By Ted Furlow
I am sitting in the dinette, drinking my morning tea and looking out my window to the world, recovering from the Cruise Director’s summer safari to Oregon. Since having left our trailer in Oregon, we just returned from the first leg of her vacation trifecta - three weeks camping and travelling, and we will be on the road again on the second leg back to Oregon to see the eclipse on August 21st.
By the time you read this, we will be on the third leg to reclaim our trailer from storage and blow off three weeks driving back to SoCal.
We love the travel and the unique experiences. It is our version of Jack Kerouac’s best seller, “On the Road.” Kerouac was a 1950’s Beat Generation author of dubious moral fiber, and his book was an unforgettable coming of age experience for me in high school. However, I expect that the only resemblance of our adventures to Kerouac’s will be the road itself… well, at least that’s what I tell the Cruise Director.
On our second day of leg one, while counting the cars on Interstate 5, looking for America, and hoping to find the next rest stop, we rolled into the agri-town of Orland, California. A bustling burg of 7,500 folks, Orland is the largest city in Glenn County. The biggest attraction for us, next to the huge feed store, was Ace Hardware. Terri and I like to browse and poke through a small town Ace, they are an interesting mix of Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, and the source of all local information. Besides, they’re air conditioned, and it was 103 degrees that day in Orland. While we lingered and loitered, I asked about the Catholic church in town, and they sent us down the street and around the corner to St. Dominic’s. It is a beautiful little church and school that would fit nicely into our Diocese of San Bernardino. I am always encouraged to see how the faith grows in even the smallest of towns, but unfortunately, they only offer Mass on the weekend and were gone by then.
Saturday of that week we arrived in Coos Bay for five days of camping and gambling at the Mill Casino. Casino RV parks are reasonable, clean, safe, have cheap food, and great service. At the casino, in a financial work of mercy, we contributed to the Coquille Tribal Economic Development Fund. If St. Paul was right, and the wages of sin are death, then the wages of gambling are clearly lighter wallets.
While in Coos Bay Terri and I attended Mass at St. Monica’s, a parish alive with ministry and activity. It is a wonderfully maintained 100-year-old church, and a mainstay socially and spiritually in the Coos Bay community. We attended the Saturday evening service, and the young priest who presided said Mass with a broken ankle and sprained thumb. He had suffered a fall on a family outing, but he gamely limped around the altar like a trooper, offering the Mass with one hand.
He had a marvelous sense of self-deprecating humor, and it was clear that the congregation had a great affection for him. By the time Mass ended, Terri and I felt the same way. Father gave a thematic homily that was the last in a series of six. He spoke eloquently about the inherent connection of sacrament and mission. He reminded us that each sacrament brings a mission to us as the body of Christ, and with that mission comes the grace which calls us, and sustains us to be a visible sign of His presence. He explained that the term “Mass” is a derivative of the Latin form of mission - which meant to send. He reminded us that we are all sent to go forth by the sacraments to proclaim and live the good news of Jesus Christ. His presence that Sunday, painfully working through his injuries to serve his community, gave testimony to his personal commitment to the mission of Holy Orders. It was a thoughtful homily that has stayed with both of us.
It was a great stop, and we will return to Coos Bay and St. Monica’s again. It is a convenient gateway to the southern Oregon coast; besides, they have a huge Ace Hardware right on the main drag.
Ted Furlow is a retired former Director of Pastoral Planning for the Diocese of San Bernardino and continues in marriage preparation ministry in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.