Friday, March 15, 2013

For a few years now, I've responded to the parish's coordinator of religious education's request for local families to host overnight the young adults who lead the 8th grade confirmation class retreat. Until yesterday, my offer had been always declined.

I reported to the church hall around 9pm last night for pick-up, coming directly from a Bible study in Marlboro. The retreat ran from 4 until 9 and I knew my assigned pair would not be immediately ready. In fact, the retreat ran a little over time. I waited on the stairs outside the religious education office, watching parents come and teens go. Finally, the two boys were ready and introduced themselves. We loaded their travel bags and, not unexpectedly, a guitar case. They looked tired and I knew they'd be leaving early the next morning.

We had to shift around the kids' sleeping arrangements a bit to make room and Jeff had them all quietly tucked away when we arrived. So quiet that I wondered if the young men believed I have a husband and four kids.

I'd been assured that they would not need dinner, having eaten with the teens during the retreat. I expected they'd have laundry and they did. My husband had uncharacteristically began a load of his heavy jeans and sweaters while I was out and the cycle had nine minutes remaining. I directed the boys upstairs with their luggage to their room and pointed out the bathroom on the main upstairs hall. They struggled to carry up everything in a single trip, scuffing the wall and white baseboard trim as they weaved back and forth under their luggage's weight. After some reflection, they thought it better to pick up their wheeled luggage rather than run the wheels over the wood stairs as they'd done to the stone stairs at the front porch.

They hurried back down without settling in first, following not a script but nonetheless, a program, asking for a cup of cold water in order to steer me to the kitchen. I thought of Christ's words1, thinking maybe the boys flatter themselves a bit. But I appreciated the opportunity. One of them was from Columbus, OH and the other, from somewhere in Texas. The Texan wanted to learn music so that, as a youth minister (did he say "pastor?"), he could also lead worship. "You know, with praise songs." The Ohioan said his brother had attended UDayton, as had mine. I told him I lived out there, well, it's been twenty years now.

When I accepted his invitation to pray, Patrick explained the formula: he'd open, we'd share something we were grateful for that day and make a request. He said he'd then close us, including an "Our Father." The boys crossed themselves and I followed suit. We each made our prayers and then broke to the next task. The washing machine was finished, so I moved my husband's heavy clothes to the dryer and began the boys' clothes. One of them went up for a shower and the other said he was too tired for much of anything else. I checked on the kids, put away some laundry and returned to the laundry room to find a new pile of clothes in front of the washing machine. So after Jeff's clothes finished, I moved the boys' wet clothes on and started a second load. It would have been nice to have everything together in one, but maybe I just started it too quickly. They weren't ready.

In the morning, they were up at 5:45. I imagine they had some "quiet time" to observe. They came down to breakfast and prayed before they ate, crossing themselves with heads bowed. I gave them privacy in their prayers but I may have been the intended audience.

See, I was a young evangelical once, wanting nothing more than for everyone I met to be inspired to fall on their knees before Jesus. So, I've been on the "other side," looking for ways to evangelize stodgy, so-called Christians set in their cynical ways. I know the tactics of Christian outreach. So I wasn't surprised. I fully expected them to try to bless me during their visit, turn the tables. It's the Christian way. As a CCD catechist for ten years, we were always trying to "evangelize the parents," as well. Lord knows, they need it.

I returned them to the parish parking lot a little after 7 this morning. Their good-byes and thank-yous were skimpy and I thought they were maybe not looking forward to a day on the road. My son discovered the note one of them had left. It referenced Jesus' words about giving a cup of cold water to one of his little ones. And cited 1 John 4:4 which I had to look up because I couldn't place it off the top of my head. My phone was handy so I checked it there. I think he meant primarily the final portion of the verse (1 John 4:4B, then): "because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." Let's hope so.

I shouldn't doubt these boys were actual Catholics. The one from Ohio seemed to be. He signed the note, "to Jesus through Mary," a trendy way to convey a Catholic sensibility. The one from Texas I wasn't so sure. Then again, Catholics from the western part of the country are really different from us East Coast Catholics. Especially in Minnesota! But, it's none of my business whether they're actual Catholics, really. I only briefly flirted with the idea of serving bacon for breakfast to see whether they refused it. They made an impression, regardless of how genuine their faith and practice in reality, so in that respect, they succeeded.
1 Matthew 10:42 - "And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (NIV)

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Sunday Snippets - a Catholic carnival hosted by RAnn at "This That and the Other Thing."

My post this week: How about a Roman holiday next week?

Click to join sunday_snippets
What would a pilgrimage to Rome be like right now? The local Catholic radio station has advertised one for months, starting Monday:

In November, I returned from a European pilgrimage that got off to a rocky start due to Hurricane Sandy. So I'm very sympathetic to pilgrimages not going as planned. This one seems like a slightly bigger deal, though. Rome could be exciting right now or it could be a major headache. Activities like touring the Sistine Chapel or gaining a papal blessing seem quite improbable. A good tour company can salvage the time.

Would travel insurance reimburse for this unforeseen impact of Benedict's resignation on Roman pilgrimages? In any event, I'll be thinking of these folks over the coming week. I invite you to do the same.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

I've been sick the past week and slept record amounts on Friday. You know how it is when you sleep a ton: dreams and reality mingle. I've largely ignored the papal resignation, or so I thought. But my subconscious couldn't let it go. I dreamed I was in an intimate classroom setting with a handful of other students. A religious sister was reciting for us some Greek poetry - don't ask me what, I don't know any poetry in Greek - and she began singing the stanzas in a wonderful tune. When she finished, I thought with appreciation, "Yes, that's exactly how it was meant to be sung."

While this was happening, Benedict joined the classroom, without entourage or commotion. It wasn't that he was expected, just everyone was being "cool" about his joining us. He was stately, but not towering. Staunchly quiet. He was there to appreciate the sister's presentation of Greek verse as well and a mutual respect trumped everything else.

The class recessed for a short break and I tried really hard to capture a picture on my phone of me with Benedict to post to Facebook. I would ask his permission only as a last resort. But the dream moved on without any success in that regard.

Ultimately, the sense the dream gave me was that Benedict would be closer to the church in retirement than he had been as its leader. Is that possible? We'll see, but that's the conclusion I came to when I woke up.