Even Jesus had to get away. More to the point, he took his disciples off to a remote location – “up the mountain” or “into the desert” -- when he wanted to get everyone onto the same page. So there is a precedent.
A few years back, Cardinal McCarrick started holding a Convocation for the priests of the Archdiocese of Washington. I missed the first one because I was living in Rome working for Cardinal Baum. Now it may surprise you to learn that when the Archbishop say, Hey Guys we’re all going to get away and be together and talk about things that are important to priests and the Archdiocese, that not all the priests respond immediately with Hey, great; I can hardly wait! There was some skepticism. Cardinal McCarrick, ever an astute observer of human – and priestly — nature, planned for that, and said it was mandatory and required a direct, personal exemption from him to miss it.
In the defense of us diocesan priest-types, I have to point out that the center of our job description is being here – here to celebrate the sacraments for you, here to respond to your questions and needs, here to take care of the church, and the parish, and the school; here to answer the door, whether it is the mailman, someone lost on University Boulevard, a parishioner in need of confession, the HVAC repair guy, or trick-or-treaters. An awful lot happens here, but that’s another story. So, truly one of the hardest things for us to do is be away. Harder still is to propose that we ALL be away. That is somehow….not what we are for.
So, on this Convocation, all the priests of the Archdiocese get to be together at a hotel and meeting center over in Cambridge, Maryland. We have Mass together and pray together – we even set up a Blessed Sacrament Chapel, right there in what most people think is a ballroom. We have talks by Cardinal Wuerl and some invited speakers, break into working groups, and have a chance for private meetings with the Boss for whatever we want to talk about. We eat and hang out together, some guys play golf together – but November is “off season” for a reason, and the weather does not always permit that.
After that first Convocation, and maybe the second, guys didn’t need to be told it was mandatory anymore. We all discovered that it is something worth doing, worth even leaving the parish without its priests for two whole days. So without threat or penalty, a large percentage of us show up, because it is a good thing to do.
So this week, Fr. DeRosa and I will be away for a couple of days. Father Nick used to tend the store when these things happened, and you all know how good he was at that. This year, Father Clint McDonell, whom many of you have encountered as he celebrates a Sunday Mass here most weeks, will be doing us this great favor. So thank him if you see him for making it possible for us to be away, because once we have done that we will be better at being here, with you and for you as your priests.
Speaking of the doorbell, we were completely overrun here at the Holy House of Soubirous on Halloween. I gave out everything I could lay hands on, and still they kept coming – well over 120 of them! So, if you are one of the masked monsters who left my doorstep with an IOU – come and get it! We are restocked and ready. Just bring that IOU; odds are, one of us will be here.