Duc in altum: Launch out to the heights above the depths! Since there are those who will be upset that I was out on a pontoon boat with a family of our parishioners up in Graham County, NC (coming up from Atlanta, GA) – since priests should never get a break – I should preface this by saying that my day started about 3:00 AM. After putting up some posts on the blog on Saint John Vianney and Our Lady of the Snows, it was time for Adoration with dozens of parishioners at 6:00 AM with silence, then rosary, mercy chaplet, Lauds, Confessions the whole time, Benediction. At 7:10 AM it was time to race up to Graham County for Adoration and Rosary and Confessions before Mass at 8:30 AM. Then race back to Andrews for Confessions and then Mass, followed by the social (with a Q and A on some apologetic questions), followed by Communion calls in the back mountains. It was only then, now already evening, that I raced back up to Graham County to finally get on the boat after some sixteen hours of non-stop apostolate.
But let’s back up to early Mass in Robbinsville. Mind you, this is not a place you go so as merely to pass through. It’s a purposed destination, that is, utterly off the beaten track. You have to have a reason to come, cycling, motorcycling, backpacking on the AT, kayaking or because you have a cabin, or… just because, which is always a good reason.
Sitting back in the confessional (with it’s massive window facing the church) with just a minute a two before Mass, I saw this fellow, my age, come in and take a seat. The very nano-second I saw him I thought to myself, “This guy’s CIA.” It sounds really weird, but it’s just a thing with me since forever, meaning, I don’t remember ever being wrong. (Of course, I wouldn’t know that, right?) Still, it’s kind of stunning to me that as far as I know, I’ve never been wrong with these kind of experiences. It’s always instantaneous.
At the end of Mass I mentioned the article in the bulletin on Joyce Kilmer, in which I had failed to explicitly mention the OSS, successor to Kilmer’s great example and immediate predecessor of the CIA. I apologized for not remembering the tri-letter designation but said it’s something like CSS, something to do with Strategic Services, and asked if anyone knew the original tri-letters. No one said anything.
Afterward, outside the church, the guy I was guessing was CIA and therefore who should know the answer came up and said that the letters were OSS. Ah yes, said I, Office of Strategic Services. He said he knew that because he had just now retired after 39 years in the CIA. Surely they had recruited him right out of high school. This guy just happened to come here for Mass. No family. No cabin. No A.T. No kayaking. Waaaaaay out of his way. Mind you, it’s all understandable. Right after retiring out you want a breather, a drive through the mountains, a break. It’s what I would do. So, there’s no there there. Just that I caught him out. Like clockwork. But I digress.
After arriving to the forest on the far side of the picture above in the pontoon, which was super relaxing, a good times memory, we putt-putted back to the cabin, about an hour round trip. A call was made to the neighbors, life long friends of my parishioners down in Atlanta who happened to have a cabin right next door. They had always been assigned to the same places in the military, and were both into the intel / surveillance thing.
The bagpipes came out. Amazing Grace and other pieces were squeezed out, echoing across the massive lake. Really loud. That was met with yelps of glee and appreciation by other lake dwellers far away with the quiet evening unbroken surface of the water permitting their voices to render thanksgiving at a distance. Then dinner.
The conversation of these ultra-super cultured people – leaving me entirely in the dust – roamed about the works of literary geniuses, military intel, rosary meditations, my own background[!].The intel guy kept coming back to my growing up in Minnesota and to various aspects of what kind of photographic memory I had, provably, since I was one year old. He was super interested in what I perceived to be the value of humint, the whys and wherefores. At one point the intel guy seemed to have had a sufficiency to make a decision. He locked eyes with me and kept hold of my eyes with his deadly serious though soft-spoken and each word accentuated and individuated tone of voice: “What is certain, I’m telling you this, what is certain is that your situational awareness has already saved your life. It has already saved your life. You are to continue with your situational awareness.”
I think his assertion immediately brought the conversation to what kind of dessert we would all like. Of course, I had no problem saying that I didn’t see a problem in sampling some of everything. Homemade cake, various kinds of ice-cream and deli toppings, the works. :-) Meanwhile, as you might imagine, the “already saved your life” comment came to mind. Maybe it’s just the way he said it: “already.”
Yesterday, from 3:00 AM until about mid-night, was absolutely pleasant. Refreshing. Perfect. Holy Mass at both churches. Adoration. The CIA guy: humble, happy guy. Racing about for Communion calls. The boat ride. The scrumptious dinner. The leave-me-in-the-dust conversation with the intel guy. The desserts. The super peaceful drive back through the mountain passes. The greeting back at the rectory by the puppies, Laudie-dog and Shadow-dog. But then the comment: “Your situational awareness has already saved your life. You are to continue with your situational awareness.”