I talked to my travel agent this week to check on a return trip to New Zealand. It looks like there’s a spot for me in mid-January. I can’t wait to return. I’ll be away from Putnam County for ten days. Ten days goes so fast so I want to do as many fun things as possible. The country has so much to offer like mountains, beaches, hiking and biking, wineries, cafes and cows. New Zealand is known for its natural beauty – I may not know where to start.
But I do know where to start, and that is with all the people I miss. As a parish priest of small parishes, you get to know people pretty quickly. I’m not going back just to see one of the world’s most beautiful countries. The warmth of the people is calling.
This weekend I’ll canoe with a group of high school seniors from our church. I had to check out the conditions of the river on Tuesday to make sure everything was good for the kids later in the week. On the trip down the mighty Blanchard River, we saw lots of birds (including a bald eagle), a raccoon and squirrels, fish jumping into our boat and just the calm of leaves falling from the trees above the river. We hope to offer the kids a day of beauty and calm away from texting and cell phones.
Putnam County has a lot to offer. Some refer to it as God’s Country.
Last weekend, people from all over came back to Kalida for Pioneer Days. It was a nice weekend, with tons of people coming back to Putnam County for all the best it has to offer. The parade route was filled, as was the downtown square. As I drove our church float, it was a nice feeling to see all the people joined on a glorious day.
People from New Zealand ask me what Putnam County offers. I could tell them about the eagle on The Blanchard, the rich heritage of the people and its beautiful churches and the flat, productive farmland, but I would rather tell them about what happens at Pioneer Days: people gathering for friendship.
During Pioneer Days, the offer of a hand of friendship was offered hundreds, maybe thousands of times. Many times the offer came with the offer of a beer – it seems the German thing to do. Ever since I was shot when I was eight years old, my stomach can’t do certain foods and beverages. I can’t do apple juice, Hawaiian punch, Sunkist Orange or beer . It is easy for me to say no to this offer of liquid hospitality and to be able to tell the difference between the offer of friendship and the offer of a beer.
It is not just a weak stomach that makes me say no to the beer, either. I do worry that sometimes our young people can’t distinguish between the offerings. Somehow beer, hospitality and friendship fused together in this community. With my stomach injury I said no to the one offer and yes to the other offer quite easily. But our young people and others who want to avoid alcohol may find it difficult becuase they don’t want to reject the offer of hospitality and friendship.
In New Zealand the offer of hospitality also included a drink: usually a hot beverage of tea, coffee, milo (hot chocolate) or hot water. In this German community the welcome comes out, “Want a beer?” Translation: “It’s good to see you, welcome to our home.”
This area offers so much. Just like New Zealand, the greatest gift is the gift of its people. The kindness, hospitality and friendship keep people coming back. When people from New Zealand ask what the area offers, I tell them to come and meet the people. They offer the best the world can give.
It’s Pioneer Days in Kalida and it will be a busy weekend. I’ll be working with the Bingo booth, Duck Races, flipping social burgers, calling square dances and most of all enjoying the food and atmosphere.
When I was young, church festivals and fairs were tough to attend because I did not have money for a lot of extras. That meant I had to be careful of how I spent my quarters, dimes and pennies(yes, I am old). I thought to myself of how neat it would be to run away with the circus, so to speak.
I’d be surrounded by cotton candy, taffy and parades all the time. I think I was secretly called to be a carnival person rather than a priest. As a young person I was looking for the sweet life, and that meant cotton candy. My mom always said that too much cotton candy would make my teeth fall out.
Either my mom was telling me stories, I didn’t eat enough to make my teeth fall out or there was a lesson my mom was trying to teach me. I’m banking on the latter. Life isn’t always a sweet carnival. There is real food that must be eaten sometime. Sweets are fine for short intervals but will I really grow without substance?
I believe this lesson goes not only for the body but for the whole person. To be a whole person there will be things on our plate that might not be the sweetest but may bethe best for us. Sacrifice and hard work are hard to swallow but may help us grow more than selfishness and laziness.
Mom always said our teeth would fall out if we had too many sweets. Mom made sure our teeth didn’t fall out due to proper eating habits at the table and in life. I am better for it and smile with my own teeth.
I believe we want a sweet life for our kids and for ourselves. Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the full. When I see the kids here I smile and want the best for them.
Today, I don’t think they have to run away to the circus to be filled with sweet things. The circus is here. As a nation and a community we have been blessed with many sweet things. The challenge for parents and our community is to help the kids keep their teeth and to smile because they have a full life.
And yes, I will have some cotton candy this weekend. I’ll also work the booths to keep our community strong.
In the spirit of Pioneer, what are you most looking forward to in this weekend’s festivities?
Hi to all you bloggers. After a week off, I’m ready to get back in the saddle. Last week, I kind of bucked and kicked a bit, but now I’m settled in again. After a tough week, sometimes it is nice to settle back into something comfortable and familiar, even on a spiritual nature.
For many people, the Sunday Mass is a comfort from life’s adventurous ride. The familiar prayers with familiar people praising a familiar God brings peace to the close of a hectic week, and begins the new week with the hope of promised blessings.
I love the Mass. Even though I get scared every time I have to preach,I enjoy the blessings of the Lord with great people. Even in a big church like St. Michael’s I see everyone and everything. I pray for families who have shared stories of life and death with me. I pray for parents with little ones who make it hard to pray. I pray with joy as I see newlyweds returning from honeymoons. Sometimes it is hard to pray because I’ve had a tough week, weekend or night, but the opportunity to celebrate Godly moments and God’s love with so many keeps me coming back.
In October, I will be talking about the Mass during the sermon time. I know that many people have questions about the Mass. If you could get those to me before I do my talks, I will try to answer some of them within the talks. It’s nice to be back in the saddle again.