The body of Christ...
I've been grumpy all week. Miserably grumpy. I'm not sure why, and that in itself makes me grumpy. I think all Mom's go through this, the end of the school year, and o'my we have a whole summer staring at one another. No matter how much of a rock star we are, the inevitable, "I'm bored," will roll off someone's tongue and not one mother among us takes it well. That on top of the broken washing machine that destroyed my favorite sweater. Why not on my children's disgusting socks? Grrrr. You can feel my angst.
But, enough about me. A few weeks ago while at church the Franciscan that celebrated our mass was someone I didn't know. While in the church office, I asked his name. Turns out that the priest was Father Kenan Osborne. He is a religious scholar, former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, author of dozens of books and articles. As far as theologians go, he is a rock star.
I have a secret passion. I read religious scholarly articles and books for fun. I know it's one of my quirks. I love the gossip rag Daily Mail out of London too. I take Kim Kardashian with almost as much interest as I do the Council of Nicaea which was held in 325. What can I say, I'm complicated. Back to the scholarly stuff. I love the footnotes, the references to obscure councils and documents, the whole bit. I will read on any faith. Recently I devoured a fascinating treatise on Islam. Amazing, authored by a divinity scholar from Harvard.
As a post Vatican II child of the church; I have delighted in reading the radical ideas from some of my faith's most intelligent minds. I have also delighted in reading many documents that are far from my ideological view that I dive deeper to understand their ideas and truth. If you can construct a good argument, I want to hear your points. It only makes my truth more concrete and my arguments better. So to say I'm a religious scholar geek would be an understatement.
So today while we were rolling into mass in our usual Team Fergie hot messiness. The lovely Father Kenan stopped Norah. He spoke directly to her, asking her her name, how old she was and who she brought to mass. Norah then turned and introduced me. I gulped big and geek-ed out. Telling Fr. Kenan that I was reading his book on Sacramental Theology and had so many questions. He then explained that he had a new book out on 50 years since Vatican II. I smiled like I was in a candy store. I explained that I would score the book from Amazon today, and then he touched my soul. He told me to read the book and then to give him a call so that we could discuss the book. ARE YOU FLIPPING KIDDING ME!?!?!
Here's why Fr. Kenan touches my soul. He is one of those folks who when you look at him you see light, that shining beacon. He draws you in. You want to hear every story, every detail. Every thought in his head. I want to see the God he sees because that God is filled with so much love you see the light hitting the ground around him.
We have been attending mass in the Franciscan's chapel, its where the priests have their private prayers. It is not a chapel that is normally open to the public, but as parishioners they offer a family mass. And this mass is a hot mess. Kids falling out of pews, talking, singing, carrying their stuffed animals and sippy cups. It's noisy, in a beautiful faith filled messy way. I have always loved family mass, but I will admit that when my Beauties were little... we got some hairy eyeballs during the mass. Which always hurt me. We have all been there, and for some of us it felt like we would never get past those years. My children were good in Church, because if they weren't we were in a cry room or outside. If only we could have gone to this church then. This mass is for these beautiful children.
The children are the greeters, take up the collections, are the ushers too!
But what touched me most was the consecration. The most sacred part of the mass in our tradition is at the consecration when the bread becomes Christ's body and blood. The priest holds the bread and wine, sharing old and sacred prayers. It's always moving, but today it made me ugly cry. In 99% of Catholic Churches you are on your knees, watching a priest perform the ritual. It's solemn, formal and set apart from the congregation.
But, today it was different: Fr. Kenan called all the children forward around the altar and he asked the children to extend their hand over the bread and wine during consecration. So Norah was one of the oldest standing at the altar. Siblings holding younger hands, some stuffed animals were in one hand while the other was extended, in all a dozen or more children aged 2 to 9. Picture it, all these little heads that were just peeking over the edge of the altar and standing on tip-toes to be witnesses to faith. If the chapel had been in total darkness, these little faces would have been able to light the entire church. It took my breath away; I was witness, participant and present. These little hands holding up, praying and sharing love and Fr. Kenan sharing what we have been doing for thousands of years, breaking of the bread and wine.
Father Kenan, in his 80's, world renowned author, retired "in-residence", could be resting on his laurels, but there he is, up on the altar, surrounded by children, bringing light into the world.
It is a moment when you stop in your tracks and say. Yep this is why I'm all in. I believe and I'm so grateful for my faith.
It's meeting the face of God in others.
Today in-spite of my grumpiness, in-spite of my ruined sweater, I witnessed my daughter and the other children, shine the light of faith on me. I was also reminded that the love and kindness of one person can touch so many.
Thank you Father Kenan Osborne.
I'm ordering a book from amazon and leaving my grumpy at the door of the chapel.
I saw the face of God in a bunch of people today... and that makes this Sunday fantastic.
Peace be with you,