Praised be Jesus Christ! I wish you a very happy Feast of Epiphany! I am actually in New Orleans with my classmates as we celebrate our 20th year of priesthood together. As you know, we get together annually and such fraternity has been a tremendous gift in my life. As Psalm 133 puts it, “How good and how pleasant it is when brothers live in unity.” Because this is a milestone year for us (20 is a nice round number), we decided to meet in New Orleans for three days. We had Mass at the Cathedral with the Archbishop and had time to visit the Shrine of Blessed Francis Seelos, a Redemptorist priest who was beatified while I was still a student in Rome. A few of my classmates are with us for the first time in many years and more than ever we derive courage and hope from our time together. For Sunday Mass we concelebrated at Saint Stephen’s, where my classmate Monsignor Christopher Nalty is the pastor. If you look it up on the Internet you’ll see that it’s a beautiful old church that they recently renovated. After Mass most of us will drive up to the Tree Farm near Brewton, Alabama where we’ve spent the past 20 years reuniting. Last year I posted a couple of pictures in the bulletin of the bunk house and the chapel. It will be a shorter stay this year because of the time in New Orleans, but any time spent out there is extremely refreshing. It’s still outside of cell phone reception and the Wifi at the upper house is spotty at best. Being “off the grid” for a few days is a blessing and if you’ve never experienced it, I highly recommend it. A personal milestone will happen for me on Tuesday, January 8th. That day I’ll offer Mass for the 10,000th time! When I was young I met an older priest who had a Mass register and he had recorded every Mass that he ever celebrated. I was so impressed that I decided to do the same thing if I ever became a priest. And so I too can tell you a little bit about every Mass I’ve ever offered since my ordination on June 26th of 1999. For example, I have the principal intentions of each Mass, as well as the location and the name of the parish. Some of the Masses were offered in Italian, Latin, and Spanish. These days, most are offered with a decidedly Central Wisconsin accent. Some years I offered just over 400 Masses. Since arriving in Marshfield the average is up to over 600 per year. During the years I was a high school chaplain I lagged way behind my classmates who had already become pastors. My suspicion is that I’ll be one of the first to get to 10,000 Masses... and while there is no special award for such things, I am grateful to God for each and every Mass I ever offered. In faith, we know that one Mass has the power to save every single soul God ever made – the Mass is Christ’s Paschal victory over sin and death. I remember an older priest who wondered out loud, “Who am I to do this, to offer the Mass?” Many times I feel the same way: humbled, in awe, and full of gratitude for all that God has done in my life. My 10,000th Mass will providentially be with my classmates in the beautiful little chapel of the Immaculate Conception at the Tree Farm – we’ve been together since we arrived in Rome in 1995 and it will be wonderful to share this with them. I know my heart will be full of gratitude to God for the priesthood, which brings Jesus to us in the Eucharist. I will be thinking of you that day too, as your prayers and support (and timely constructive criticism, given out of love) have helped me more than you know. Please join me in thanking God, who asks only that we model our life on the mystery of His Son’s Cross. And may God, who has begun this good work in me and my classmates, bring it to fulfillment day by day!
May God guide you by the light of His truth, so that your hearts may be free to love generously!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin