Michael Sarker, C.S.C. - The Happy PriestWednesday, February 22, 2012
The man with the eternal smile on his face, just for an instant became serious and said, “Alex I want to show you my scars. I almost died five times.” He raised the sleeves of his shirt and showed me the results of the accidents, all on the roads of Bangladesh which all happened while he was in buses, cars, trucks or a motorcycle. The Brothers of Holy Cross, who never suffer fools later told me, Father Michael C. Starker, C.S.C. does not drive here in Austin because he does not have a driver’s license. I must suppose, then, that if the Reverend Michael Starker ever drove in his home in Bangladesh he must have done it without a license!
His seriousness now changed to one of wonder when he told me, “I was born dumb and my mother was told I would not survive. I could not utter a sound.”
On Friday February 10, Father Michael, who officiated Holy Mass in the chapel of St. Joseph Hall, St. Mark’s Gospel read the Gospel.
Father Michael’s reading was gingerly and his accent unpredictable in a delightful way. It was even more interesting for me because I went to Mass twice a day while in Austin. I always heard the Gospel read twice, the second time by Father Rick Wilkinson. The take was different. It gave me the opportunity to think of every word.
Father Michael, who is at St. Edward’s University to get a masters in counseling, explained that he spoke many languages and he has yet to sort out some of the accents. I asked him how he could hold that happy smile coming from a country that to me seems to be a modern version of the biblical Pharaoh’s Egypt as Bangladesh is constantly feeling the effects of earthquakes, famines, floods, droughts and plagues. Still smiling he said, “This is why I want to be able to council.”
While taking his picture by the window, overlooking the garden at St. Joseph Hall on Sunday, Father Michael pointed at a bush and said, “Look Alex, snow!” I did not want to discourage him and lessen his delight but I had to correct him and told him that they were icicles. With my hand and with my fingers I made the motion of fluttering snow flakes and said, “This is snow.”
A few hours later, and alas I was not with Father Michael, snow did indeed fall over Austin and Father Michael indeed did see it. I would have given anything to have seen his face.
It is coincidentally appropriate that the first Gospel that Father Michael read (see below) had all to do with a man who could not speak.
St. Mark 7:31-37
31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.[a] 32There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.
33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
At the dinner table I asked Father Michael who had stressed the idea of the sense of wonder that those who witnessed Christ’s miracle why it was that Christ had warned the cured man not to tell anybody.
A very serious Father Michael, without using the term negative psychology, told me that this increased the chances of gaining followers to Christ’s cause.
Father Rick differed in his explanation telling me that Christ, the man, not yet certain of his Divinity may have been confused at His ability to cure and simply did not want to draw any more attention to it.
Whichever it was I am happy to report that my life is just a bit better after having met Father Michael, the happy priest.