by Father Mark Goldasich
This past weekend, my parishioners got a rare treat at the Masses. Pat Buttram put in a surprise appearance.
In case the name doesn’t ring an immediate bell, Buttram played Mr. Haney on the old TV comedy “Green Acres.” His visit was even more remarkable since he died back in 1994.
Actually, Buttram — or at least his signature singsongy voice — was being channeled through me as I battled a bout of laryngitis. That didn’t stop me from celebrating Masses, but it was truly a struggle.
It bothers me a lot to lose my voice. And when that happens on a weekend, it’s a huge embarrassment to me. I tried to make light of it by saying at the beginning of Mass that this was my “pony” voice; that is, I was a little “hoarse.”
But my embarrassment was nothing compared to how hard it was for people in the congregation to listen to my croaking out the words.
The one positive for parishioners was that I had an extremely short homily!
My laryngitis highlighted, though, how tough it is for me to not be in control. And that’s a great lesson to be aware of as we journey through Lent.
Each of our Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving invites us to surrender something. With more prayer, we lose control of discretionary time. In fasting, we give up some of our favorite foods or activities. And in almsgiving, we funnel resources that we would have used for ourselves over to someone else.
Lent reminds me of how glibly I often take the words of the Our Father.
How many times have I prayed “thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” but still clung to the idea of “my kingdom come, my will be done”?
Maybe part of it is being an only child, but I’ve always found it hard to ask for help from others. Why? Because that means I’ve surrendered control to someone else; I’ve said that I couldn’t handle things on my own.
But our Christian faith directs us to put our lives into the hands of a God who loves us. Back in 2005, Catherine Donaldson-Evans shared this story on “The Good News of 2005” on FoxNews.com:
Letting go of their children and watching them make their own way in the world is tough for any parent. For Tracinda Foxe, however, letting go came much too early in her baby’s life.
In December 2005, Tracinda’s apartment building in the Bronx caught fire. With flames engulfing her third-floor bedroom, she was forced to contemplate the unthinkable. As smoke billowed around her, Tracinda leaned out the window with her baby. Then she let go of her child.
The infant tumbled three stories down into the hands of Felix Vazquez, who performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the baby until paramedics arrived.
Moments later, Tracinda was rescued from her apartment by firefighters and reunited with her child. Neither was seriously injured.
Asked later about the painful decision to drop her baby from the window, she said, “I prayed that someone would catch him and save his life. I said, ‘God, please save my son.’ And He did.” (Found in “1001 Illustrations That Connect,” edited by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof.)
Surrendering my voice to the Lord seems pretty minor compared with what Tracinda had to do. It’s also a mere inconvenience compared to what Liliane Lemani had to endure. The harrowing story of this refugee from the Congo is found on pages 8 and 9 of this issue.
What a deep faith this woman had as her life unraveled. First, enduring and witnessing the brutality of rebels in her own country, then fleeing to safety with her family with almost nothing, and then living in a refugee camp for 12 years!
After finally being resettled in Kansas — half a world away in distance and practically on another planet in terms of culture — Liliane taught me what it means to say that “God had a purpose for my life.”
Surrendering control to the Lord certainly doesn’t mean that we just sit back. Liliane learned how to sew, mastered three languages and was relentless in asking the camp authorities to move her family to a better life.
Pressing forward confidently when we don’t see the full picture is what faith is all about.
By the third Mass this past weekend, my voice was marginally better, and I grew more comfortable in playing the card the Lord had dealt me. And who knows? If they do a revival of “Green Acres” one day, I just might have a shot at playing Mr. Haney.