I got up at 5:00 a.m. today, left the house before 6:30 a.m., and spent something like eight hours on the road altogether, driving to and from the liturgy seminar that comprises the tail end of the annual Oktoberfest at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Kewanee, Illinois. It was worth the early hour and the driving time, even though it also meant that I had to give my son Nicholai a "rain check" on celebrating his birthday with him. He turned fourteen today, but we'll do something special to celebrate together on Friday, the commemoration of St. Ignatius of Antioch, for whom our Nicholai Martin Ignatius is named in part.
Anyway, October this year is pretty much a festival of conferences for me, especially if I count the St. Michael's Liturgical Conference on the cusp of the month (the 29th of September). I'm loving every minute of it, as everything so far has been great. I would have been pleased to attend the entire Oktoberfest in Kewanee, but it simply wasn't feasible for me to be there on Sunday or Monday. No matter, today's liturgy seminar was marvelous. I got to see and spend time with several of my favorite people, and to meet or become better acquainted with a number of other brothers in the pastoral office. Such opportunities are a source of real joy and great comfort to me, and I never tire of them.
The liturgy seminar dealt primarily with the concept and prospect of "canon law" for the good ordering of the Church and Ministry. Those who follow the Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds will already be up to speed on what this is about. The simple point is to encourage and support one another, and to discipline ourselves, respectively, in good and faithful practices that serve the preaching of the Gospel, the administration of the Sacraments, the shepherding of the flock, and the corporate life of the Church on earth. These are worthwhile things to discuss and debate, in any case, and I remain convinced that there are contributions to be made. It was for the sake of such efforts that I spent half my day driving to and fro, and I don't regret it. Our conversation was most helpful because it engaged us in a genuine wrestling with matters of substance, and with one another on the basis of our common confession.
What we're aiming at would not be a law imposed on others; for we have no authority to do any such thing. Rather, we are interested in voluntarily challenging ourselves to be clearly and consistently faithful in our pastoral practice; because it is meet and right so to do, and because we would also thereby set a good example and provide good encouragement to our colleagues. How this might work itself out, and what it may end up looking like, all remains yet to be seen, but today's liturgy seminar was a fruitful step on the way.
After lunch, Father Eckardt led the group forward into a somewhat different, more specific topic: the eucharistic rites of the Lutheran Service Book in comparison with the historic Roman Canon of the Mass and other traditional forms of eucharistic praying. Ah, yes, well, anyone who knows me can attest that these are matters of great interest to me (on several counts, actually). Alas, then, Father Eckardt got me started on this discussion, and I'm afraid I probably did more than my fair share of the talking after that point. I suppose that those who know me well would say that isn't so unusual, anyway. I hope the other brethren didn't mind. I was grateful for the privilege of crashing their party on this third day, and I really reveled in their company.