By Michael and Margaret Masny, parents of Michael, Grade 12
Setting out on a chilly November morning, our family loaded into the Big Apple (our red, 15-passenger van) and plodded a course for Kansas to visit our son, Michael, whom we had not seen since August when he left for the senior trip to France, and to celebrate Saint Martin’s Day, a saint whom, until four years ago, we knew very little about.
The long journey was marked by prayer and fasting in joyful anticipation of the great feasting to come. After a brief but happy reunion with our growing, cheerful boy, the evening festivities began with a litany-laced procession outside in the near freezing air.
The first stop was to the bee hives in the traditional “telling of the bees,” a custom new to us. On important feasts the bees are given a little sweet taste, for as the song goes, we must tell the bees the story, or else they’ll fly away. It’s a bit of playful ceremony that tunes the imagination to the things beyond the norm.
Our procession guide was Saint Martin himself as Father Pillari lifted up a first-class relic of the school’s patron, leading us to a massive bonfire in the woods. A good fire indeed! The warmth provided made short work of the previously triumphant chill. Singing continued as the boys and families took turns kneeling on the cold ground in the light of the leaping flames to receive a blessing with the relic. The fire of Christ’s love chases away cold death and the remembrance of the great St. Martin gives us courage to stay the path and hope for Heaven, far from the sorrow of this life.
Returning to Theotokos Hall, through those mighty wooden doors, a new joy was felt unlike before. For now, we were ready to feast. And a great feast, indeed! Belloc once rhymed in a few short lines that “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there be laughter and good red wine.” We rejoice in God’s creation, and the handiwork of men who He desires join Him in making good things. The bread, salad, assorted dressings, meat, were all wonderful, made more wonderful knowing our son and his fellow seniors worked all day preparing. Each senior made his way from table to table, slicing meats of various animals into a silver tray, which was then passed from guest to guest at the table. Pig, lamb, chicken, duck, each had their unique flavors and texture, cooked to perfection in Mr. Macik’s ring of fire.
Laughter, song and good conversations about wood burning stoves filled the night. Wine flowed, toasts were made and we were reminded of what that solider of old had done. Or rather, what Christ offered to him and what he was willing to sacrifice to receive. What was offered was no less than the Love of Christ in the person of the beggar, and what was sacrificed was the noble soldier’s pride as he cut his cloak to share with the beggar. He lowered himself by doing this, making it possible for Our Lord, who played the role of beggar for Martin’s love, to give him all.
How we came to be apart of this Saint Martin’s family is not for us to fully grasp. Like all good things of God, it’s a gift freely given and does not require that we fully understand to enjoy it. Gratitude, the wise response to everything, must grow deeper in our hearts for Saint Martin’s, the people that make it possible, and the opportunity our sons have to be saints in this age of darkness.
We departed the prairie-land campus under a sea of stars, our imaginations flooded with possibilities. Would we find the beggar on the road? Would we have the courage to offer Him compassion? Or would we find that we are the one who begs for His Love and Mercy? In this pilgrim-life, called to play our role in the theo-drama of creation, no matter the twists and turns, ups and downs, we have absolute confidence in the hope of the supreme happy-ending.