Gulag Dispatch #3: Re-opening and Pure Pain

We last gathered for Sunday Mass on March 15.

Since then, the teenagers have had growth spurts and gotten taller. The babies have fleshed-out and gotten beefier. Men have grown beards, shaved them, and grown them again. Some young people have graduated from school via Zoom.

We decided on April 19 that we would weep together for joy when we could finally have public Mass again. Like the Israelites, who had languished in Babylonian captivity, finally returning to Jerusalem.

After all, this Christianity thing: it really does require our coming together. For the Holy Sacrifice. Our souls get frayed at the edges without the Mass. We lose our peace, our anchor, our air.

This Sunday the long-awaited moment will come.

It will be awkward. With screening questions at the door, spacing in the pew, sanitizing like mad. The tears of joy will get the mandatory mask all wet. The normal rhythms of Sunday Mass will not sound. It will feel like religion in a doctor’s office.

But we will have Mass again. The captives will return to Zion, with Alleluias.

I won’t be there.

Words fail me, to describe the pain. May I borrow the plaints of William Shakespeare’s Lucrece?


Öèôðîâàÿ ðåïðîäóêöèÿ íàõîäèòñÿ â èíòåðíåò-ìóçåå
Lucretia by Paolo Veronese

I alone must sit and pine,

Seasoning the earth with showers of silver brine,

Mingling my talk with tears, my grief with groans,

Poor wasting monuments of lasting moans.


O Opportunity, thou murder’st troth;

Thou foul abettor! thou notorious bawd!

Thou plantest scandal and displacest laud:

Thou ravisher, thou traitor, thou false thief,

Thy honey turns to gall, thy joy to grief!


When wilt thou be the humble suppliant’s friend,

And bring him where his suit may be obtain’d?

When wilt thou sort an hour great strifes to end?

Or free that soul which wretchedness hath chain’d?

Give physic to the sick, ease to the pain’d?


Time’s glory is to calm contending kings,

To unmask falsehood and bring truth to light,

To stamp the seal of time in aged things,

To wake the morn and sentinel the night,

To wrong the wronger till he render right,


Why work’st thou mischief in thy pilgrimage,

Unless thou couldst return to make amends?

One poor retiring minute in an age

Would purchase thee a thousand thousand friends…


Out, idle words, servants to shallow fools!

Unprofitable sounds, weak arbitrators!

Busy yourselves in skill-contending schools;

Debate where leisure serves with dull debaters;

To trembling clients be you mediators.


In vain I spurn at my confirm’d despite:

This helpless smoke of words doth me no right.

This is how painfully I will miss welcoming my people back to church.

I will celebrate Mass. The suspension of my priestly faculties does not deprive me of that privilege; I simply must celebrate privately.

So the sacred mysteries will unite us, even though I won’t be there to share the tears of joy, after so long an exile.

Pure pain comes our way sometimes. We cling to Christ, in His Church.

We need Him. And we need Her, too. We need His grace more than air. And we breathe His grace like air, at Holy Mass, in church.


19 thoughts on “Gulag Dispatch #3: Re-opening and Pure Pain

  1. Dearest Father Mark – We can not know the deep pain you feel as your life truly has been given to Our Lord and you have been subjected to harsh and unbearable cruelty. We will feel pain and tears of heat as we sit in our pews wanting you for our celebrant. Dear God Almighty we miss you. You taught us well to revere our Lord the Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary – we will do you proud for Our Lord. God Bless your entire being and soul it is so well deserved .

  2. Our hearts will hurt and our eyes will weep with sorrow because you are not there as priest.

  3. I have written on your behalf and I am praying for your restoration. My heart breaks for you.

  4. There are no words! We share the burden of your pain, but I bet it doesn’t really feel like it as you continue your solitary vigil!

  5. I can’t express the way I feel. We all love you Father Mark. Thoughts and prayers to you. Hope to see you soon.

  6. Father, I believe an unexpected and unanticipated joy will come from this trial and you will feel closer to the God you serve without having compromised the sacred promise you made to Him many years ago. I continue to pray for you and the Bishop.

    1. Not sure I was ‘complaining, ‘ exactly, but I appreciate the question.

      I tried to make peace, and the ultimate outcome was the bishop sending locksmiths to lock me out of my house.

  7. Father Mark belongs to the two parishes! He must return in there, the Bishop from our point of view, is not a loving human being, like he says he is.
    He, the Bishop , should review some things together with Father Mark, if he expect ” respect” from us Parishioners. Is never too late to change, and for Knestout to become a better person, and everything return for all of us, like used to be and like should Be. 🙏🏼 Amen.

  8. Father Mark, even in your absence, you set the mood for the worship service by giving us reasons to be grateful for your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly.

  9. I. Ache more than I can ever explain
    I. Miss everyone and cannot abide what. has. happened. To my church.

  10. Father Mark, I will match you tear for tear. When you consecrated the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Precious Savior I truly saw Jesus con celebrating. It will not be the same until you are back in your rightful place. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  11. Fr. White,

    Yeah, you’re complaining. And, no, you really didn’t make an attempt to work it out with your bishop because you don’t do that by disobeying him. It’s sad that you are so blinded that you can’t see what you did is wrong and you really deserve to be locked out. Maybe if you could humble yourself enough to see another’s point of view, you wouldn’t be in this mess, but this mess is yours and entirely self-induced. Don’t delude yourself to think otherwise.

    1. Can’t agree with you on any of your points. To me they seem strangely detached from reality. Especially the irony of you lecturing me on a website that would not even exist, if I took your advice.

      But I thank you for taking the time and trouble to try to advise me, nonetheless.

  12. At first, I could have some sympathy for the Bishop.I erroneously thought his silence was because of his Christian charity for Fr. White. But as I peeled the onion, I came now see there was absolutely nothing in your blogs that would go against faith , morals or would be considered blasphemous. The bright and cleansing sunlight of truth must be cast on the entire molestation affair so the faithful should not suffer the hypocrisy of a heirarchy supposedly entrusted with good morals and ethics.
    Your will,Lord, not my will.

  13. Father Mark,
    Just want you to know that Mom and I are praying for you daily. We hope when this is resolved, you will be back in your churches with the congregation that loves you. At that time, we will come to one of your Masses. In the meantime, please feel free to visit us in Roanoke.
    With love, Darlene and Camille

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