Things Old and New

I just got home from an Opus Dei evening of recollection at a church in Ann Arbor, led by a priest who drives up from South Bend. We have these recollections every couple of months, and they always draw several dozen men from around the area.

We begin with solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance on the altar, and then the priest leads us in a half-hour reflection. He is then available for 45 minutes or so for confessions, followed by a second reflection. Finally, we close with solemn benediction, and the Blessed Sacrament is returned to the tabernacle. All in all, these are wonderful events and bring considerable spiritual fruit to those who attend.

I am usually tapped to help serve the exposition and benediction (Homeschooled Farm Boy, who is an altar server at our parish, thinks it’s cool that Daddy is also an altar boy). Tonight, I managed the incense and another guy managed the humeral veil. But between the two of us, and the priest, everyone managed to forget to bring the book with the priest’s prayers. He did have a song sheet which included most of what he needed, so we were fine during exposition and the first part of benediction. But only as he knelt to recite the divine praises did we realize we were missing something very important. We all looked around, but the book was nowhere to be seen.

As I retreated to one of the pews, to look to see if the misalette had what we needed, the priest began digging in his pocket. And produced…a Palm Pilot! As he removed the stylus and began tapping through various screens, he muttered, “I know it’s in here.” Sure enough, about a minute later (it felt more like ten minutes, with the whole congregation looking on), he cleared his throat and began, “Blessed be God…”

And so we went all the way through the divine praises, finishing with “Blessed be God in His angels and in His saints.” The priest returned the PDA to his pocket, and we all began singing “Holy God We Praise Thy Name” as he reposed the Blessed Sacrament.

And as we processed off the altar, I couldn’t help smiling at the wonderful mix of “things old and new” I’d just observed: solemn exposition and benediction, with bells and incense and wonderful Latin hymns, led by a priest dressed in a cope and humeral veil — and packing a PDA with the divine praises as an emergency backup. You simply can’t not love that. He only could’ve topped it by connecting to the internet and downloading the prayers as he recited them.

Back in the sacristy, I commented that I’d never before seen a priest lead benediction with a PDA. He chuckled and replied, “And I’ve never done it before. I’m just glad I have so much stuff on there.”

I told him I agreed. And made a silent resolution to make sure I double-check that we have the Handbook of Prayers book at the altar next time.

Fairest Love

Mrs Yeoman Farmer and I have never been much into Valentine’s Day. Apart from the total over-commercialization, the whole thing seems to be a spectacularly overdone commoditization of sex and relationships. It’s like those annoying eHarmony.com radio and TV ads that promise to find your “soulmate.” The hype associated with V-Day promises much more than can ever be delivered in a single day. We protest this by simply opting out.

While St. Valentine may no longer be on the calendar of Catholic saints, there is an optional feast that can be celebrated today: Our Lady of Fair Love. Being in Urbana to deliver a couple of political science guest lectures today, I spent last night at the Opus Dei-run student residence just off campus at the U of I. At the Mass this morning in the house’s oratory, we used the votive Mass of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, commemorating Our Lady of Fair Love. It was a wonderful, and truly fitting, way to “take back” February 14th and restore to it a sense of its true meaning.

February 14th also has other special significance for the Prelature of Opus Dei: it is the anniversary of the founding of the women’s apostolate (1930s), and the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross (1940s). As a big feast day, we had flowers on the altar, the finest liturgical vessels, and all six candles burning. Like I said a moment ago, it was absolutely wonderful way to “take this day back” from the popular culture and remember the true nature of love that God intended for the human race. Not obsessing about finding chocolates, or jewelry, or restaurant reservations, or suggestive lingere. Rather, fairest love is about giving of oneself completely, for others, and Mary is the most perfect human example of that.

I’m not sure yet what time I’ll make it home to Michigan tonight. Regardless, there won’t be any V-Day parties. My biggest hope is that I arrive in time to help put the kids to bed. That’s the kind of love MYF and I want to celebrate today.