A Happy and Blessed Veteran’s Day to all veterans and those now serving in our armed forces. We appreciate all you do to protect and to defend our selves and our way of life.
On this holiday weekend I would like to reflect on the seldom discussed topic of philately, or in common parlance, stamp collecting. I began, as many did, collecting stamps when I was in grade school. One of the first stamps I remember, probably because it was the first I actually purchased as a collector, was an Austrian stamp featuring St. Michael the Archangel. As many Austrian stamps of the time, it was beautifully engraved. Indeed, it won the prize for the most beautiful stamp of the year from some organization of philatelists (stamp collectors). I have always been drawn to stamps that are engraved. They are so pretty, and look much richer and more noble than a lot of US stamps. For a while, I collected stamps from Austria, Vatican City, Czechoslovakia and then the Czech Republic. Due to cost and time constraints, I now only collect Czech stamps.
I am proud of the fact that I got the Boy Scout merit badge for stamp collecting. I was never a very good Scout, as I was never good at following orders. However, I was one of the few in the St. Louis Council who earned the stamp collecting merit badge. It was kind of quirky and distinctive being one of only two Scouts to earn that badge that year in my council, and I kind of liked that.
Later, as a new priest serving at St. Nicholas Church in North Pole, Alaska, I joined the local stamp collectors club. Being newly ordained, I was still adjusting to the role of priest and all the expectations people put on you with that. Quite by accident, I discovered that at the Philately Club I was not there as “FATHER” Chuck, but as a collector of Vatican City and Austrian stamps. I was not pegged in the role of “priest.” I have always thought that was very healthy for me to have another way of relating to others than just as a PRIEST. It takes a while to get comfortable with those expectations and people’s hang-ups and sometimes screwy ideas about priests. Having an outlet to be me in a different way was helpful for me, and I owe that to stamps.
Being a philatelist gives one a certain different outlook. I despise mail meter machines. While St. Austin School has one, I won’t allow one in the parish. You will know I am gone when you start receiving metered mail from St. Austin parish!
I like receiving mail, especially when it has actual, honest stamps on it. Stamps can be very pretty, can commemorate important events, can teach us history, geography, and many other lessons. While not so fashionable, it can be fun. And stamp collecting is one of the blessings I am grateful for in my life. God bless!