I think my earliest “Day-Off” began right at midnight. There are prayers and hours of editing Father Gordon’s writings and sending that off. Father Gordon never gets a day off. He’s very happy, by the way, when I’m able to take a day off. He’s really good that way.
Of course, I’m not the only one around. There are the puppies who need to be watered and fed with all that they need for the day and into the night if need be. I can only hope for their safety when I’m not immediately present. The dog in the GIF is not my dog. My Vicar Forane mentioned the name of the owner of this particular dog, and I repeated that, asking “Who?” demonstrating my ignorance of all things cinematic. This particular dog has quite the story. Anyway…
I try to be out the door by 6:00 AM, but that almost never happens, but I’m mostly away by Noon. Next week I have to out the door by about 5:00 AM for an appointment triple-figure miles away. Depending on who’s still alive and who’s gone where, I may stop in any number of hospitals and nursing homes and rehabs and have a chat about going to heaven and the sacraments, and then stop in to see various and sundry families spread out all over the map. My Vicar Forane instructs me – more of a reprimand – that a day off should really be a day off. Imagine that. Sometimes I may be in quite a number of states all in one day. Sometimes there is an exorcism to do. I did one for another diocese at their abrupt request recently. Another in this diocese is coming up, already with the express permission of the bishop. Not scheduled yet. It get’s a bit involved, but it’s always awesome to see Jesus at work. On next week’s day off, depending, I may also be seeing “The [black-sites] Guy.” He was away on my day off the other day. I always ask – “Hey! You gotta few minutes for a little chat?” – and if he’s Stateside and not previously occupied with the corporal works of mercy, he says: “Sure! Come on over!” That usually lasts for many hours. CT is never straightforward, never totally crystal clear. This time we may have a common “friend” or two or three to talk about, check up on. Sometimes there’s a back-mountain funeral and burial at one of the innumerable private cemeteries dotting the back ridges. Sometimes there’s even quite lengthy conversations about Jesus and His good mom and, I must say, the saints, but especially the angels to have. That’s especially cool with lots of irony and laughter. Angels, mind you, see God in the face. And Jesus is not without a sense of humor.
Lots of people condemn priests for having a day off and come up with all sort of mocking things to say about how priests betray their very priesthood, throwing their priesthood away by taking some hours away. Will they condemn Jesus at the Judgment for Jesus having said outrageous things like: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31)? Or how about John 6:15, where we read that Jesus “departed again to a mountain, Himself, alone.” Will the haters breathlessly exclaim: “Damn you, Jesus, for setting such a bad example! Damn you! You had no right!” Sigh… Actually, they will be silent and have nothing to say when they see His wounds still upon Him, hands and feet, His side, His heart.
“But you’re a liar, ‘Father’ Byers. You just shoot guns on your day off. I bet you’re not even a priest. Who are you, anyway?”
Well, yes. I do admit to doing shooting my Glock. I may be getting a little better. It’s not quite two years since I shot a pistol for the first time in my life. By now, I think I actually pretty much wore out my Glock. I’m thinking of getting a Sig instead. We’ll see. I do lots of timed raucous courses, FBI (Agent and/or Instructor levels), Federal Air Marshal (pre-Sept. 11, 2001), some stages of DEVGRU, etc. Look, it’s just for fun. It’s the timing that’s fun, you know, shaving off a hundredth of a second here or there. For me, it’s certainly different from what I normally do, especially when people shoot back. There’s been a growing number of occasions when uncountable bullets smash right through branches of trees right around me from a hidden location just up the ridge behind me. The shooter was back at it this past week. I should go look for cartridges and bring them in to the Sheriff. But, no harm as there was no harm to me. So, whatever. Actually, I just never give such things a second thought. Gun stuff simply doesn’t frighten me. It’s just a slight, momentary distraction, like a gnat successfully swatted. Obviously, it’s not meant to hurt me, just perhaps scare me, or scare me away. Of course, any bullet, even from, say, a high powered hunting rifle, might, while slowing down as it smashes through this or that number of branches, hit a tree in just such a way as to make the bullet ricochet in my direction. That’s the danger. But, whatever. It’s happened all my life. What do I care?
And anyway, some might think I should be distracted as I shouldn’t be filling my head with, say, two to the body (center mass: more or less 6″ wide by 10″ high) and one to the head (eye shot: more or less 2″ high by 4″ wide”) all three shots at marked-mere-paper at or in less than two seconds at seven yards from a locked holster with a bit of adrenaline pumping (I think stage four or five of the DEVGRU course off the top of my head).
Meanwhile, the reality of the “filling my head” thing is perhaps somewhat different for a priest who carries. Shooting, for me, on a “day off”, is mind clearing in the way that Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of the Sacred Liturgy as being a time of “play” before the Lord. Not mindless, but a mind and soul and heart dedicated to being like a little kid before the Lord. What’s the main thing my mind is occupied with while shooting? Killing people? Heavens, NO! What I do is pray, a lot, for my good bishop and my fellow priests. I pray to Jesus’ good mom, the Immaculate Conception, a lot, really a lot. No, really, a lot. And if it’s not that, I’m reminiscing with my guardian angel, not that he always talks back. It’s about reverence before Jesus in heaven and on earth, the abnormality of the normality of that, if you will. Lots of irony. It just is what it is. For me, it’s all pretty light hearted.
I have to wonder if all those people who get so bitter and really angry with priests for taking a “day-off” ever pray for their bishop and priests, if they ever pray for Pope Francis or just condemn him and them. I wonder if they ever pray for vocations. I wonder if, while those who criticize are taking a day-off, I wonder if they ever encourage vocations to the priesthood.
Finally, does a priest ever have the intention of taking time off from the priesthood, you know, for a day? I should hope not, not ever, no. Why? Why would anyone think that? Let’s take a look at what a canonized saint of workers has to say:
Whoever really wants to achieve sanctity, takes no breaks or holidays (Furrow, 129). I have always seen rest as time set aside from daily tasks, never as days of idleness. Rest means recuperation: to gain strength, form ideals and make plans. In other words it means a change of occupation, so that you can come back later with a new impetus to your daily job. (Furrow, 514) Josemaria Escriva
Should we talk about Pope Benedict XVI? How about a canonized Pope like Saint John Paul II? Anyway, I’ll keep up with my “day off” as long as the Lord provides and permits.