It’s raining cats and dogs here in Santiago. At least that’s what’s two people told me. That would explain all the critters we saw as we hiked through farms and towns.
I enjoy little serendipitous moments when they occur. Today, one did. Two nights ago, I was in Muxia where my hike had ended. I was walking along the waterfront admiring the great view of the bay. It was dusk and light was fading fast. A gentleman was standing nearby and we exchanged greetings. “Isn’t it a great view?” he exuded. I agreed it was, and since we both spoke English, we conversed. Turns out he was from Our Land. Actually, he’s from Ireland but it sure sounded like “our land.” Sure do love those Irish and Scottish accents. I introduced myself and he said his name was Mike.
Our conversation turned to occupations. Turns out he was a priest. He was actually Father Mike. He had the misfortune of having his money and passport stolen a few days previous. The passport was recovered. He remarked that he had some powerful friends that had helped recover it. Turns out when he reported it to the authorities in Santiago, he was put in touch with the powers that be at the Cathedral. He said he was invited to do the Mass in English back at the Cathedral when he returned to Santiago from Muxia.
Last night, after checking in at my monastery hotel, I saw a sign for an English mass at the Cathedral at 10:30. We sat there in the large cathedral until 10:45 and no mass had started. I was wondering if perhaps the mass schedule worked similar to the bus schedule, 15 minutes late. We figured out that there was a smaller side chapel off to one side. The chapel was completely full and the priest was already halfway through his message. “You will have to stand in the center isle,” said the door keeper. As I walked into the crowded chapel, I realized it was Father Mike from my waterfront conversation in Muxia. He looked back at me with a surprised look on his face, and without missing a beat said. “Welcome, Paul.” I waved at him and broke each and every protocol ever established during a Catholic mass. I gave him a vocal shout out. “Hello, Father Mike.” Every head in that chapel snapped to attention and turned around to see what had just happened. No worries. A Mennonite just showed up at your Mass.
Oh yes, it gets even better.
Father Mike didn’t give the usual spiel about only practicing Catholics partaking in Holy Communion. I partook. It was something I have wanted to do and it was special. I nodded to my new friend Father Michael Moore from Ireland and Chicago and took the wafer.
When I was a young man in my conservative Mennonite church, we celebrated communion by drinking out of the same cup. The preacher would wipe the cup after each person had taken their turn. I was always grossed out and would turn the cup around. In our Mennonite church, we now have those cute little individual cups that we use.
The other Priest helping with Communion held a chalice everyone in line was drinking from. He wiped the cup after every person had consumed. It was like old times back at my former church. One difference this time. I didn’t turn it around. It was special and it was sacred.
Later, while eating supper with my new Canadian friends, I remarked about drinking out of the same cup. The wife is a practicing Catholic and pointed out, “It’s the blood of Christ. It can’t possibly hurt you.” Lots of truth in that.
Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about a meltdown I had one day while reflecting on my good fortune of being born in an extended family that influenced me so much. I had determined to make an effort to thank my remaining uncles and aunts for their influence in my life. Last night I received notice that my Uncle John had passed away. This morning I found out an aunt had passed away also. Both of these relatives were in their 90’s and both lived just a few miles from me. All my life, these fine Christian folks were a part of my existence. They were just a part of the fabric of my life. I never told them how influential they were to me.
We tend to take these folks for granted to often. I had planned to tell them when I returned from Spain. You see, I had most of my 63 years to tell them but always thought I had tomorrow.
It looks like I’ll have plenty of opportunity to do that at two upcoming funerals.