On Saint Stephen's Day, and then again on Sunday, we were blessed at Saint Stephen's, Milwaukee, with a guest celebrant. Father Gary Schultz, pastor of two parishes in Iowa, Mount Calvary in Eagle Grove, and Immanuel in Rowan, happened to be in town for a few days, and so it worked out perfectly that he was able to cover a couple of days of our pastor's vacation. On Saturday Fr. Schultz celebrated our usual low Mass, and the next day the missa cantata. I had the honor of serving at both Masses, in the one case as server, and in the other as server and deacon. And so from my special vantage point of someone who is both a hearer of the Mass on the one hand, and one who sees the celebrant up close as it were on the other hand, I can say that we were blessed in manifold ways by Fr. Schultz' ministry among us this weekend.
First, Fr. Schultz knows the liturgy. Some might here think, who doesn't? Fair enough, but there are some who seem to have a certain instinct for it. They are not only competent, but also comfortable in the liturgist's skin. Gary Schultz is that kind of priest. This sort of ease with the traditional liturgy was manifest in a couple of ways. Saturday was, I think, his first ever low mass, and yet he said as nice a mass as can be expected from an Iowa West pastor. (Just joking.) Actually things went very smoothly. And on Sunday, now get this, he sang the Mass even though we had no musical accompaniment. Hearing a liturgy sung by some men could be painful, but not in this case. It was a very simple, yet beautifully celebrated Mass.
Second, Fr. Schultz is an excellent preacher. The preachers who hardly know how to give anything but hollow feel good sermons might be at a loss for what to do on Stephen's feast, with its account of the brutal murder of the Church's first martyr. Fr. Schultz was not at a loss for words, words which cut us down and then raised us up.
Third, Fr. Schultz is a churchman who has a heart for the Divine Office. Following Saint Benedict's advice, he prefers nothing to the Work of God. I don't know this because he told me; I know it because it shows in his preaching. The people who have Fr. Schultz for a pastor have someone who delights in the law of the Lord, and exercises himself in it as a matter of course, and this is a great blessing to them, more than they may know.
Thank you, Father Gary, for saying Mass for us, for your preaching, and for being a pastor with a genuine heart for Christ, His Word, and His Church.
P.S. I'm working an unusual 3rd shift tonight, so I hope this post is fairly coherent.
Blessed Childermas to all today.