Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Quadragesimo Anno
On the road again

by Father Mark Pautler, for the Inland Register

(From the August 18, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Mark Pautler My five faithful readers may recall that in last month’s column I reveled in the melody of Mount Angel’s bells. Now, for the rest of the story of my sojourn to the south.

On Friday morning, I departed from the abbey, with Fremont, Calif., as my destination. The route mapped out on the trip navigator gave an ETA of 7 p.m. It would be a long day. Most of the travel would be on the interstate, but I was not looking forward to the dense traffic I anticipated at the end of the day. Little did I know that the wide open spaces of southern Oregon would almost be my undoing.

I have never been the Cabela’s type of outdoorsman. The closest I’ve come to hunting was 50 years ago, shooting rabbits with a .22 rifle on my uncle’s farm. This day I became a deer slayer. About 15 miles north of Roseburg, two deer gamboled across Interstate 5. Alas, gamboling and highways don’t mix. Maybe Kyle Busch or an auto-piloted car could have done better, but my reaction time only allowed for two possibilities – one was bad, the other was worse. I chose the former: bad for me, worse for the deer. I struck the hapless animal front center; the deer did a 180-degree flip and landed to the side of the road and not into my windshield. Lucky for me. As I said, it could have been worse. I wasn’t sure what to do. The car was running, the temperature gauge was not rising, and a sign ahead of me said Rest Area, another bit of good fortune. With a cell phone, AAA membership and a nearby town where I could rent a car and leave mine at a repair shop, I was back on the road by midafternoon. The ETA was now 11 p.m. Oh, well, this only means I’m going to miss the Friday evening commute. The traffic I did encounter was heavy enough. Actual arrival at the hotel: 11:55 p.m.

“This day I became a deer slayer....”

The purpose of the trip to Fremont was the baptism of my great-nephew, Mark, and the convalidation of the marriage of his parents, Matt and Theresa. The sacramental rites were celebrated at Holy Spirit Parish with my sister, Vince, and their children all present. Theresa’s Mom and Aunt had come from Ohio. It was a blessed occasion.

After the sacred rites, followed by family festivities, I had the time to rest. But then, what to do? When I mentioned to Bishop Daly about my trip to his old territory, he graciously offered to arrange for tickets to a Giants game. He has connections. I had been a huge Giants fan in the days of Mays and McCovey in the pre-Mariner era, but I preferred something a little shorter than a ball game. What I really wanted to do that Saturday evening was go to Mass. Not because I could get it out of the way for the weekend and have Sunday all to myself, but because that’s what priests do when they travel. I hope that’s what all Catholics do when they travel. For priests, or at least for this priest, experiencing the liturgy in a different environment interests me. There were plenty of churches to choose from, but Kathleen suggested that I might like driving up to Oakland to see the cathedral, Christ the Light. Oakland’s cathedral is a new structure, less than 10 years old. I arrived early enough to do a walk-through. The most distinctive feature is the shape. The impression it created was an ark, like Noah’s ark. We’re upside down, but this seems to have been the architect’s intent, just as the peaked ceiling and beams of a more traditionally styled church remind one of an upside down ship. A ship is a symbol of the church. The “nave” of the church, the place where the people are, is from the Latin root navis, a ship. Now, it was a hot afternoon at the end of June at an inner-city parish. I did not expect a full house, but in a space designed for 1,350 people, I estimate the attendance was 200. Yes, the church is well appointed; the celebrant and other ministers were prepared and reverent; but it’s still a bit depressing to see a church full of empty places.

On Sunday morning, I was back in church again, at Holy Spirit in Fremont. The previous day when our family celebrated the wedding and baptism, I had been cordially greeted by a sacristan, the deacon who had worked with Matt and Theresa, and the pastor. It was evident that Holy Spirit is a busy place with a full slate of ministries, outreach, and devotions. The church itself is an older Spanish styled building newly remodeled. As it was explained to me, there was only one direction for expansion. The church could only be extended forward, as it were. This extension did not become the location of a new sanctuary. Rather, this space “behind the altar” became another nave. I don’t think my words adequately illustrate the look of the remodel, but new wine has been poured into renewed wineskins. Video screens accessible throughout the nave(s) displayed lyrics of the hymns. Furthermore, a video presentation from the USCCB was shown as part of the sermon. On this Sunday, there was a sermon/catechesis on natural death/assisted suicide rather than a homily. Once again, I was treated to an edifice with lovely furnishings and beautiful art. But this time, best of all, the church was full, with an ethnically diverse congregation and enthusiastic liturgical participation.

Shortly after Mass, Vince and Kathleen departed for Reno with two of the grandchildren, where they would attend Vacation Bible School. I had the opportunity to visit with Matt and Teresa at their home, and that evening I had a dinner at Justin and Rebecca’s, joined by Sarah and Ilan and, of course, the four children. The chickens did not join us at table, but enjoyed the corn cobs. Shortly after my visit, by the way, Justin and Re welcomed their third child, Jesse, born on July 9.

On Monday morning I headed north for what I hoped would be, and what was, an uneventful two day’s drive.

My close encounter with the deer reminded me of the fortunate times in which we live and the privileged circumstances of my own life. I mentioned that after the collision, my car was still running. How many people in similar circumstances would have to keep driving, even with a car in a compromised mechanical condition? I was well insured, only having to pay the comprehensive deductible of $100. I also had the time for the return trip to Roseburg to pick up the car after repairs. What might have been an economic catastrophe for one person was a mere inconvenience for me.

For the first time in my travels I noticed something different at rest areas. We are accustomed to community and church groups that provide refreshments for donations. Now, you find people at rest areas in need. At one stop a man approached me. He needed money for gas. I was inclined to be a little less skeptical, a little more sympathetic, and a little more generous.

(Father Pautler is Judicial Vicar and Chancellor of the Spokane Diocese.)

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