21 October 2011

This Side of Heaven

Today, the most amazing thing happened.

Sweet Susan and I were having Discipleship together at Panera Bread. We were catching up on life and talking about our weekends, when whom did we see? None other than Father Jim Morrison.

I want to take a moment to tell you about Father Jim. He was ordained a priest in the summer of 2010, and it has been amazing to see these first few formative years of his priesthood. He comes to us from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where he grew up, and he attended the University of South Alabama before entering the seminary. During his time in seminary, he spent a few years in Rome, and he speaks fluent Italian. He also knows how to ride a unicycle and juggle (and yes, he can do these things simultaneously.) He's in his late twenties, and we at Auburn+Catholic are SO BLESSED to have him celebrate masses, hear our confessions, play intramural soccer (he's really good) and even come camping with us! I think his complete surrender to Christ makes a huge impact on the men in AU+Catholic, and on Auburn's campus. (Heck, he even makes ME want to become a priest!) He often plays racquetball with the guys, and I think he occasionally makes an appearance at "Bread and Beer." (B&B, as it is affectionately known) is where the men who are over 21 get together once a week and discuss topics relating to living out the faith/theology/etc. and drink beer and eat bread. (I think... all of these things are speculative, not confirmed, because only men are allowed to go.) (It is also a sort of right of passage for the men in AU+Catholic, and I think the juniors get pretty excited when they turn 21 and get invited to B&B, even if they are too manly to admit it.) Anyways, Father Jim is a great priest.

Being a priest in a small town with an even smaller Catholic population means that everywhere Father Jim goes, he knows someone. (That logic doesn't make sense, but it's true somehow.) Today, he was just stopping in to grab a quick bite (priests are VERY busy people, in case you don't know)(this is not sarcastic, I'm serious... bringing God to His people and His people to God is hard work.) He mentioned that he was on his way to bring Communion to someone, and actually had the Blessed Sacrament with him.


For those of you who don't know:
Catholics read John 6 in it's literal form. When Jesus said during the Last Supper, "This is my Body, which will be given up for you," He actually meant this IS my body. He wasn't speaking in symbolic terms, He was serious. He also said "do this in memory of me." And so, we do! Everyday we remember how much Christ loved us that He became man and died for us, and left us the Mass, so that we could receive the Eucharist (Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.) (Read Scott Hahn's "The Lamb's Supper, or talk to me if you have any questions about this... otherwise I will be here all night writing about how the Eucharist is the "source and summit" of our faith... it's THAT important!)


So... as I mentioned, Father Jim had Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, body, blood, soul, and divinity, with him as he spoke with us. Susan and I asked him if we should genuflect, but quickly decided against it because it would look weird to others who were unaware of the situation.
I think the reason that this event stands out to me is because the only place I usually see Jesus is in the Church or in the Chapel across from our office. Regardless, Susan and I were changed. That's the thing about Jesus: you can never encounter Him, really and truly encounter Him, without being forever changed. Each time we go to Mass, we exit INFINITELY better than we entered, whether we know it or not.

After Father (and Jesus) left, we continued our lunch. But now, we pondered the lives of those around us. What if none of them ever get the opportunity to attend Mass? What if that was the closest they will ever come (this side of Heaven) in contact with Christ? (Will Saint Peter meet them at the Pearly Gates and ask "Remember that time in Panera? That priest had God with him!")

This is why evangelization is the truest identity of the Church, and this is why I am a Catholic Missionary!

Please pray in thanksgiving for men who give their lives to Christ and His Church by discerning a vocation to the priesthood, and pray that Father Jim's priesthood may be blessed with the abundant graces of bringing Christ to places (like Panera) where He has never been before, and to people who have never met Him.

(Once again, my apologies for the obnoxious amount of parentheses.)

Saint Luke, the Evangelist, pray for us!