Once upon a time: Keep cool and remain faithful

By Monsignor Xavier Mankel

Although there are some vestiges of the summers of yesteryear still around, the pace that you and I face June, July and August differs measurably from yesteryear. Refrigerated air-conditioning is partially responsible for this. No matter how hot the temperature, we work, worship and relax at home at about the same pace year-round.

Old-timers will remember Bishop William Adrian, DD, giving permission to forgo the Sunday homily when the weather got too hot (remember that there were no weekday homilies until Vatican II and the improvements in the manner in which we celebrate Mass). Pity those of yesteryear whose wedding was celebrated in 90-degree sanctuaries. Many of the girls in a wedding party fainted (and some boys did, too) because of the severe heat in the parish church. The degree of solemnity was sometimes curtailed.

Air-conditioning in automobiles and buses made trips bearable. The interstate highway system gets some of the credit, and rightly so, but AC should get credit, too. This is one reason why we should listen to the Holy Father and not waste energy. As simple a procedure as adjusting the thermostat when we’re going to be away for a few hours can help.

Many of us had an opportunity on Memorial Day to visit the graves of loved ones. Perhaps as we vacate to the places of origin, we can visit cemeteries where relatives and other friends are buried. We can do some things that do not take long, but will enhance our life, such as taking note of the condition of the cemetery. Is it truly a hallowed spot for our beloved dead? Do we have all the information (dates, full name, relationships) that a careful reading of tombstones can give us?

We can develop a veritable family tree from the information gathered on grave markers. Right here in Knoxville, I have relatives buried at Calvary, Greenwood, New Gray and Woodlawn cemeteries. I have visited those graves many times and come away learning more about those who have gone before.

Praying for our beloved dead is easier too when we visit their graves. Many a family history begins with a visit to a local cemetery. On our vacation, we might visit the graves of loved ones (or the churches where they were baptized, confirmed, married or ordained). The church in which we made our first holy Communion can bring back precious memories. Do we pray every day for those who received the body and blood of the Lord at the very Mass when we communicated for the first time?

In our own city, efforts are being made to beautify the graves, family plots and shrubs at Calvary Cemetery. The Mass celebrated there on Memorial Day and the annual Rosary Pilgrimage show that somebody cared.

There are many basilicas, shrines, churches and chapels that we might visit. Why not include such a visit in vacation plans? Many folks have a frustrating first look for graves. Perhaps a map of necessary roads, etc., would help.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has written a new encyclical letter about our home, the world. Such letters are addressed to the pope’s “venerable brothers” (fellow bishops), and they pass the contents on to us. We don’t have to wait. The encyclical is available through many sources. Get a copy and read it. Then you may enter into productive discussion about it. I find that, many times, self-styled “experts” haven’t read the material. Remember Humane Vitae? Many who debated it had read only one paragraph.

Congratulations to our newly ordained priests! The vineyard awaits you.

Monsignor Xavier Mankel is vicar general and historical archivist for the Diocese of Knoxville.

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