[author’s note: From our time on deployment in Iraq.]
September 12, 2010
First, I thank all who have been sending me letters and packages. It has been busy the past few weeks due to me replacing a priest in Baghdad who is gone temporarily. Consequently the number of Masses that I have on a weekend is three on Saturday night and five on Sunday. Just like being at Cathedral, except at St. Mary’s you don’t have to put on a helmet and bullet proof vest wherever you go (come to think of it, you could, but it is not really necessary). So I have not been about to keep up my correspondence as I would like. Be that as it may, you are all in my prayers and Masses daily.
Many people continue to send us packages here in Iraq, but it is not really necessary anymore. We wind up sending a lot of stuff to Afghanistan. In fact, we are getting too much stuff. With the drawdown of troops here, we simply don’t have the need that we used to have. However, I am thankful for what people do send. In fact, let me cover a few of the more unusual items that I have received. Our fine parish nurse Kena sends me things on a regular basis, but her husband always throws in things like large clamps, tie down straps and the like. I first thought “what am I going to do with these?” Then, much to my surprise I found that I could use these implements and now can’t live without them. They also send a few good cigars, which are ALWAYS appreciated! (Note to youngsters reading this, all tobacco is bad for you whether you smoke it or chew it. There is no excuse for me smoking cigars and I’ll quit, eventually.) I find a cigar to be relaxing, so it is my one bad habit. (Isn’t it a violation of humility to say you have only one bad habit? I don’t think so. My last parish gave me a medal for being humble, and then took it away when I wore it.)
My favorite item received so far is a titanium spork. Yes, this is not a typo, a TITANIUM SPORK. Titanium being a light, extremely strong metal and a spork being a cross between a spoon and a fork. There is a fast food chain that has them, and I can’t use the name here, but it rhymes with “Taco Hell.” I carry it with me wherever I go. Just last week I was at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and of course had to be searched in order to enter. As I emptied my pockets out came the titanium spork. The Iraqi guard held it up and started laughing. He showed it to everyone else, Americans and Iraqi, and they all thought it was the funniest thing they had ever seen. Naturally I was offended, after all it was MY titanium spork and nothing to be laughed at. Is nothing sacred anymore? Not even a man’s titanium spork?
In the Gospel, the parable of the prodigal son [Lk15:1-32] reminds us that a Christian must always carry forgiveness. This should not be unusual or rare. Forgiveness must be part of what every Christian carries with him or her throughout the day and throughout life. Hatred, jealousy, greed, bigotry, sporks and the like should be rare; forgiveness—never.