Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Revisiting Older Relationships

I have changed the names of the pastor and the parish in this story; otherwise the names are correct and this actually happened.

 “Father Sean, over at St Mitch’s parish, is a wonderful pastor and person. I like him a lot and the way he celebrates Mass; and I think you would, too. We should go there some Saturday,” Loretta said.

“Fr Sean … is that Sean Adams?” my wife, Ellie, asked.” I used to know a Fr Sean Adams when I worked in campus ministry in the late seventies. Tall, dark, nice beard; very pastoral; handsome; socially progressive. A great guy.”

“That’s the one,” Loretta assured us.

Some time, maybe a long time, later, we spent a quiet Saturday afternoon at Loretta’s, listening to a CD of a lecture on a discipline called Centering Prayer. We were hungry, tired, ready for Mass. “We’ve wanted to attend a Mass said by Fr Sean for a while, and it’s starting in 20 minutes. St Mitch's is only 10 minutes from here. Why don’t we go?” asked Loretta.

“Sounds good, I’d like to see him again,” said Ellie.

“I'm in,” I added.

We’re sitting in one of the front rows of the church. “Too bad Fr Sean isn’t here,” Ellie whispers to Loretta.

Loretta looks quizzically, as if to ask, “Huh?”

Ellie motions to the elderly, balding, slightly paunchy priest who might have, in Ellie’s words, “been mistaken for Friar Tuck,” sitting in the first row waiting for the clock to strike, to begin Mass. “Too bad Fr Sean isn’t here … must be a substitute.”

Loretta dismisses her, “That IS Fr Sean.”

Ellie is amazed … she clearly would not have recognized him had he knocked on our front door and introduced himself. As Mass went on, she kept muttering to me, “Wow, he’s changed,” and, “I’d never recognize him.”

I was tempted to say, “Well, a lot can happen in thirty years,” but I kept such thoughts to myself. I did give her my best smirking, puzzled, shrugged shoulder, I don't get it, either non-verbal.

After the Lord’s Prayer, as is customary at a Catholic Mass, Fr Sean invited the community members to exchange some sign of peace with each other. As is not customary, Fr Sean then walked into the community and exchanged a greeting of peace with most everyone in the front rows. His exchange of greetings with Loretta was filled with mutual affection; his exchange of greetings with us was filled with hospitality.

When our greetings with him were finished, I said to Ellie, “Hmm, guess what: he didn’t recognize you, either.”

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