It is a great joy and blessing to be a monk and a priest. I enjoy the benefits of common prayer, community life, and I am able to take pastoral assignments, particularly on the weekend. Several weeks ago, I saw on the calendar that I would be assigned for three weekend Masses at St. Gregory Barbarigo parish in Maryville, Missouri. Saturday Mass at 5:00pm and Masses at 8:00 and 10:30am. Maryville in late-September. Immediately I thought of doing something I have wanted to do for a long time: Bike to my parish assignment.
I told Prior Daniel that I would not be needing a car for my weekend assignment. He gave me a quizzical look. “I’m biking,” I announced with great excitement. One less car.
The forecast looked promising, showing sunny and 75 on Sunday, but 70 and scattered storms on Saturday. However, when Saturday came around, it cleared up perfectly by the afternoon. I knew that I would have to take a backpack for a change of clothes. Cycling shorts, bike cleats, and a colorful jersey are simply not suitable ministry attire. Plus, I planned to stay overnight in the rectory. I packed my backpack with black slacks, a clergy shirt, black shoes, toiletries, Clif bars, and my homily.
Seminarian Chris Davis, also an avid cyclist, agreed to ride with me into town. We had made the trip several times before. Chris said he had to pick up a few items at Wal-Mart anyhow. We fought a terrible head-wind on the 18 mile trip to the church, rolling along the country roads and chatting as we pedaled. It took right around one hour to get there, the wind was pretty brutal. It was also a new experience carrying more weight on my back. I arrived 25 minutes before I had to hear confessions, just enough time to get cleaned up.
The weekend was fantastic, the people were kind and hospitable- God is good. I was able to eat supper on Saturday and brunch on Sunday with parishioners. I had spent the summer of 2012 serving in the parish when I was a deacon, so I got to know many of the parishioners. I have returned several times since then, and it is always filled with great blessings.
On Sunday after the last Mass, the parish had their annual carnival, “Family Fun Fest.” Many of the Northwest Missouri State football players were present to help with the games, which went over very well with the kids. There was everything from a giant inflatable obstacle course to horse rides to food and beverages. I visited with parishioners for a while, but knew I would have to get back on the road. The wind was blowing strong again like yesterday, but this time it was a great tailwind! I cruised down Highway 71 going about 25 mph.
Fr. Samuel, the President-Rector of Conception Seminary College and my monastic confrere, is also a fan of cycling. He is a bit more of a “casual cyclist”, and he definitely enjoys getting outside on a beautiful day. I told him I would meet him out on the road at 2:00 on Sunday afternoon.
We headed to the nearby town of Barnard. It is a 23 mile round trip from the Abbey, but since I came in from Maryville, my odometer ended up showing just over 40 miles for the afternoon. It was a great weekend of ministry and exercise. Indeed, God is good.
Above: The last hill, with the Abbey towers welcoming us home.