Though it is a frustration to her, I kind of appreciate the fact that my mother works at a job which requires her to work on most of the big holidays. Inmates at the county jail aren't released for holidays, so those corrections officers charged with their oversight don't necessarily get the holidays off either. As a result, of late, it has become the custom of my family to celebrate the major holidays sometime other than the calendar date upon which the holiday falls. For instance, my family celebrated last Christmas on the Monday and Tuesday following December 25. As it turns out, such a practice is a great convenience for me.
As a priest, holidays present me with a certain dilemma. As with most people, I want to be with my biological family for the celebration of Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and the like. As a priest, however, I also want to be with my people. Last Christmas, for instance, I was thrilled to know that I had all of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to spend with parishioners because I would be celebrating with my family later. There was no mourning of the fact that my family was absent. I would be with them in due time. There was no rush to finish Mass and get to the ranch. It was an absolutely beautiful celebration of the Nativity of the Lord, the winter storm notwithstanding.
This year, for Thanksgiving, there was a change. Mom managed to get time off on Thanksgiving Day. Though I was glad of the fact that I was able to be with my family on Thanksgiving this year, I was also a little deflated. The forecast was predicted foul weather, and I was afraid I was going to be stuck in Rapid City if I didn't leave on Wednesday. Max Daniel was to receive his First Holy Communion on Thanksgiving day, and I wanted to be there. How was I to do both.
As it turned out, the weather was fine and I left after morning Mass on Thursday. I was able to be present for Max and for my own family. Such will not always be the case, though. As time goes on, there are sure to be times when I will be required to choose between my family at home and my family at the Church. My heart is torn by this, because I want to be both places, and to be in either place would be good.
In a way, though, I find a beauty in this. This is one of the wonders of the priesthood. I really have found a family, a people of my own in my parishioners. Rather than trying to escape them, as happens in many jobs, I want to be with them for those meaningful days, those holidays, those holy-days. This is one of the ways in which I come to experience God's love. And it is precisely this that such holidays are about.