Sunday, April 29, 2012


I was some distressed, two weeks ago, to discover that I would not be permitted, due to the necessity of celebrating Mass in Spanish in Hill City, to participate in a tradition I had established with the Daniel Clan during my first two years of priesthood.  Until this year, it was my practice to go with them to view the happy couples from St. Thomas More High School parade down the Grand March in Tuxedos and Gowns for the annual atrocity known as prom.  If you have never attended a Grand March, you can have a similar experience by going to see the meat counter at your local grocer.  Really.  By combining all of the fabric used to construct all of the dresses worn to the prom, one might perhaps fashion a suitably modest dress for a single girl.  It is as though they have each purchased a bottle of Tylenol and fashioned their gowns from the cotton swab beneath the cap.  Yeah.  Then we go to observe the prom-goers from Central and Stevens High Schools.  It is even worse.  Then we go back to the Daniel home for a drink and try to forget all the nakedness and the foolish boys wearing basketball shoes with tuxedos. 

Anyway, I digress.  The initial turmoil of announcing my new assignment having passed, I realize that I have developed a new tradition.  When reassigned to a new parish, I also find myself going on some adventure.  Last year it was a boundary waters trip.  This year, I am off to Poland.  By this time tomorrow I should find myself wedged into what some people claim is a seat and hurtling over the Atlantic Ocean while nervously fingering my Rosary and praying the person next to me does not speak to me.

To tell how this trip came about would require more effort that i am willing to expend at this already late hour, but it seems to sufficient to say that I had to be coaxed into it.  Were it not for the promise of cheap clerical apparel, I would likely not be going.  At it is, Tuesday morning will find me touring Auschwitz (can one use the word "touring" in such a context?) and praying with the Black Madonna of Czestochowa.  I fear I might die (another common theme of my adventures) while driving tot he far north of the Country to visit a young lady from the area in a convent up there.  

Mostly, though, I intend to eat, sample vodka, and not think too much about moving.  I plan to be on Facebook, and will have access to my Gmail if you need to reach me.  I hope to prepare a full commentary upon my return to the states.  Stay tuned. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Sinister Side of Loving

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us.
Love ought to be altruistic.  Love ought to give without taking.  Love ought not seek to possess.  And yet, human loving, as in all things, is fallen and corrupted - it needs to be redeemed.  This is true for me, at least.

I return to this strand of speculation as I once again face the reality of  a new assignment.  Having gone through the misery of moving once, I can acknowledge that there is indeed life after death.  Easter follows Good Friday.  I can also acknowledge that I will acclimate, I will enjoy my work, and I will love my new people.  The lingering question - the one that causes my heart to ache - is this: Will my old people still love me?

The obvious answer is that yes, they will.  The love we share is real, it is true, and it is abiding.  What kills me, however, is the knowledge that they will also love someone else.  And I want them to love me and me alone.  In writing these words, my recognition of the selfishness that inspires them is even more poignant.

I find myself arguing with the Lord about this.  I have told him quite explicitly that he never had to leave his people, and that I am pretty put out that asks us to do it.  Again, pure selfishness and folly dominate these conversations.  And yet, one cannot really help feeling what one feels.  One can only choose to act as one ought in the face of one's emotions.

And so, once again, I find myself clinging to moments that are slipping all too quickly into the past.  I find myself worrying. I find myself weeping.  I find myself begging that God will give me courage and dignity.  I implore him to help me love without grasping.  In so doing,  I find myself falling, sometimes more and sometimes less reticently, in submission before His own Wounded Heart.

Drug addled musicians from the 70's always seem to have a way of expressing what I feel in song. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Another Post About Fishing

In an older SNL episode, Jim Carrey impersonates Jimmy Stewart and delivers a poem entitled, "Little Trout."  Unfortunately, I cannot find a YouTube plagiarism of the video.  You can watch it here on hulu, but if you would prefer not to do so, so you will have to read the transcript of the poem and imagine it is recited in Jimmy Stewart's voice.

Little Trout

I awoke one day with a taste for trout,
So I got in my boat and I headed out.

He spotted my bait, and began to give chase.
When my hooked ripped into his fishy face.

Then he looked at me like I was his friend.
So I let him go, and went out for a good piece of steak.

This poem makes me laugh every time I hear it.  It is almost as entertaining as real fishing, an activity in which I have been able to engage frequently since the beginning of the month.

Having conquered the mighty trout with hook and worm last spring, I have decided to take up a more snobbish variety of fishing.  At Christmas, with gift certificates from Cabelas, I purchased I fly rod.  Not long ago, I began building my collection of flies, and after my first adventure losing several in weeds, trees, and snapping them off of my tippet when casting, I realized that I would need a great many more.  In my earliest attempts at fly fishing, one of the high school boys with whom I occasionally fish, made an erudite observation: "Golfing and fly fishing are a lot alike.  It is hard to do either without swearing."  But, it is all worth it when you finally catch a fish on the fly line and drag him in. 

I have caught several in this more sophisticated manner over the last few weeks.  While only one was sufficiently large to take up residence in my freezer, I count even the small ones as successes.  Next summer I can worry about size.  This spring my only concern is simply catching anything.  Fly fishing is maddening.

Trout are fun, but the adrenaline producing effect of catching larger fish with the capacity to damage the fisherman holds its own sort of attraction.  Thus, last week I found myself aboard a boat on the Missouri River trying to catch Walleye.  Aside from having lost my pole in the river (a complicated story of which there are competing versions) it was a fantastic day.  Three fishermen caught six walleye large enough to keep and several that went back in the water.  The owner of the boat landed a thirty inch Northern Pike after a mighty battle only to lose him off of the stringer a little later.  Apparently fly fishing is not the only variety of fishing capable of producing obscenities.  

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I really love fishing.  Sun, cigars, the stink of fish, and the exhaustion of a long day in the sun are good medicine.