Sunday, November 27, 2005

my first sunday in advent as a priest

So while presiding at Mass today, just after everyone’s received communion and just prior to the concluding prayer, I felt this incredible sense of hunger…that’s physical hunger.

It was lunchtime and suddenly the thought of lunch came over me. As this was the last scheduled Mass for me, I looked forward to the nice remnants of the leftover turkey from last Thursday’s dinner. Mmmm.

So, after the prayer, the announcements, the recessional, I was outside greeting parishioners as they exit. I am afraid I haven’t gotten the name thing down pat yet. It’s quite difficult to remember the names of folks whom one only sees once a week or even less than that sometimes. But that’s for another post.

Then a parishioner came up to me and told me her father is quite ill and asked if I could I come to her home where her parents are staying and visit him so as to give him communion. “Would I have to register?”

“No, you don’t have to register. I will be happy to see your father. I can see him tomorrow. Is that alright?”

“Father, can you see him now?”

I paused. Then……“Yes, I can.”

Then she adds that her father has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. She told the doctor not to tell him just yet, until tomorrow, his next appointment with him.

“Perhaps receiving communion will help prepare him for receiving the news tomorrow.”

I agreed. “I can also anoint him, if he would like that.”

She agreed and so off I go: “lunch can wait for a bit,” I thought.

I met her father. He walked in the living room weakly and shook my hand weakly. I was struck by his jaundiced color.

Then as I was about to begin the prayer of anointing, her father asks where I am from.

It turns out that he is from the same hometown as my great-grandparents (who passed away before I was born). In fact, he actually knew them and still remembers their names.

Well, that just amazed me. So, we spent about 15 minutes exchanging names and details just to make sure. And sure enough, they were neighbors of my great-grandparent and grandparents.

And his wife used to be my mom’s grade school teacher. Just amazing. Can’t wait to tell my mom that.

After the anointing and the communion, the conversation returned to my great-grandparents. And he described them so well and with some energy: quite amazing for a man who greeted me with a weak handshake.

As a consequence I got to hear a few family tidbits I didn’t previously know.

As I said my goodbyes I assured him of my continued prayers for him. He’s a very friendly gentleman, and I felt very sorry for him, and very sad, in light of the news he will receive tomorrow.

A visit which I had anticipated would only take about thirty to forty minutes turned out to be two happy hours.

Driving back to the rectory, I offered a brief prayer for him and I realized anew how truly small this world is.

Upon returning, I lie on my bed, stared at the ceiling, and didn’t feel like eating.

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