Mass was a challenge this past Sunday. Torrential downpours that have plagued the Delaware Valley for the last few weeks combined with the continued flood of horrific accounts of child sexual abuse contained in the PA grand jury report made for a dreary journey to the parish. Unsure of what might be said and what might be understood, we felt it necessary to prepare the older two girls to hear certain words and try to explain, with as little fear-provoking detail as possible, what had happened. With our pastor on a previously scheduled vacation, we had a visiting priest preside with the additional goal of raising funds for his mission in Latin America. Father did an admirable job in acknowledging the understandable anger, sadness, and pain that might be present among us, but his mission appeal was just, well, not appealing, not now. After Mass, as my wife chatted with another family, I followed my almost 2-year old around the narthex of the Church as is typically my role. Norah loves the baptismal font and pleads with me to lift her up so that she can dip in her hand. I always remind her to bless herself and depending on how deep her hand gets, ask her to bless me too. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the priest standing by himself nearby. As he started to move toward us, Norah’s arm plunged into the font and she laughed. She blessed herself, blessed me, and then walked toward Father and motioned that she wanted to bless him too. He got down on both knees and my daughter touched the top of his head with her very wet hand. With great sadness in both of our faces, we exchanged a smile and wished each other a good day.
Later that evening, I was with some of my in-laws for a birthday/send-off gathering. We all compared notes on our parish experience that morning. We shared cake and lasagna. We looked at old photos and laughed. Halfway into cake, we realized we hadn’t prayed, and so about 20 of us, stopped, wherever we were in the tiny house we were gathered, blessed our food and prayed for those of us not present. We then continued our laughter, our stories, our life together. It wasn’t until that moment on that dreary Sunday, that I realized for the first time that a fundamental assumption I held in my ministry perhaps was incomplete. I guess I always thought it was Christ, through the Church, that needed to save our families from the sin and evil of this world. Maybe it’s Christ, through our families, that will save our Church. Perhaps it can be the love we model as parents that guide shepherds as to how they are to care for their flocks. Perhaps it is in a two-year old’s blessing that we remember the purity in which we are to lead.