Fr. Schalk explains that his understanding of celibacy has not changed since seminary. “It is still a difficult cross that continues to lead me into a deeper relationship with Christ.”
But he describes it as a tremendous sacrifice that is worth making and that it “makes perfect sense intellectually as it is an imitation of Christ who laid down his life to serve. My time and energy is for intimacy with the Lord and this is part of my walk with the Lord.”
Fr. Schalk talks about the positive role seminary played in his understanding of celibacy. “Seminary forced me to look celibacy squarely in the eye and make my peace with it.”
“The sacrifice is worth it as the joy from the intimacy with Christ is ultimately fulfilling.”
Fr. Schalk emphasizes the role of daily prayer in the life of the priest. “For me, the Liturgy of the Hours and the Rosary is the foundation and is non-negotiable.”
He prays the Rosary at different times throughout the day. A priest’s schedule is flexible and unpredictable, so Fr. Schalk tries to be creative with his prayer time.
“Prayer is important intimacy with the Lord. There is not always time for a full holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, so you pray a half hour here and 15 minutes there.”
Fr. Schalk does an examination of conscious every evening. He says that his greatest challenge is keeping first things first. “I depend heavily on Our Lady and saints and spiritual warriors for assistance.”
Fr. Schalk was pleased to spend some time with some of his family members at Christmas. He and his family adjusted to his schedule with Masses and parish responsibilities.
“I drove to Cleveland to spend December 26th – one day and not overnight – with my brother who lives there, my parents who drove up from Tennessee, and my other brother who came in from Chicago. This is not my whole family, but some of my family.”
He was so grateful that these family members made a tremendous effort to see him. “Because this season is so busy, it was difficult to make it happen, but it was worth the effort to spend that day with my family.”
“My family sacrificed, but it meant a lot to have their support and they continue to support me.”
Fr. Schalk spent a lot of time in prayer and preparation for the many Christmas season homilies. “I felt an obligation to the people to deliver a homily worthy of the celebration of the birth of Christ.”
He even took the time to prepare different homilies for different masses. For example, he delivered one homily for the Children’s Mass and another for Midnight Mass; he was pleased to have the privilege of celebrating Midnight Mass thanks to the kindness of his pastor, Fr. Black.
Fr. Schalk really enjoyed the Advent season and looks forward to next year as he will know what to expect.
“I celebrated the Feast of the Holy Family in Spanish. It was edifying and uplifting. And we had a potluck afterward in the school commons.”
Fr. Schalk spent New Year’s Eve with Fr. Black and some parish families. They celebrated Mass and then shared in the festivities — playing games and Euchre “and there must have been 18 small children running around. It was so holy; you could just feel the holiness.”
He also was able to visit a convent in Nashville on New Year’s Day with some women who are discerning a call to religious life. He described it as a retreat, “we celebrated Mass on the Marian feast– it was so restful spending that time with the Dominican Sisters who were embracing their vocation.”
Many priests enjoy Ordinary Time and look forward to it in preparation for the Advent and Lenten seasons.
“During the time between Advent and Lent I was drawn back into the honeymoon [of the priesthood] and the cross was lightened.”
Fr. Schalk realizes Lent is a busy time with priests hearing confessions at penance services all over the diocese and with many other parish events and activities.
Before Lent began, Fr. Schalk began discerning how he was called to sanctity through almsgiving and fasting.
Fr. Schalk also went to Rome on a mission trip for 9 days during Lent with 12 kids from Ohio Wesleyan University. His group stayed with the Missionaries of Charity. Prior to the trip, he prepared “emotionally, practically, and spiritually so that the channels of grace were open.”