This Past Sunday I celebrated my 50th Birthday and of all the gifts I received, I must say I got the best from the Lord who delivered it in a “strange package.”
It began the day before as I arose and realized with some dread that I had surely over-committed myself. As I looked at my calendar I saw that I had scheduled four Masses and luncheon meeting. “How could I be so crazy!” I told myself as I prayed in the groggy early morning. The Lord remained quiet but I sensed he was smiling just a bit.
The first Mass was at 8:00am and was the most straight forward. It was a very pleasant Mass with the Sisters in the Convent. I offered it for the repose of my Mother. When she was alive I always bought her flowers on my birthday, since I figured she did all the work, and I just showed up. If anyone deserved a gift she did. Now that she has departed this life, my gift to her is Mass for her happy repose. A nice but brief breakfast followed with the sisters. They are always so kind to me. And so here was the first of the six sacraments I would celebrate that day: Holy Eucharist.
The second Mass was at 10:00 am, a solemn high Latin Nuptial Mass for a wonderful young couple from Africa, both of them studying medicine here in the States. God be praised, it was a beautiful Mass, with all the ceremony and splendor that the Traditional Latin Mass offers. But it was a workout, coming in at an hour and a half. And here was the second of six sacraments I would celebrate that day, Holy Matrimony along with Holy Eucharist, again.
A luncheon followed with parish leaders at noon. Here too, a wonderful occasion. I have so many wonderful leaders. God be praised. They surprised me with a birthday cake and three different versions of Happy Birthday.
By now I felt a nap coming on, but no time for that….I have miles to go before I sleep.
The third Mass was at 2pm. It was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation for woman who had been delayed for over two years while “canonical issues” were resolved. At long last she had her green light, and there was no way I was going to make her wait until next Easter. With her family in the Chapel we celebrated big time with Mass wherein she received her Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist AND had her marriage validated! Wow, God is good. She’d had a long wait, and was so patient. It was so satisfying to finally see her through. And here were the third and fourth of the six sacraments I would celebrate that day: Baptism and Confirmation, along with Holy Matrimony and Holy Eucharistic, again, and again.
It’s 4:00pm now. Time to go hear confessions in Church. And here was the fifth sacrament I would celebrate that day: Confession.
At 4:30pm Mass # 4 and Holy Eucharist again, Mass number four!
6:00 pm – Time to chill. “Lord you really made me work this weekend. That’s a strange thing to do to me on my birthday weekend!” There’s that silent smile of the Lord again. What’s he up to? Sure enough: the phone rings. Hospital call! And not even nearby. I am mindful of the words of Mother Teresa who said that the Lord told her he’d never give her more than she could take. She only wished that the Lord didn’t trust her so much! Off to anoint the critically ill. And thus the sixth sacrament I celebrated: Anointing of the Sick
Well, there you have it. My gift in a “strange package,” a sacramental six-pack, every sacrament I can possibly celebrate. It was a bone-crusher of a day but God is so good. I don’t suppose a priest could have any better gift that to be reminded so powerfully of his purpose on the eve of his 50th birthday.
But God knows me well enough to realize that he had to send a prophet to decode it all for me, just to make sure I got it. It came on Sunday afternoon, the evening of my birthday. Two of the Sisters came from the Convent presented me with a cake and sang happy birthday.
Innocently they asked me how my birthday weekend had gone. “Do you have a few minutes Sisters?” I said. And I told them the whole story.
One of them looked at me and said, “Do you see what God was saying to you on your 50th birthday? He was saying, ‘This is why I created you.'”
Yes, that is what he was saying alright. And it was the best gift I could have received.