Disraeli once said that “When a man fell into his anecdotage, it was a sign for him to retire”. That could, just possibly, raise some questions about the advisability of certain blogging! On reflection, however, it is not going to stop me. Retirement as a way of life is still new to me; but it does appear, so far at least, that the cliché about how busy one can be is certainly true. My father, an Anglican priest, used to say that in his retirement he was as busy as ever – but that the great blessing was that he chose what he was busy doing.
Well, this past weekend was a busy, but happy and blessed, one for me.
On Saturday morning I celebrated the Mass at St Mary the Virgin, Arlington, of which I am Pastor Emeritus. (Someone, by the way, defined “Emeritus” as meaning “used to be”!) My successor, Father Timothy Perkins, was taking a well-deserved weekend away. At this Mass I baptized Arti Piland and her two little boys, Peyton Andrew and Preston Andrew. This was really some unfinished business that, for a variety of reasons, I could not complete before my retirement; so I was happy indeed to be able to take care of it at last. The Piland family has been a very important part in the life of the Parish for almost three decades. I first knew Andrew, now Arti’s husband, when he was a boy and a young altar server; and now, emulating his patron saint who, so momentously, brought his brother Simon Peter to Jesus, he has brought his wife and children into the Catholic Church.
After the Mass, Julie and Phil – Andrew’s parents – provided refreshments at their home; and, after an hour in the confessional, I joined José who had gone ahead with them there. Having kept the Eucharistic fast before Mass, the consumption of a couple of glasses of champagne before anything else was a (shall we say?) heart-warming experience.
On Saturday evening I was the celebrant and preacher at the Vigil Mass at Immaculate Conception, in the neighboring city of Grand Prairie. Immaculate Conception is a vibrant and busy parish – perhaps eighty per cent Hispanic in membership, and vastly different in culture and style from St Mary the Virgin. It is always a great joy to be there, for it is a welcoming and hugely appreciative community. This Saturday evening Mass was a particularly wonderful occasion, for we had all the happiness of First Holy Communions for a very large group of children who processed in wrapped devotion and in their lovely dresses, tiaras and neatly pressed suits. The church was packed, with people standing in the side-aisles and in the narthex; and the pride and joy of the parents was manifest. The Mass being ended, there were innumerable gifts to be blessed – Bibles in Spanish and English, rosaries, medals, crucifixes. But even that did not complete my responsibilities: every one of the little First Communicants (and/or their parents!) wanted to have his or her photograph taking standing beside me before the altar. I was dazed and almost blinded by the countless photo-flashes in such quick succession!
I was back at St Mary the Virgin for the early Mass on Sunday morning. Then I sang the Solemn Mass, and preached, at 10:30. We began by singing in procession Stuckey Coles’ great hymn “Ye who claim the Faith of Jesus”, sung to the fabulous American tune Julion by David Hurd. The procession culminated with the May Crowning of the image of Mary by children who carried flowers. The concelebrant at the Mass was Father Gerard-Mary Anyanwu, visiting from Nigeria and a long-standing friend of the parish and personally.
Our Council of the Knights of Columbus (and what splendid and indefatigable work they do for the Parish and for the wider Church) arranges a luncheon for the congregation twice a month; and this Sunday was such and occasion. So it was wonderful for José and me to be able to spend time over lunch meeting so many beloved members of the Parish Family whom we have missed in recent months.
After a short afternoon nap I returned to Arlington once more to celebrate and preach the evening Mass at St Mary the Virgin, with a congregation of some 150 present.
It as a full and wonderful weekend, and I enjoyed every moment of it. But I think that I can understand what Karl Kraus meant when he said “When the end of the world comes, I want to be living in retirement.” (You don’t know who Karl Kraus was? You might want to read The Last Days of Mankind: Karl Kraus and his Vienna, published by Macmillan/St Martin’s Press in 1967, by my late brother-in-law Frank Field.)