Yours truly took this picture early Monday morning after sleeping over at the Kure Beach beach house of some good friends to which I arrived at about 12:30 AM Sunday night. I was told to go right in to the second floor of that house (which is up on stilts, of course), and then head up to the third floor, go the end of the hallway, and use the bedroom suit that I will find with pictures of Pope Benedict and Saints John Paul II and Mother Teresa.
That means that I had to have left the rectory in Andrews, NC, at least some eight hours previously, Sunday afternoon. Indeed, after Divine Mercy Sunday Mass, and while doing up a ride-along with the PD as chaplain, a call came in requesting my presence at the beach. Great! Off I went in Sassy the Subaru.
The picture below is taken from the exact same spot as the picture on the top of this post, just turned to the South. That’s the pier just north of Myrtle Beach, which brings back many memories with mom and dad. We all walked down the pier together some thirty years ago. It would only be a few years later that they would both have passed on. I’m so nostalgic…
Those good friends? She’s a prosecuting attorney, and he, after a spectacular career in law enforcement, enjoys providing consultation presentations all around the world to assist in strategies for the most difficult logistics in law enforcement and incarceration and parole. He was home because of… of course… the Coronvirus lock down. Here’s what I found on the other side of “my room” for the night:
Scandalous! Absconding from duty! A priest going to the beach while there is a declared State of Emergency (read the government notice in the top picture)! What about taking care of the Lord’s little flock? What about providing the Last Rites to those in need? And worse, using pious pictures to cover over such cowardice, leaving the flock untended!
There’s always two sides to any story, right? Well, here’s the truth of it:
After these good friends provided me with coffee and scrumptious scrambled eggs early the next morning, after just a few minutes of catching up, the pastoral plan they had hatched with me hours earlier on Divine Mercy Sunday afternoon went into action. My Google Maps feature on the phone was locked in, and away I went to another residence which sports this massive well-done statue out on the road (reminding me of The Old Man and the Boy by Robert Ruark +1965, a book my mom made sure I read so long ago):
You have to know that the Director of Liturgy in that far away diocese has draconian policies on the provision of sacraments in this time of Coronavirus. This is public knowledge. Horrific. A nightmare for the faithful who want to the sacraments. Some of the reaction of some of the priests of that diocese are less than beneficial. It seems one would not provide the proper sacramental formulae, just saying something invalid for any sacrament, such as Have a nice day. Another just left a message saying he’s unavailable at this time. Another does up sacraments, invalidly, over the phone.
So these great friends of mine called me, who am not quite a 900 mile round trip away. We have a mutual friend, a close friend, who could not find a priest to do what any priest should do, even with him now leaving this life to be on his way to the next. I dropped everything and got there as fast as I could.
Don’t think I’m virtuous in doing that. Not at all. I absolutely love racing about as a Missionary of Mercy, as Jesus’ priest, and doing what any priest should do. I have great neighbors who watch over the house and feed the dogs. I had an absolutely wonderful time racing back and forth at night on pretty much entirely empty highways and entirely empty back roads. Fortunately, it was a day after a fierce rainfall, and the fallen trees had already been pushed out of the way by bigger vehicles than mine:
That’s on the way back, early Monday afternoon, at the start of the one-lane gravel road up Holy Souls Mountain, though still a few miles from the Holy Souls Hermitage. At the house of the neighbor to the hermitage I picked up fully seven October Beans which had been set aside for me to plant. That’s a lot. I am most grateful. More on that later.
The neighbors there weren’t home and I didn’t need to stick around for more Last Rites. They were at the doctors, which should tell you something in these times of basically zero face-to-face meetings with any medical personnel if at all possible. As it is, all reports of a zillion invasive tests came back with the best outcome possible. No Last Rites – again – were needed. I’m very happy with that. Thank you, Jesus.
Meanwhile, I do have a standing invitation to “go to the beach” any time I want. ;-)
Sometimes, honestly, I think I have way, way, way tooooo much fun as a priest. I’m totally happy watching Jesus be the priest, with me just going along for the ride. :-)
When I got back, I did up some grocery shopping for the elderly health-compromised in the parish, delivered those groceries, also delivering bacon to some good friends that I had picked up on the way back (10 pounds!), and then got back to the rectory once again. It’s now Tuesday morning. How did that happen so quickly? In just a few minutes after I publish this, Father Gordon MacRae is going to call for an hour or so, as I missed the usual Monday morning call. So I better end this here. Glad to be back.