Last week we bid farewell to our priest and friend, Fr. James Smith, who has been transferred from our humble Traditional Latin Mass parish, St. Francis de Sales, to St. Lawrence in PA where he will serve as chaplain. We were able to offer our congratulations and give our goodbyes personally, and our hearts are filled with lasting gratitude for his role as a truly good shepherd not only at our church but to our family over the last three years.
We had only recently discovered and moved over to St. Francis de Sales when Fr. Smith arrived as assistant pastor. The momentous changes in our lives through the beauty, reverence, tradition, and graces availed by the 'Old' Mass were manifest so quickly, and Father's arrival has no little part to do with a wonderful transformation we were experiencing as Catholics, parents, and as we could see immediately, in the spiritual lives of our children. Fr. Smith promptly began The Guild of St. Stephen, a training group for boys who have received the sacrament of Holy Eucharist up to age 18 to serve on the altar. Our oldest son joined, with Dad in tow as a sort of chaperone, while our oldest daughter joined the church choir. Our son's attitude about altar serving changed dramatically. Where before there had been a seeming reluctance or regret, now there was a good-willed and positive commitment. It was as if he were caught afire, so to speak, with the steady flame and in a way that only real faith can kindle one's soul. And his attitude was catching. The effects upon the family on the whole were undeniable, and we all felt as though we had finally come home, though admittedly in a surprised way. How could this be happening, we wondered? At the same time, it was plainly clear that the richness of the Mass and the graces through the sacraments, so perfectly rendered by the good priests of our parish, and not least by Fr. Smith, were the answer.
Fr. Smith gladly accepted our invitation to come for dinner and to bless our house once we'd found our little farm. He performed an elaborate blessing ceremony of house and home, inside and out, with procession and prayers and all of us following his lead. In conversation, he was on that occasion (as he always was, and as it should be!) congenial, objective, firm, clarifying, heartwarming, inspiring, instructive. Fr. Smith has a gift for winning one over with his refreshing truthfulness about the way things are and about what it is we are actually called to do while living on this earth. The life of virtue and holiness is tangible under his care, and, Deo gratias, he facilitated many, countless graces in the life of our family in the relatively brief time he spent in the wilds of GA. In conversation, confession, direction, and most importantly, in offering the Most Holy Sacrament in the beautiful Traditional Latin Mass for us, he brought us many graces. He blessed our items and our persons. He fed our souls and enlightened our intellects, and encouraged us in times of trial - and joined us in devotions and celebrations, always a joyful companion. Our second oldest son soon joined his brother in the guild, and we have two more little boys looking forward, starry eyed indeed, to the day when they can join their older brothers on the altar. It is an honor to serve the priest and Our Lord - a humbling, serious, sacred privilege. And we are all glad.
Needless to say we will miss Fr. Smith but wish him very well on his way. We have no doubt we will see him in PA someday, and also have no doubt he will be a blessing to the beautiful church community of St. Lawrence there. Would that every family had a good priest to lead them all the time! We look to the Good Shepherd and thank Him for his gifts and graces and pray that He will continue to lead us as we strive to grow in ways that please Him and His Blessed Mother! Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, miserere nobis! Immaculate Heart of Mary, ora pro nobis! Our Lady of Fatima, ora pro nobis! St. Francis de Sales, ora pro nobis! Sts. Peter, Stephen, and Lawrence, ora pro nobis! Farewell, good Father, until we meet again!
On this little homestead our family aspires to work the land and hand on the Catholic Tradition, walking in wonder and learning to live by the fruits of our labor, in honor of Our Lady of Fatima, who guides us to Him.