Father John J. Lombardi
Just what does a priest do? Looking back at last Sunday, here's a meditation subtitled: "Finding God in all things."
Upon awakening, I somehow manage my morning offering: "This is the day the Lord has made. May all my thoughts, words and deeds be for Your Glory O Lord. Blessed Virgin help me. Amen."
I celebrate the seven a.m. Mass at nearby St Anthony's and though bleary-eyed, I try to recognize Christ in the Holy Bread (see Lk. 24: 31). The sun was blazingly brilliant after Mass, thank God!
After some coffee, I made my morning meditation and went back to St Anthony's for 9:30 Mass and the baptism of Maria Camilla, the daughter of newly- arrived Argentineans of the parish and Mt. St. Mary's. I mentioned at Mass that Argentineans make good wine, cowboys (caballeros) and beautiful
babies. Mom Cynthia held up the baby in the front pew like a trophy for everyone to see. The congregation rejoiced especially noting all the hair on this little girl, which I also noticed and noted. I am so inspired by this young couple and their spiritual example of Faith.
Also, during the Mass, an Indonesian pilgrim group I was expecting came with their leaders. They enthusiastically offered to give out rosaries blessed by Archbishop Sambi of the Vatican and collect funds for Pilgrim Center.
I got up to the Grotto which was buzzing at 11am and greeted two visiting Chinese priests who came to concelebrate Mass. Although their beloved country is racked with difficulties and the Catholic Church is persecuted, they were all smiles. When I introduced them at the Mass they were so
grateful, lively and childlike. They prayed aloud at the Mass their voices immediately bringing in the flavor of the Mystical Body of Christ and His Church-international and inspirational and hopefully, in solidarity with all attacked Christians throughout the world.
During Mass I got a note from our cantor saying, "It's Morris Blake's birthday, the 'proverbial 29th,' "(but not really.) Morris has graciously been volunteering by playing the organ (gratis) at our 12 noon Grotto Mass for five years now. "God loves a cheerful giver."
On this particular Sunday pilgrims from all over the world were there. From Salvador, there was family with a little baby named Christopher, also with a lot of hair. We had Korean families who bow when greeting you. We had people from the Philippines who like to kiss your hand. We had
Eritreans and Ethiopians looking regal in their traditional capes and veils. Italy, Ecuador, and India were also represented. The upshot? Apparently, people worldwide have the "DNA of Divine Devotion," reverence, piety and love of the Lord and Lady within their blood as shown by their prayerful demeanor. They all
seemed to share a Eucharistic enthusiasm and love of the Grotto too. Lest I forget, there were also girl's lacrosse teams visiting us between their games plus Boy Scouts cleaning our Grotto as a service project.
After Mass, I met an old friend from high school, Stan and his new wife, Leah from Trinidad with their brand new son, Gabriel. (Not too much hair) Stan and I, after "surviving high school," left the Catholic Church, but eventually came back. I was inspired to see another Catholic guy from my
teen-time now loving the Lord, the sacraments, family life and the fullness and flavors of the Catholic Church. He had a great smile as he proudly carried his baby around for all the hours we were together! More great witnesses of God in our midst.
The Day Wasn't Over:
During lunch, a tearful lady came up and asked me for some meeting time. She was devastated after reading about a Catholic nun raped by fifty men when then paraded her through the streets. The woman was devastated that God allowed this to happen to "His bride," a religious woman sworn to Him.
"Why didn't He stop it?" she asked. "It's the ultimate humiliation of a woman." I listened, realizing she needed to release a lot of pain, and then observed, "Jesus suffered the ultimate humiliation thru the Cross and felt the desolation of being in solidarity with the worst of darkness. However, He ultimately
trusted, amidst the seeming meaninglessness of it all." This lady's struggle taught me that we all struggle at times to believe and that we need to be in solidarity with those who are persecuted so we never to take our Faith for granted. In a kind of unique way, this was like finding God in the midst of a storm.
As I walked away, I was yet thankful for the clear, ebullient and pervasive light all around Mary's Mountain: "In Your Light, oh Lord we see light" (Ps. 36).
Later, I went to a nearby drug treatment center to give a weekly talk on spirituality. When leaving, a man stopped me, looking very serious and drop-dead-asked, "Father, can you save me?" I've never, ever, had that question or such a dramatic request, put to me. The man made me feel for a
millionth of a second, Christ-like. In hearing a man's need to be saved and the possibility of doing so, I was stunned. I stuttered over my response saying, "I can't, but Jesus in me, can." I began to pray over him to live a born-again-Christ-centered life and child-like, he bowed his head under my priestly hands. I
barely walked away so thankful for finding God there.
Then, after dinner with a family, I made my daily run and went for Holy Hour at St. Anthony's where I had begun my day. A young couple joined me and we prayed together, "Where two or three are gathered, there I am in your midst."
I came back to my home late at night after a wonderful, God-filled day, collapsed on my sofa and saw, sitting on the coffee table before me, an envelope a pilgrim left at the Grotto cave, addressed simply to: "God."
Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi