Monday, February 15, 2010


In the days of knights and knaves a herald was a pretty privileged fellow. His task was to travel from area to area and record the heraldry or coats of arms of all he could find. This made him indispensible in time of war as there tended not to be very large armies all in the same uniform but bunches of small armies – kings with their knights for example – fighting together. Who could tell who from whom? Who knew how to identify the dead? The herald.

Because of this he was allowed to travel freely. He could even go into enemy camps and it was assumed that whatever he saw was under the seal (presumably) and so traveled unmolested. He saw more in his day than most people in his world.

Priesthood can be something a kin to that. You are privileged to see a lot. You might be in a religious order that travels the world. Or you might be a diocesan priest (such as myself) and see more of your corner of the world than most people. Some of it great, some of it – shall we say – educational.

I had a study in stark contrast this past week. As you know Akron is under a lot of snow and it is pretty cold out. One night found me sitting in my car, engine running and the defrost keeping the windows clear, in a part of town I had not been in yet. It is a bit difficult to get to. You would not accidently end up here. It was not until later that I realized that I was still in the parish boundaries. (Note to self: Drive this area when the weather is better.) The man who had been sitting next to me in this modest residential area had just received a coat that was brought out to him and so wanted to take the coat he was wearing and give it back to the man from whom he borrowed it.

The roads here had not been well cleared of snow and cars slid around on the hill on which we were parked and I asked my guardian angel to consider protecting us from crunching bumpers.

Just a couple of days before I had been where the sun was shining, the evidence of which could be seen in the slightest tan on my arms. It was too cold to go swimming in the ocean. But I discovered by accident that the pool at the house where I was standing was heated! I stuck my toe in and it was like bath water.

“Are you going swimming?” my host asked.

“Your pool is heated!?”


So I put on my swim suit and jumped in the water and swam laps for a while feeling the sun on my back and looked at the blurry figure of palm trees through streams of water when I would raise my head to take a breath.

The man came back into the car. We were waiting for the police to escort us into the house from which he was banned so that he might pick up his things. They said that they would be right there, but the driving conditions were poor and who knows how many accidents and other problems with which they had to deal. I am sure we were pretty low on the priority list and we sat there for quite some time. We had made a number of phone calls and my phone was almost dead. A call was made to the parochial vicar to warn my next meeting that I would be late.

We called the person from whom we were trying to retrieve his belongings and the person agreed to let a third party bring the things out to the end of the driveway so that I could pick them up. She was being very kind considering.

After my swim I walked into the main house. The walk to the rooms in which I had been installed was quite a distance but at least I was no longer getting lost on my walk there. My hosts are so very kind and accommodating. I am not lacking for anything. I take a shower and then go out on the screened in porch and stretch out and contemplate the reading for the Mass later in the day. I drift off in the plush of the lounger hearing the gentle breeze of rustling the leaves.

The trunk and the back seat are full. “Where are we taking this?”

“Father, I don’t know.”

“I asked you to have a plan when I came out here and you told me that you did. I have to get back to the parish. I have a bunch of people waiting on me and I am already going to be late.”

“What do you want me to say? I’m homeless now.”

What DO I want him to say? What should I say? As it is the parish is full to overflowing. I am already holding the life possessions of someone in need in storage and that person is crying out for more space which just doesn’t exist. Every inch of the place is in use and we could easily use a whole other building just to house what is going on now. “Do you have a place to stay tonight?”


“I will drop you off there and then I’ll take your things to the parish.”

“I’ll come by and sort through the things tomorrow.”


We have Mass in the dining room. There are a good number of guests seated around the large table. The homily is about sin and virtue and have a good discussion about it afterwards. Then we move to the living room. It only takes the slightest of exaggerations to say that this room is about the size of the house in which I grew up. Someone plays the piano while we have earnest discussions about fasting and praying. These people get it. They know that they are privileged and empowered and that this comes with responsibility. I don’t have to hope. I know that each of the people gathered will try to do something tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow to try to relieve the hardships of this world. And I admit that I enjoyed talking about it under a cathedral ceiling.

I drop the man off at a corner by his request. I zip as quickly as possible back to the rectory. The people I am to meet are already arriving. The bags of clothes will have to wait in my car until later. We gather in the “club room” of the rectory. Old fashioned wood paneling on the walls, a large fireplace, and worn, but serviceable furniture pulled into a circle for the purposes of the evening. The meeting is how to perform their ministry better.


Anonymous said...

bravo father--i'm so glad to know your ministry includes stories such as this---however, i know you didn't let us in on this story to be praised--but to further encourage all of us more fortunate ones to get off our you know whats and DO SOMETHING---thank you--n.

Cracked Pot said...

Touching, thought-provoking and beautifully written. Thanks, Father.

MJ said...

Great post!! A lot of food for thought. And right before Lent no less. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving hmmmm!!!