpa and Grandma have been gone for twenty and ten years respectively.  With each passing year the sting of their loss subsides, metamorphosing into a mellowness of memory in which recollections of their flaws have largely dissolved into a vaguer, less acute sentiment of warm fondness. There are moments, however, when the memory of one or the other of them catches me off guard and a tear or two come to my eyes, and I miss them as I did the day they were buried.

These thoughts occur to me today as we approach the end of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.  Preaching this morning, I found myself saying, "For the Catholic, 'goodbye' is a meaningless word.  We who receive the eucharist are bound to Christ, and we who are bound to Christ are bound also to those themselves bound to Christ in the Eucharist.  From the last supper until eternity, we are tied to one another."    Indeed, though absent in a certain way, my grandparents are not far from me.  They, who are caught up in the mystery of Christ's love perfectly in paradise*, are likewise caught up in the mystery of that love manifested on every altar and in every tabernacle throughout the world.  When I celebrate the Holy Mass, when I consume the Sacred Host and drink the Precious Blood, and I am with them still.  The union we share today is a union that transcends geography and time.  It is a union undiminished by even death itself.  The Eucharist makes us one.  

This union is one I share not only with my grandparents, but with every Catholic from St. Peter until now.  So, to those whom I have not seen for many years, or months or weeks, to those whom, by reason of distance and circumstance, I may never see again, I rejoice.  I will be seeing you in the Eucharist.

* One of the privileges of the priest is to offer Masses for those whom he loves, and to carry them to the altar with him.  This I did for my grandparents nearly every Sunday for more then three years of priesthood.  Then, one Sunday as I paused in the recitation of the Roman Canon to pray for the dead, the Lord spoke to me with great clarity:  "You need not pray for them further." I am not, of course, competent to declare saints, but both of my grandparents died having received the sacraments, and I think my hope is well-founded.  


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Leaving With More Than I Came

In other news, it was announced a couple of weeks ago that I Bishop Gruss has assigned me as the parochial administrator (all the responsibility but not the rights of a pastor) for the parishes of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Martin, SD and Our Lady of Victory in Kadoka, SD.

The news was not exactly unexpected.  The need to place a pastor in the parish was fairly evident, two men will be ordained this summer and will need a place to get started, and I have served six years as an associate pastor.  It was time.

Martin is in the south of the diocese, technically situated on the Pine Ridge Reservation, though I am told my parishioners are mostly white ranchers.  Kadoka is sixty miles north along I90.  In my two new parishes I have around two hundred families total.  The Badlands are in my back yard.  It is a long way from Rapid City, a long way from Red Owl, and a little off the beaten path.  I suspect that most arriving in Martin go there intentionally.  It is a little hard to find it accidentally.  The next nearest priest in about forty-five miles away in the village of Pine Ridge.

  

I made the announcement that I was leaving with a lump in my throat, and even though I do not relish the goodbyes that are to come in the next few weeks, I find that I am very excited to strike out (like an adventurer, not a baseball player) on my own.  I'm sad, my heart is not breaking as it did when leaving my previous assignments.  It is not because I don't love these people.  I do love them.  Very much.  But it seems to have finally sunk in that love abides, even when I no longer reside in a given place.  Love transcends geography.  Love transcends time.  Love transcends death itself.  Goodbyes are not forever for the Christian who stands with a foot already in eternity.

I have learned so much here, and I am so grateful for the ways that God has blessed me through these parishes.  I carry the Parishes of St. Joseph, St. Paul, and Our Lady, Star of the Sea with me as I go.

It will be a sacrifice to drive more than three blocks to fish for trout, though I trade it for great pheasant hunting.

In the end, Gary McMahan's Song, "The Old Double Diamond" expresses fairly well what I am feeling, or at least it has been on repeat on my interior soundtrack.

      

Pray that I will be a holy pastor.  Pray that I will love my new people well.