Lots of Ordinary Heroes Here
My Dear Wife and I arrived in Tucson two weeks ago tomorrow, and had a number of things we had to get done, and some things we wanted to do as well. One of the things on our list was to see Father Clement Agamba, who was at Our Lady of Fatima Parish here, when we arrived, and who was an inspiration to us. He now is Parochial Vicar over at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in the north section of Tucson. Well, due to some family issues at home, MDW had to return to Ontario last Wednesday, cutting her part of our trip short. We agreed that I would stay on to complete some matters that we had started, and since she knows how much I love to be here.
Last night she called late, as some of the things she had to attend to were not working out as she hoped, and after we spoke I stayed up for some time praying for her success, and missing her too.
Then this morning I awoke about 8 am, and had on my heart to go over to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton for morning mass at 9 am. I hoped that Father Clement might be the celebrant, and I would get to at least greet him after mass. So, I threw on some clothes, brushed my teeth, and got out the door and into the car in short order. There Garmin gave me directions to make my way to church.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is about a 25 minute drive from Rincon where we stay. As I got near Church, the road was blocked off for repairs, and I had to circle back and find another route. Garmin cooperated and gave me new directions, except that the new directions sent me to a dead end. I circled back again, and then found another way to get there, with Garmin's help. It seemed a metaphor for life. We sometimes have to alter our directions, but not our objective.
I arrived in plenty of time, and found a seat. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is obviously a well to do parish. It is a magnificent structure, and for my Evangelical friends has padded pews too. My Evangelical and Pentecostal friends would also have been impressed with the Worship band. They have excellent leadership, beautiful voices, a piano player whose fingers flew all through the Mass, and a nice mix of bass, guitar, and sax to complement.
One of the charismatic gifts I received over the years, the first one actually is the gift of tears, not what you would normally think of as a gift, and certainly small in comparison to the gift of salvation and faith that Jesus gave me. Whenever I am in God's presence, I tear up, not balling my eyes out tears, but moist eyes and a catch in my throat that prevents me from singing or joining in a prayer at the moment.
I cannot count how often that happened today between the beginning of Mass and its conclusion. The mass was beautiful, and the participation of the congregation was inspiring. The tears came to me a few times during songs that were sung at the various parts of the mass, and at two other occasions during the celebration.
After the Gospel, Father Joseph Lombardo, the Pastor called the small children to join him at the altar, as he wanted to speak to them. He bravely asked them questions, as did the Deacon who did the formal homily after Father concluded his time with them. I say bravely, because you never know what children will say. His interaction with them brought a tear to my eye.
As the Gospel was about the healing of 10 lepers, only one of whom, a Samaritan came back to thank Jesus, Father asked the little ones about the blessings in their life. It was obvious that he loves the children, and that calling him Father is very appropriate, for he is their spiritual father, a vocation that he takes very seriously.
The Deacon then addressed the kids and had them help him out with a part of his homily before dismissing them to their lessons. His focus was on what would be good reasons for missing mass, and of course, concluded that "crying baby", "headache", and several others were not good enough. The kids had some good ideas why they were not sufficient excuses. The last excuse was "dying", and that was not a good excuse either for missing mass. Who needs the mass, or particularly the Eucharist more than those who are dying?
He like Father displayed his love for Jesus and for the congregation as he spoke.
At SEAS, they reserve a section of the first pew for returning military personnel, complete with a yellow ribbon. Two fine young members of the USAF were present having returned from Korea, with one scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan soon. They were in camos, and he invited them and two parents to come up to the altar for a blessing from him and the congregation. Yep. Tears again. The love the congregation poured out to these two fine young men and their families was palpable, and continued after the Mass was completed, as they left the Church.
The Mass continued with a beautiful celebration of Eucharist, more tears, as Father consecrated the elements into the Body and Blood of Our Dear Beloved Saviour, and then shared them with us.
I didn't get to see Father Clement, though I did get blessed by going there, and I will look forward to catching up with him soon, I hope.
I love being a Christian, and I love being able to receive Jesus Body and Blood at the Eucharistic celebration.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in your love for all the people of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish, and particularly for those members of the parish who are serving in the military, and may be in harm's way.