Sunday, June 29, 2014

'Just Routine, Nothing Special' — Thank You, Father Statz

Quite a lot has happened, since Father James Statz came to the Our Lady of the Angels parish here in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. Most of it's routine, like the annual cycle of the liturgical year, some hasn't.

Today is the last time Father Statz celebrates Mass as our parish priest. I'm sorry to see him go, but very glad that he has been here.

Remembering, Mostly 2003

Some of it hasn't been routine, like when the Christmas tree — over a dozen feet tall — fell over behind him. That was in 2003.

I took that photo before the excitement. The choir director had told us that the last song would be "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" when the Christmas tree fell over.

Over a dozen children on the near side of the altar, and probably a few other folks, said "eee!" The tree fell neatly on the altar's far side.

Then we sang "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." Nobody was hurt, much, although Father Statz got clipped as the tree went past him, and the deacon was hit by the star.

(Procession of the Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Fr. Statz. Sauk Centre, 2013.)

A Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe came to our area in June of 2003. The image is a full-size replica of Juan Diego's tilma.

The Image's arrival gave the two parishes in Sauk Centre a good reason for our first procession since I'd arrived, back in the '80s. That's Father Statz in the photo, just before we went into St. Pauls that day. More about the procession, and the Missionary Image:
Our Lady of Angels has become a bit more obviously Marian in the years Farther Statz has been here. The most obvious changes are a mural inside, and a garden.

Tom Kane used Tiepolo's Immaculate Conception as a model for a mural on the half-dome over our altar.

The Marian Garden, between the parish church and rectory, is a restful spot, and new since Father Statz came. I'll probably make it a destination for walking again this summer. (August 18, 2013)

(Marian Garden between Our Lady of Angels and the Rectory, July 2013.)

A less happy break in routine was when Father Statz returned to duty after a stroke could have killed him — but didn't. I was very glad indeed that he survived: and that he could stay with this parish as long as he has.

Lenten Chaplet

(Lenten Chaplet, introduced to our parish by Father Statz.)

This chaplet got started in Venezuela. Father Statz and Father Todd, who have been parish priests here in Sauk Centre, were in Venezuela when they developed this chaplet as a way to encourage prayer during Lent.

The original prayer cords had wooden crucifixes, carved from a sort of tree that grows in Venezuela. The cords were woven from fibers the folks got from the leaves of that tree.

In central Minnesota, our crucifixes have been metal and the cords some synthetic fiber: which is consistent with how our regional culture makes things. Around here, Venezuelan wood and hand-woven cords would be exotic.

As far as I know, what the cord and crucifix are made of doesn't matter, as long as the materials are sturdy and flexible enough to be worn and used for a minimum of 40 days.

There isn't a 'right' kind of crucifix, again as far as I know: the style here has been a little different each year, probably depending on what was readily available at the time.

Knowledge and Comfort When We Needed It

Father Statz talked with me and my wife, after we lost another child.

Miscarriage: Joy

We'd lost one child, several years ago, very early in the pregnancy. The best guess we have is that something went very, very wrong with some basic function in Joy's body. The human body is a wonderfully complex thing: Which means there's a great many things that can go wrong. This isn't a perfect world.

My wife and I sealed the results, for testing: but saw to it that Joy was buried, informally and briefly, in hallowed ground. I wasn't sure if that was quite what we're supposed to do, but I figured that 'it's easier to get forgiveness, than permission.' Testing showed no problems, aside from the miscarriage. As the years passed, two more children joined the two we'd been blessed with before Joy.

Stillbirth: Elizabeth

There was no reason to assume that our sixth pregnancy wouldn't end in a normal delivery. This baby was doing fine. We, and our four surviving children, were looking forward to seeing the newest member of the family.

When the contractions started, they weren't quite what we expected, but as I recall they were inside the 'normal' range. When it was "time," my wife and I headed for the hospital.

As nearly as I can tell, Elizabeth died as we were approaching the Interstate exit nearest the hospital. My wife told me that the baby was very active: and then completely still. At the hospital, the nurses could detect no heartbeat. And the delivery was not going well. At all.

Later that night I followed the ambulance carrying my wife to another hospital, about 45 miles away. And was with her when Elizabeth was delivered: beautifully formed; and quite dead. My wife and I took turns holding Elizabeth, as warmth left her body. Later, we learned that the center of the placenta had given way. The medical folks say if the failure had happened near the edge, my wife would have bled to death.

We have photos of Elizabeth, and of an ultrasound: but I haven't looked at those for quite a long time. There's no need. I remember what she looked like, the weight of her body in my arms: and I'm not likely to forget. Besides: God willing, I'll meet her, and Joy, in a few decades.

'Why be miserable?'

Talking over Elizabeth's death with my wife, and how we feel about it, she summed up the situation with something like "why be miserable?" She's a very practical woman. And, I think, she's right.

If I seem 'upbeat' about losing 1/3 of our children: It helps that Elizabeth died eight years ago. I've gone through the 'stages of grief,' more or less. Don't let anybody kid you: it's not an easy process. Knowing what was behind a nervous tic and auditory hallucinations helped me get through those years: but I'd just as soon not repeat the experience.

There will always be an 'Elizabeth size' hole in my heart — matching the one for Joy. But I've gotten used to the situation: just as people get used to their children living thousands of miles away. Besides, being dead doesn't make them less a part of the family. I still wish Elizabeth and Joy a 'good night,' every night, as I do for all our children.

'It's not fair.' So?

Being born with deformed hips gave me opportunities to think about — and meditate on — whether or not expecting life to be "fair" by American standards is reasonable.

I'm convinced that God is just, and that He is merciful: and that I wouldn't understand why things happen, even if He explained His Will to me. So I'm not going to demand an explanation. I've read the book of Job

Hey! This is about Father Statz!

After my wife and I got back to Sauk Centre, Father Statz spoke with us. Nothing earth-shattering, no dramatic revelations. Just words of sympathy and assurance. He also explained the idea of "baptism of desire." (It's nothing new: Thomas Aquinas and the Council of Trent mentioned it.) And, of course, Father Statz was there when we buried Elizabeth.

Some of the breaks in Father Statz's routine have been good news, like the new Marian garden between the church and the rectory.

Mostly, though, Father Statz has been 'just going through the routines:' celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, anointing the sick, that sort of thing.

He's just an ordinary priest, standing in for Jesus in a small central Minnesota town.

Which, when you think about it, is a pretty big deal.

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.