Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Moments of Grace


Image by Starzephyr

It was, indeed, a weekend of grace here at Holy Family Parish...

When I'm standing at the church doors at the end of each Mass, I sometimes think of myself as a flight attendant deplaning the passengers, "Thanks for flying Holy Family - come back and fly with us again!"

But sometimes, even often, it's in the fleeting, seconds-long encounters of saying goodbye to worshippers that the most extraordinary words are spoken and faith shared...

There's a couple I run into frequently in town. They've not been to Mass for some time and when we bump into each other that topic often comes up. I saw them earlier this week and was glad to hear from them that another parishioner had been encouraging them to come to church. They said they'd come this weekend... On Saturday afternoon at 4:55 the rain was heavy and drenching but when I glanced out the window as we formed the entrance procession I saw my friends coming up the stairs, wet and ready to pray! Just a quick hello to them on the way into the church and then great smiles and warm words on their way out after prayer... Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

After one of the Sunday morning liturgies a woman stops on her way past me after Mass and she's in tears - of joy! She mentions that she has been dealing with some difficult emotional issues and was deeply grateful for one of our general intercessions: For serenity and peace in the hearts of those who live with anxiety and depression, let us pray to the Lord... It meant so much to her to recognize her own needs in the prayers and to know that the whole community was praying for her... We pray that intercession every week - and I'm so glad we do... Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

A woman who hasn't been to church for many years came to the 7:30 Mass. I wasn't yet in the gathering room when she arrived but my deacon and pastoral associate greeted her and she mentioned she'd not been to church in a long time but that Fr. Fleming knew her son and she thought it might be time to come back. I didn't see her until I was at the doors at the end of Mass. I gave her a big hug and in a sentence or two she shared how much this time and prayer had meant to her... Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

At the end of one Mass, the next person about to shake my hand as she left was a wonderful woman who's been caring at home for her terminally ill husband. I've visited and prayed with them several times. To share in the love they have for each other and their abiding deep faith in God, has been a gift. As she took my hand she looked me in the eye, as she always does, and said, "Kevin went to heaven..." The beauty in her sad news was captured so well in the rhythm and rhyme of those four simple words. I hugged her and found my arms full of the strength that fills those whose faith cannot be overcome by anything, not even by death... She and Kevin have been preparing for some time for the day when he would leave on this journey to a destination they both know they'll one day share. "Kevin went to heaven..." Because he became a friend over the time I've known him, those words are hard for me to hear and yet, they reassure me that everything I teach and preach is deeply true and that the promise of faith is one to be deeply trusted... "Kevin went to heaven..." Rejoice that he is with God... pray for his dear wife, his children and grandchildren and his friends... And praise God from whom all blessings flow!

-ConcordPastor

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent thoughts of what can happen each day when we open ourselves to God's grace. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

St Edwards Blog said...

That is really nice - I loved reading every word of this.

Ironically, I got an email from an old friend today, a lapsed Catholic.

Her sister and brother-in-law are in Rome and are not very frequent church goers themselves, but to go at times.

They were in St Peter's and happened up a mass starting, so they stayed and had a grace-filled experience so profound that they called her in the US and woke her up to tell her about it. They experienced communion in a profound way.

So she emailed me and I could not help but smile and pray, as I can tell that she was touched.

As Annie Dillard so beautifully has written: "Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there."

Amen indeed.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful vignettes, Concord Pastor. They moved me.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing, it's absolutely beautiful. Your description of these as seconds-long encounters was striking. It's all about just "being there" for others.

Novo said...

Hearing your stories about parishioners brought tears to my eyes. I would say that these were the stories you heard but there are certainly many other graces felt in people's hearts having participated at Mass.

Novo

ConcordPastor said...

Nove: You are SO right - and I'm grateful you made the comment you did. I posted the stories I heard and was personally part of - who can know but the Lord what other moments of grace were present throughout the assembly of God's people!

Anonymous said...

Father Fleming.... sounds like a good day at work - a very good day indeed! amen. ROB