May God our Father give you grace and peace. We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in our prayers for you because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love you bear toward all the saints–moved as you are by the hope held in store for you in heaven. You heard of this hope through the message of truth, the gospel, which has come to you, has borne fruit, and has continued to grow in your midst, as it has everywhere in the world.
So began Vespers on Saturday evening, after we received some pretty shocking news: our pastor, who has been with us just more than three years, was being transferred suddenly, effective this coming January. It’s much shorter than the usual minimum six years a pastor tends to stay, and much, much shorter than the time we hoped Father would be with us. He has been such a blessing for our parish, and we were relishing that blessing.
Of course, Catholics know that their priests can be transferred at any time. The six years is just a guideline, and if the bishop has need for a priest in a different area, men will be shuffled about to meet the needs as they come up. Such is our case. The pastor of a very large parish must leave his parish (for reasons unknown to us), and there’s domino effect that comes down to our beloved priest being pulled to attend to another parish – larger than ours, with a K-8 school! What a blessing for those families to have someone as orthodox as our priest to minister to them. He’s also one of the assistants to the vicar for vocations, and with a school to watch over, I can imagine a sudden burst of vocations coming from far southwest Virginia in a few years.
In the meantime, we are a little shellshocked. Our pastor helped oversee the final planning stages for our sanctuary art, and will now be far from us when the last stained glass pieces and carvings go in. (I’m so happy he was able to see the main clerestory window installed, though!)
The rest, he’ll just have to catch as he comes through town on his way to Richmond for his meetings with our bishop. And he will be coming through town, stopping by to visit when he is able. Plus, we know where he lives, and even if it’s a long way away, we can find him and go visit him.
But this doesn’t make it any easier, or help us avoid the tears that have fallen and will fall in the next couple of months. And while Father let us know that he knows our new pastor – knows him to be a good, orthodox man who loves Holy Mother Church and is a good preacher to boot! – it doesn’t make it easier to say goodbye.
I’ve told my girls before, and I reminded them this weekend, that a priest’s life is not his own. He is not our priest, but God’s. And God needs him at this parish.
And, though it still won’t stop our tears, we know that we must trust in God’s providence. We must trust in His plan, even when we don’t understand it or, as a friend said to me, we see it like looking through a pinhole at the world. We must bend our will to His, and pray for the strength to always accept His will.
There is one really interesting thing about this transfer. Father loves a lot of the same things Nathan and I love. We’re all about the same age (with Father and I only being a couple of months apart), and so we’ve been planning for more than a year to bring Father out to dinner and a movie to see The Hobbit. It’s going to be done in three parts, with releases (if all goes well) in December, May, December over the next year; we told Father it would be a “dinner date” for all three movies. He laughed, and we all agreed that this would be an excellent idea.
Then, about a couple months ago, I was talking about this plan with my husband and in the back of my mind, a voice said, “But what if Father isn’t here in May?”
That’s silly! I chided this voice. Father’s only been here three years, and we get at least six!
But every time I thought about The Hobbit after that moment, the same voice said the same thing to me. What if Father isn’t here?
So the answer to the voice in my head (or Voice? Hello, Lord – You’re using that 2×4 on me again, aren’t You?) is this: we’ll just drive to his new parish for a weekend trip in May and again in December. And we’ll stay in touch and bring him to Rome with us as planned when we celebrate our 25th anniversary. We’ll adjust and work within Your plan.
And in the meantime, we’ll be praying that we’ll deal with Your plan with grace and thanksgiving, for Your plans are above ours, and Your ways are not our own.
Amen, amen I say to thee, when thou wast younger, thou didst gird thyself, and didst walk where thou wouldst. But when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldst not.