Sunday, May 10, 2015

Love – The Sign of Peace

This morning, after Mass at Saint Robert’s, one of our parishioners gently reminded me that I was overdue for a posting here when she simply said, “I look forward to reading your blog.” I promised her that she was right, and that I was planning one for this week.  There may still be one later in the week, but then this afternoon happened in an extraordinary, grace filled way.

Over the years, I have been fortunate and blessed to participate in many spectacular liturgies. I was on the Parkway in Philadelphia for Pope St. John Paul II, and in Yankee Stadium for Pope Benedict XVI. As a deacon, I have assisted at Masses with cardinals and bishops. I have assisted at Masses in four different cathedrals. As a musician and choir member, I played at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, and I sang for Mother Teresa in Trenton. I have been blessed, but never quite like today.

As I anticipate my ordination to the priesthood in just a few weeks, I've been speaking with my brother, a priest in Philadelphia, about finding a chance to once more – one last time – to assist him as deacon. We did that today.

In a hospital room, with no vestments.

Wearing facial masks and gloves, while instruments and filtration equipment buzzed in the background of our Dad’s isolation room.

There was no music, just my brother celebrating the Eucharist, me beside him as deacon, and the congregation consisted of one of my sisters, one of my nephews, and my Mom and Dad. Mass was interrupted, just before the Offertory, by a wonderful and apologetic nurse who had come in to give Dad some pain medication, some insulin, and to check his vital signs.

In his brief homily comments on this Sixth Sunday of Easter (1 John 4:7-10, John 15:9-17), my brother mentioned that ultimately, God’s message comes down to love, and we have our parents, my Mom and Dad, to thank for that example of how to love. We listened to the surprisingly strong responses of my Dad to every prayer throughout; when we approached the Communion Rite I invited, “Let us offer to one another a sign of peace." As if it had been rehearsed or choreographed, we each removed our masks to kiss Dad, and each other. Mom and Dad were separated by the hospital bed, but would not be denied, as Mom stretched across those few feet while Dad reached out, they touched finger tips, then she blew him a kiss. No arthritis, tenuous balance nor hospital apparatus could separate their touch, and that soft kiss reflected the love of their nearly 64 years of marriage.

Truly, the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, and that faith is founded on love, nurtured by love, and completed in the communion of Jesus’ love for us.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom and Dad; peace be with you both.

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