We are in the middle of a fierce ice storm here in Franklin Park, Illinois. Just took these two photos from my office window. This is not snow; this is accumulating ice. Ah, the Midwest!
I hope that you had a peaceful and wonderful Christmas. I left my home and walked to my parish, Old Saint Patrick's, at about 3:45, arriving at the church on Christmas Eve for the 5:00 Mass at a little after 4:00. I was standing in line, probably with 150 people lined up ahead of me, waiting for the four 3:00 Masses to conclude. Everything was orderly once those Masses concluded and some folks visiting me from Washington, DC and I got seats in about the eighth row.
I took this photo of my friend and her daughter as the portrayal of the nativity story by the parish's children was taking place. Kind of sums it all up for me:
I went downstairs at about 4:30 to find the men's room and noticed that the hall was filling up quickly for the second scheduled 5:00 Mass. People were just lined up outside and pouring into the hall. I later found out that the hall and church could not accommodate all those that had arrived, so a third 5:00 Mass was quickly arranged in another space. Thank the Lord there was an additional priest at hand.
It made me think of those places where priests are not readily available. I thought about our abundance at Old Saint Patrick's in so many ways, but also thought about the ways that this parish reaches out to those who have nothing.
I was at Mass yesterday with a friend and when we left the Church, we noticed a man in the street carrying a rather large red gasoline can. He was stopping people and my friend engaged in conversation with him. He said that his car had run out of gas on the expressway and that he needed to fill the can with gas so that he could get his car moving again. You know, when you live in a large city, you can become hardened to some of the folks who are looking for money seemingly on every corner. But this guy with the gas can seemed different. So we got him in the car, tried to get it warmed up for him quickly because he had obviously been out in the cold for some time. We drove him to a gas station and filled the can for him. For those of you familiar with Chicago, this is what happened to this guy. About three hours previously, his car ran out of gas on the Dan Ryan Expressway coming into the city. He pulled over onto the Roosevelt Road ramp and left his car there. He then somehow walked to Lake Street and Ogden Avenue in search of a car repair shop where he could borrow a gasoline can. This was a very long walk for this man. He then made his way downtown to try to get funds from people passing by so that he could fill the gasoline can. Another very long walk. This is where he met my friend and me.
Well, after we got the gas, we drove up onto the Dan Ryan Expressway and went to the exit beyond where his car was so that we could head in the right direction to find his car and put gas in it. Our hearts sank as he told us, "I left my car right there! I left my car right there! And now it's gone!" So we drove him to the car repair shop because he said he had promised the mechanic who let him borrow the can that he would personally return it into his hands once he had filled his gas tank. We arrived at the repair shop and the mechanic had stepped out for a little while. Our new friend refused to give the can to anyone else because he had promised to personally return it to the specific mechanic. We told him that we would take him to the train and pay for his way on so that he could get home and start the search for his car, which surely had been towed away.
He said, "No, you guys have done more than enough for me. I am so grateful." And then he went back into the auto repair shop to wait for the mechanic so that he could keep his promise to him.
Fr. Ed Foley's homily at Mass that day was all about how God becomes incarnate in our families; how God can break in and surprise us in our daily lives.
My heart broke for this poor guy with the gasoline can; I just hope that maybe he experienced the incarnation of God somehow in that encounter. I know I did.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.