Thursday, September 30, 2010


After doing a wedding at “Church in the Pines” on Lake Martin this past weekend I was packing up all the vestments, sacred vessels, altar linens, etc and preparing to head back to Mobile (a 3-1/2 hr drive that evening). I found myself surrounded by four children, ranging in age from perhaps 4 to perhaps 11. I’m not at all sure whose kids they were, but we had quite the conversation as I engaged them to help me with getting things into their proper bags and cases.

The conversation began with the littlest ones somehow interested in the idea that God and Jesus could see them always. They brought up the topic, and they were a bit nervous about it (as, no doubt, most adults would be if they thought about it a bit). So I wanted to re-assure them that the reason Jesus always saw them was that He loved them so much He didn’t want to stop looking at them. They seemed satisfied with this, and I will scarcely claim this as “original” with me, but I do take it as important.

Children (and adults) don’t need the image of God or Jesus as a divine version of Santa Claus as represented in the Christmas carol: “He sees you when you’re sleeping/He knows when you’re awake…He’s making a list/Checking it twice/Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice…” The vision of a cosmic referee just waiting to catch you in a foot-foul on your serve may instill caution, but it will not lead to love. And if God is Love (as Scripture assures us--John 3:16; I John 4:7-21), there has to be a way of approaching the Throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16)other than in pure fear. There will no doubt be (at the time of our own judgment) a sense of shame, but it will surely be overcome by our sense of desire and longing to be near the One who loved and loves us so totally.

I also had a conversation with my two altar servers. They asked me about the palls I used (these are the stiff cloths often placed on the chalices during celebrations of Eucharist). They saw when and why I put them on, and they were intrigued. The issue was a fly at the outside altar. “I thought they were just for decoration,” one said. I assured him that everything at least started out with a purpose, and this one was to keep things out of the Precious Blood that didn’t belong there. I related a story (true, in fact) of a time at St Bede when I didn’t have a pall (this was a daily Mass), and a fruit fly did get past my waving hand and land in the chalice. I doubt anyone else saw or knew it, but I surely could not offer Holy Communion to people when the chalice had a creature in it! There was only one thing to do: I had to make sure I was the one that got the fruit fly. So the idea of the palls (they are always on the altar for me now) is very practical and in some ways selfish. I would rather have them and not need them than the other way around.

Footnote: my “Pastor’s Corner” essay for a week down the line will be a commentary on the theme and summary of the upcoming “World Day for Social Communications” that the Vatican sponsors every year. It’ll be at But for those who want to see at least the Vatican’s announcement about it, you can check another blog: Rocco Palmo is a master blogger of all things Catholic.

1 comment:

  1. Two things impressed me re "Teachable Moments": that the children were encouraged to look for you and question you and second, your accepting attitude in meeting and conversing with them. It is moments like this that will forever influence their impressions of a Roman Catholic priest.