Monday, March 2, 2009


Last Tuesday the no longer named Fr. O and I ran an errand together. He was stopping by just long enough to tackle our little excursion and then he was to be off. As we scooted about I told him that I shared with you his flopped attempt at going by the moniker Fr. O. We tried “Fr. J” and that seemed to lack a certain ring too. Later in the week I found out from his brother that his initials are actually JP. Now that has a ring to it. Maybe we can make him JP Three.

On our way back to the rectory I offered the, for now named, Fr. J a cup of coffee at a local establishment since we were going to be done early. “No,” he said, “Today is my day for running errands and I want to get them all done.” That was fine and thought perhaps I could get a few phone calls and Emails taken care of before the next thing on my own agenda. That is when I had the strange sensation one gets when you prepare yourself for a turn but the car keeps going straight as if you were slipping on an icy road, the car continuing on its path though the tires are pointed off to the right.

“You do realize that you just passed my driveway?”

“Yes. I changed my mind. Coffee sounds good. Where do you want to go?”

Just that week I had been reading the back of our bulletin and noticed that there is only one coffee house there. “To the Nervous Dog!” I instructed him. The Nervous Dog is in a thoroughly uninspiring building but once inside the four walls of the coffee house’s cube it is quite nice. As we were walking it occurred to me that something interesting always seems to happen in this particular place. I don’t know that it is this place exactly but that interesting things always seemed to happen. And they did this day also.

We made our coffee order and I asked our server to say thank you to the manager who advertises in our bulletin. A young man standing next to me who seemed to be waiting for one of those complicated drinks that take five minutes to make introduced himself to me and asked from which parish I came. “I’m from Saint Sebastian too!” he exclaimed though it turned out he had not cast a shadow in a pew in some years. I offered to take him over to a private section of the place and hear his confession so he could come to Mass that very weekend and receive Communion but he declined. Nobody every takes me up on that offer.

Settling ourselves into some nice club chairs in the window from where the clock could be seen we chatted and carefully sipped our too hot coffee waiting for it to cool down. “Excuse me.” We looked up. It was the young man from the counter. “Would you mind if I asked you a question? I mean, how often do you get a priest so handy to ask questions to?”

He asked his question which was of no minor concern which soon required the acquiring of another chair. A few minutes more and one of his compatriots joined us. “I’m afraid of priests,” she informed us, “but I have some questions too.” The nature of her questions were such that I could understand why she might think she should be concerned about bringing things up to a couple of priests. But if a person is open to conversation there is no need to be defensive on either side. We stated clearly that we would give and defend the Catholic position as clearly as we knew how (and believe me the questions were weighty and difficult) but we would also be respectful if they disagreed. A great discussion then took place but it did trump our plans for getting busy work done that day. It was a great exchange of information, fellowship, and community.

By and large people know the teachings of the Catholic Church. Well, they think they do. They know the “Don’t”s; a bit less the “Do”s, and almost never the “Whys.” Without the “Do”s and the “Why”s, the “Don’t”s can seem very arid and depressing. The only difficulty is the “Don’t”s take about half a second to teach, the other two categories take an unexpected afternoon at a coffee shop. But even if we have not brought more people into practicing the faith by it, there is some good will (in both directions) and some clearing of some misconceptions. When with their peers a topic of Church teaching comes up, they will be able to say, “Actually, I talked to some priests and what they told us was . . .”

Of course, we too now have a better idea of from where they are coming. That will help us in our ministry.


Adoro said...

Yeah...I used to be afraid of priests, too. ;-)

Got over that, but I totally understand where she was coming from!

I hope they come back to Mass, and maybe call you for Confession.

Warren said...

What warms my heart is that you offered him the opportunity. It doesn't get any easier to receive grace than that, I think. :-)

Thank you so much for sharing this story, it is not something that those of us in the pews get to hear enough about.


uncle jim said...

more divine appointments

stay flexible [scheduling wise, not truth wise]

feed the hungry

Anonymous said...

WOW, you talk about getting some errands done, that's a big one! Check off--saving souls for the day.

You and Fr. J should continue your "Theology on Caffeine" once a month. What a beautiful way to clear up some misunderstandings and save some souls!!

Adoro said...

Um...if you asked me if I wanted to go to confession...esp. today...I'd say...YES!

(havin' a VERY rough day...)

Odysseus said...

-Nobody ever takes me up on that offer.-

Nobody? That's depressing.

Please don't stop asking, though.

Adoro said...

Actually, had I been asked that question back when I was away from the Church, it would have TOTALLY freaked me out and fed into my irrationality. I was TERRIFIED especially that I'd meet a priest and the first thing he'd do is realize how awful I was and want me to go to Confession.

But there are others who would recognize a moment of grace and go with it.

I'm in a different place now, so if that were asked of me, I might well say yes.

Michelle said...

I'm a regular penitent and still might not have taken you up on the offer - a little time to prepare is a good thing for that sacrament.

It's a kind offer...