"I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of the Lord..."
"...than to dwell in the tents of the wicked." (from Psalm 84)
This weekend, for the third year in a row, I'll be working for an annual Catholic convention
that meets in a hotel near Dulles Airport.
I'm the sacristan for this convention, and I wear the title proudly. I gather whatever materials are needed to erect and operate the chapel at the convention, from vestments to candlesticks. I arrange for young men to serve the priest, a gentleman who serves as master of ceremonies, and in some cases, the schola cantorum that sings in the choir. I also see to the needs of the priests who celebrate the daily and Sunday Masses. In return, I have my own room at the hotel, bill my meals to the room, have access to the indoor pool, and get to hob-nob with people I normally don't party with. Oh, and when it's over, I am handed an honorarium in the form of a check, which never hurts.
It's a hectic weekend when I'm there, but I often have the privilege of meeting people who inspire me in some way. I'm usually free to come and go when my business is done. But last year I had the chance to help an older and infirm priest say a private Requiem Mass in his room. It was an intimate experience, helping him keep his place in the ancient Latin text that was used, and watching the sun brighten his face as he moved his fingers over the Sacred Elements, reciting the ancient words used by Christ Himself: "This is my Body..." "This is the cup of my Blood..."
Not only that, but I get to dress up in a custom-tailored cassock with surplice. (Okay, my mother hemmed it for me. What of it?)
My days have been unsettling of late. While work has not been particularly demanding this week, I have had a variety of personal affairs that must be settled before the year is out. My social circle has been changing over the year, a rather sad development in many ways. But when God closes a door, he opens a window -- something I've managed to notice.
I went to Parents' Night at my son's high school. He's a senior this year. His teachers couldn't say enough good things about him. I found that encouraging. Paul and I drove to McDonald's afterwards, and engaged in a discussion of philosophy, one of the subjects he's studying. While I was impressed by the teacher of that class, I have to question that a public high school is the ideal place to study philosophy, especially from a Catholic perspective. So my son has agreed to let me tutor him in a separate course of study
, including a series of recorded lectures and an accompanying textbook.
There is also my own life to consider. With Paul nearly emancipated, I look around at my little apartment, in the basement of a single-family dwelling. I have been content with the arrangement up until now, but for the last thirteen years, ever since my marriage ended, all I have done is live in basement apartments. I don't care for high-rise apartment buildings, as they bear little resemblance to a home, and the neighbors are adamant to remain strangers. I have thought of moving to Baltimore, a city which is within commuting distance of DC, and is more like a real place, not this supposed center of power where everybody is so damned important.
I was there in the late spring, in the Fells Point neighborhood, when I saw just what I wanted: a little rowhouse, a three-level, two bedroom with den and one bath, on a quiet side street. My friend Bonita remembered the place, having grown up down the street from it, back when it was a Polish neighborhood. (It still is, sort of.) I talked to the owner. For the rent and deposit he was asking, I said I'd just as soon buy it in a year or two. He seemed open to that possibility. So I got his contact information, and promised to call on him same time next year, or the year after. Depending on how high the water rose during Isabel, I believe I could be very happy there. I could provide a room for guests, including my son, should he ever decide to "return to the nest." At least he'll have one where he can
And so it goes. I might be making reports over the weekend, as time permits. Stay tuned...