Emmitsburg Council of Churches

A Day in the Life:
Documenting Divinity

Father John J. Lombardi

I know I sometimes overreact to things, but this past Thursday, it seems in hindsight, I was constantly reacting to various, surprising situations, in which, it turns out, God was manifesting Himself to me (Recall the Jesuit motto of "Finding God in all things" ?). With only three appointments scheduled that day, I was surprised at how God surprised me with so many surprises and blessings. Point: be ready for surprises and read on dear reader…

7:55am: Skip, the sacristan of Mt Carmel Church in Thurmont, greeted me as I walked in the sacristy door-winded. He said "Welcome aboard"-he's a Navy veteran. Then he proceeded to help me set up the Sacramentary, the prayer book for the priest for the Mass. Skip is always helpful, cheerful and adept. Moral: I definitely need helpers in my ministry and God is ever-faithful in sending them!

8am: Mass: The first reading from Tobit was about the marriage of Sara and Tobit-their trust in Providence, prayer on their first night of marriage and love and respect of one another and their bigger family is a lesson for all of us. Not having understood the fullness of the lengthy and circuitous reading at the early hour (and still kinda' sleepy), I ad-libbed and hopefully made some sense: Pope John Paul II said: "The building block of civilization is the family."

8.40am: Meet Elvin, our master gardener of Mt St Mary's (a great worker he is!) in front of our Grotto office. I asked him some advice for Grotto projects and then told him I was going on vacation in the next week and he quipped: "I wish I had your job!" (I couldn't blame him!) Point: Bloom where you're planted (pardon the pun).

8.30am: Meet Sr. Marietta and she informs me that one of our Baltimore priests is taking a "leave of absence" from the priesthood. Shocking. Upshot: renew your vocation to Christ and His plan for you.

9am-Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at the Grotto (every Thursday-join us, Him): I was running late for my duty but there was the trustworthy pilgrim-Pam-awaiting the Exposition. Moral: wait on the Lord (and be patient with your priests!).

9:30am: Holy silence and blessed calm in our Grotto shed "away from it all" to catch my breath and a "bachelor breakfast"-Indian lentils (donated to me by some friends from a health food store), oat bran-bread and cheese (and Grotto water). Point: Get your little "getaways" and catch your breath momentarily, and: I just read a book on diets and eating habits and it stated (preaching right at me): don't skip breakfast (even if it's spicy I would add!)-after all: we are not only spiritual creatures, but also bodily-so feed your temple. We human-being-disciples are incarnate spirits.

10am: Appointment with Ann-Marie regarding an Ecumenical Day Retreat- event at Mt St Mary's (Aug 25). She asked for my support and presence at an "Altar call" for people attending to renew their Faith that day. When she announced the Keynote Speaker of the event I about fell off my pew by the bell tower-Rev. Donald Piper-who wrote The New York Times Bestseller, "Ninety Minutes in Heaven," about his "near death experience," (actually the guy-minister said he did die) which I had reviewed previously and was inspired by tremendously. I couldn't believe it, that he was coming to us to speak here on our Campus. Great book, super-believing guy and gonna' be a great event. Point: be there! -and: Think about Heaven and your "Final End"-death and judgment.

10:40am: Meeting with "Tink," our faithful Grotto maintenance man, regarding Grotto work. Last week we celebrated Tink's thirtieth year of employment at Mt St Mary's. Wow!-talk about dedication, faithfulness and heroic care of the Grotto: we all owe him a loving dose of thanks and encouragement as "caretaker of the Grotto"!

11:15: Office detail--Point: "God is in the details". We get a call that a pilgrim wants anointing before a procedure.

12 N Mass: As I walk into set up for Mass, I notice a youngish lady in a wheelchair in the chapel who is from Bolivia. I am reminded of why the Grotto exists-for healing and peace. The capital of Bolivia, I think at the time, is La Paz, meaning Peace. Point: Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace and bestows Peace (Jn. 20). Later I meet a baby named Michelle whom mom wants me to bless. They are from Paraguay, whose capital is Asunción, meaning the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. I am reminded by these pilgrims of how many Central and South American countries and cities are named after our holy religion.

12:45 I meet pilgrims and pray over, bless and anoint the man who called for healing. Lesson: As the soft breezes of the warm day cool us outside the Glass Chapel I am reminded of the "Bridges to Heaven," the sacraments-and how much pilgrims want them.

12.49pm: Tink appears right during the anointing with a cell phone call from the office about an appointment for visa pictures: What to do? Put them on hold, pause, breathe, continue prayer and then get back to call to confirm. Moral: Multi-tasking is needed sometimes-interrupt prayer, okay, but don't end it!

1pm: I hear confession of young boy preparing for First Holy Communion. Point: I wish I could tape these "first confessions" of the young-for their sincerity, love and trust is so inspiring, incomparable-Providential, really, if you think about it.

1:15pm: Meet Louis (from Honduras, retired architect) who wants to donate time, talent and treasure to the Grotto for our old bathrooms and esp to help the handicapped. He shows me his drawn-up architectural plans and we confer and I am animated and inspired by his giving nature. Upshot: God loves a cheerful giver!

1:30pm: Meet with workers who are planning a project for lower Grotto picnic grounds. Point: We're a team-I can't do what you can and visa versa, so let's work together for Our Lady and Lord!

2pm: Hear Confession of pilgrim who is traveling. During Confession he tries to remember a Bible verse which expresses his sentiments (and one of my favorites) and we look it up: "We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying about in our bodies the dying of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body" (II Cor. 4:8-10). Metaphysical moral: never lose hope; nurture the virtue of fortitude and as Mother Seton says: "Hazard forward always"-with Christ Our Life!

3pm: Drive to Emmitsburg for visa photo at Bob Rosensteel's studio. He tells me he has been married 43 yrs, and that he proposed to his wife at the Grotto during their high school prom! He said: "It's the most beautiful place in the world-and I've traveled around a lot." Point: don't overlook this Sacred Jewel or take it for granted. And, like Bob, re-commit yourself to your vocation (again and again).

3:30pm: Grotto office depot-log in some more time here and Carol, my administrative assistant--who has worked here over thirty years (!) and who helps along greatly. Lesson: amidst my many, multi-taskings, bumblings and comings and goings into and out of our office-she helps so much-dedication!

4pm: run up Grotto steps-good exercise…Meet three pilgrim-Franciscans of the Immaculate. Joy-filled guys and they ask: Is there adoration of the Blessed Sacrament? Yes: inside the chapel. They go in for prayer and Benediction. Upshot: they inspire me by their dedication and "sonar of soul" seeking the Lord-and their cheer.

4:30pm: Go to meet David, a friend from Capital Hill, who has taken the day off. He wants to go for a swim-in a creek, I find out. At the Grotto we meet pilgrims who gave me a straw hat (forgot to give it to me last visit: I sure need it with the Blazing Sun and Son!) who want some pictures taken with them (Polaroid instamatic-they still exist? -very effective), and I learn that some of them just met each other at the Grotto and prayed with one another before I met them: "It was meant to be," they said. Point: No chance meetings here (at the Grotto or on Earth)-coincidences are God-incidents.

5pm: After Benediction, David and I go off for adventure. Point: don't get stuck-investigate God's glory and creation here around Mary's Mountain. We have fun, drive around the Mountains, talking about our lives and his fast-paced life on Capital Hill (he's checking his Blackberry a lot--a small computer device "wired"). I tell him about a huge snapping turtle on the mountain I once saw and he wanted to look for it--we get out of the car and investigate: no sign, but we do see a beautiful horse and feed it some grass, a little weary of it snappng at our hands. We go to Friend's Creek (second mountain valley behind the Grotto) and take a swim in the flushing, funneling waters: he loves it-"Perfect," he says, refreshing, beautiful and healing (he left the Blackberry in the car). We try to catch some crawfish; lie on a rock, listen to the water and then move on. Point: so few people take advantage of God's creation but this "city slicker," David, did. I was impressed. Esp after I offered going to a nearby mountain swimming pool and he says: "What?! Go to a pool-you can do that anytime-we're out here, let's hit the creek." Gung-ho adventure needed!

6:30pm: After checking his Blackberry and we investigate a farm for sale and come upon a farmer, Randy, and are amazed at his hay-bailing machine part that cuts the hay, a middle part stacks, bales and ties it and then shoots it-rocket like-into a back wagon. He says, farmer fashion: Its great when it works, but when it doesn't'…We ask him where the farm is and he says: "You're headed right toward it." David and I both agree: Even after just meeting us strangers, Randy was a beautifully nice, gentlemanly man: Point; The kindness of strangers.

7:30pm: Go to Rocky's restaurant (and "old standby" for us) in Thurmont for some eats. We have a meal: plenty. After David hooks in and checks his Blackberry and talks on it (what can't these things do?) he says: "I'm a good dinner companion aren't I?!" And then says: "Just think of all this food: so much," and we both think of so many with so little. Point: count your blessings.

8:30pm: After departing I go back to the office (I obviously don't have a Blackberry) and do some work and then to seminary for holy hour and notice the vice-rector Fr Brannen's light on in his office. I am met with his usual southern hospitality (from Savanna, Ga..-love his accent); we rap. I was struck by his warmth and graciousness as he asked about my family and the Grotto. I consulted him for some observations and he gave me some advice and I immediately felt unburdened.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi