Well, I arrived at the seminary on Friday morning. I left Red Boiling Springs Thursday just before noon, and spent the night in a Motel 6 in Slidell, LA before driving the last half hour or so Friday morning. I had to spend the night so close just because I had to arrive at the seminary during business hours to get in. Now, though, I have a key, and I know my way around, so I can come and go as I please – although I don’t do much coming or going.
When I arrived, I had a nice meeting with Father Jose, the rector, and he showed me around some of the facilities and introduced me to a few of the men who we met on the way. He let me know that I will need to decide if I would like to attend the retreat (more on that later) and set me to get my room and unpack. The bulk of the remainder of my Friday was spent unloading and unpacking. I did make a run to Wal-Mart for some supplies that I’d forgotten. It was then that I realized that I’m fairly certain that driving in New Orleans is a previously unknown level of hell. Perhaps around the 17th. Also, I’m not sure how ANYONE found their way around this city before the days of in-car GPS systems. I had one, and I got lost — TWICE!
Saturday saw continued unpacking and the feast of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. Since she is the patroness of New Orleans and the Archdiocese, that raised the feast to a solemnity in this diocese. A few of the men and I went to the Mass for the feast celebrated by the Archbishop at the Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. That was the first event that I’ve actually been able to dress up as a seminarian! I attended that mass in my cassock and surplice, and, even though they didn’t need me to serve, I got to process in and sit with the clergy.
Overnight was slightly less exciting. One of the men’s cars in the parking lot decided that it would be funny to have it’s car alarm go off every few minutes all night. I’m not actually exaggerating here. Until a few minutes ago when Paul, one of my new friends here at the seminary, found someone with keys to that car (the owner is off in Oklahoma), it was still going off every 20 or 30 minutes since yesterday evening (it’s now 4pm Sunday). Since that car was right below my window, that didn’t lead to the best nights sleep.
This morning, I awoke at 5 because I had to be showered and ready to go to serve at a Extraordinary Form Missa Cantata (Latin sung Mass, but not high Mass) this morning. Paul, Andre (Metro), and Matthew had invited me to join them at it. When I wandered down to the refectory (dining room) for breakfast, Archbishop Hughes, one of the retired archbishops for the Archdiocese who lives in the seminary was also getting his coffee and preparing his breakfast. It is going to take me a bit to get used to the idea of wandering down to breakfast and saying “Good morning, Archbishop.” As an aside, I’ve been told that since he is also an avid racquetball player – a game that I enjoy, although, as with most sports, I’m ok at best – I should ask him to play. I was warned that I should expect to be thoroughly and handily beaten at that game.
The Missa Cantata was an experience. It was my first time serving as a seminarian and my first time serving at a Latin Mass and only my third time ever attending a Latin Mass. Luckily, Andre (Metro) was helpful in cueing me when I needed to move and where I needed to be. I served as an acolyte and candle-bearer for the Mass. The liturgy was beautiful as always, but there was one hitch – my clothes were trying to fall off. I’ve continued to lose some weight since I ordered my cassock, so my fascia (belt/sash/band cincture) doesn’t fit. I was trying to secure it with safety pins. Unfortunately, the first time that we genuflected, the safety pins popped open, so it was only a matter of time. While I was holding the candle during the gospel, I carefully positioned one of my hands on my fascia to hold it in place. In the end, I had to remove the fascia and leave it in the sacristy so that I could serve the rest of Mass.
That’s all for this one. Next week, I believe I will be on a silent retreat preached by Archbishop Hughes. I will (hopefully) be back with some reflections from the retreat thereafter.