The Deepest Truths

With the Ordination and First Mass behind us, I’ve been struggling a bit to find my footing in this strange new reality. Despite the fact that I’ve spent the past six years learning more about priestly formation and deepening my own understanding of Catholic theology, the actual reality of Evan’s ordination caught me flat-footed.

Photo of Evan at his first Mass at St. Paul the Apostle in New York.
(Photo courtesy of the Paulist Fathers.)

On Sunday, May 26, 2019 Evan returned to St. Rose of Lima (our home parish) to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving. Two of his Paulist brothers who had served as pastors of St. Rose in the 80s joined him and concelebrated. Our pastor, Fr. Clarence Sandoval, concelebrated as well. The church was packed with our parish family as well as friends and family of other faiths who came to celebrate with us.

It was a joyful worship, but one which was – at the same time – very, very strange. Seeing Evan at the altar leading the community in prayer, making the familiar gestures of blessing and consecration, and ultimately elevating the host and the cup was beautiful. He seemed so confident; his voice calm and clear as he recited the prayers and he moved through the liturgy as if he’d been doing it for years. It was a moment of fulfilment; the manifestation of something I’ve anticipated for a long time.

It was also deeply unsettling.

On Monday, Memorial Day, Evan celebrated a house Mass for us. So there, in our living room with our cats roaming about, we three enjoyed a quiet Mass before breakfast. In his alb and stole, Evan stood behind a desk which had been pressed into service as an altar. Just before he began, he said, “This is one of the most surreal things I’ve ever done.”

“Surreal.” That was the perfect word to describe what I’ve been feeling since the Ordination in New York.

I knew it was coming, but I don’t think I’d fully anticipated the impact. I hadn’t realized that Evan’s ordination would force me to confront the deepest truths of our faith.

In the language of the church, Ordination changed Evan at an ontological level. That is, through the sacrament, he has been changed and his relationship with the community has changed. The Evan who entered the church as a deacon, left as a priest. Those aren’t simply different titles; they are different states of being. At the same time, he is still very much the child Kit and I raised.

He has been given the authority to “confect the sacrament of the Eucharist in persona Christi.” Which is a poetic way of expressing that he acts in the person of Christ to consecrate the bread and wine at Mass.

At the same time, he delights in good meals, entertaining movies, and beloved video games. He groans at my bad puns and shares warm hugs with his mother.

His is simultaneously a minister of heaven and a child of this world.

This is the very heart of our incarnational faith. God isn’t some remote figure who sits in a distant heaven judging us. God is the love which forms and sustains the universe. To drive the point home, God came to us in the person of Jesus Christ; simultaneously fully divine and fully human.

This strange co-existence isn’t just something which happens only at ordination. It is the nature of every sacrament to bring us face-to-face with the truth of the incarnation. It’s just that sometimes we get so used to the sacraments that we forget exactly what’s taking place. We overlook the extraordinary truth.

In the language of the church we call this a mystery. It’s a reality we can wrestle with, but never fully comprehend.

Evan’s ordination drew me up short and sharpened my awareness of the sacraments and the mystery they express. It reminded me that I participate in a community which treats the physical and the spiritual as parts of a whole and that the rituals and practices of the church are designed to put us in touch with the Divine. It was an invitation to enter into the mystery of faith in a new and deeper way.

For this, and for the opportunity to walk with Evan on his vocations journey, I can only say, “Thank you, Lord.” (Even if it’s going to still be weird to see him saying Mass!)

Thoughts on Obedience

(Editor’s Note: Guest blogger Megan Dahle shares a few thoughts on an aspect of the priesthood that is sometimes overlooked.)

priest-1352801_640Many Catholic parents are excited when their sons show, on their own accord, increased devotion to Christ and to his church. When many young men fall away from the truth, it can be especially joyful to see the opposite happen in your family.

They smile when their children show interest in the saints or attend mass more than once a week. They are excited to see their children partake in the sacrament of reconciliation or buy religious medals to remind them of the lives of the faithful.

When parents see that devotion turns into a desire to take holy orders, parents can sometimes have objections and worries about their son’s future life and happiness. When a young man is ordained a priest, among his vows are celibacy and obedience. While most of the conversation around the discipline of the priesthood surrounds the vow of celibacy, obedience can be difficult for parents to accept, too.

Obedience Can Be Scary

Why do parents object to the idea of obedience? We all want to think that we are independent, free to choose our own life’s path and direction. This is particularly the case in America and the rest of the west, because we often confuse the general good of political freedom with complete personal freedom as well. But the desire to remain independent is not something that God desires for us.

art-painting-285919_640Being Fully Human

To understand the virtue of obedience, one must understand what it means to be human as God designed us to be. For that, Christians across the world turn to the creation story in the book of Genesis, because it describes what God intended for his creation.

In Genesis, chapter one, we read, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” God created humans in his image, which means that God’s image is manifest in us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that the image of God is made manifest when we live in accordance with the created order and obey God’s will.

The Image of God: Sin and Redemption

Independence from God’s will, however, comes from sin. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s will by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they marred humanity with “the wound of original sin” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1707). Our desire to be independent comes from our desire to be independent of God.

Jesus Christ’s passion and resurrection, however, heal the wounds of sin and restore the image of God in us. The adoption we receive in baptism gives us the power to live rightly and obedient to God’s will. The life of a faithful Catholic is a struggle between the desire to obey God and the desire to sin (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1707-1709).

The Paradox of Obedience

We cannot be completely free, because we always obey one master, whether it be God or sin (see Romans 8). Being fully human, by manifesting the divine image, means we live in perfect obedience to God’s holy will. When we are independent, however, we end up as prisoners to sin and bound in chains of our own making.

Even St. Paul lamented how frustrating this can be for the faithful Christian when he writes, “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7:23). This rule is counterintuitive, and provides a seeming paradox: obedience is freedom. Independence is slavery.

The Life of Jesus

Our Savior, Jesus Christ, demonstrates this principle most completely in his obedience and submission. Though he was the eternal Son of God, he submitted himself to fallible human beings, his parents. “Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them” (Luke 2:51). Not only does Jesus follow God’s will, but he submits to the proper authorities, which, in this case, means his parents.

The whole of Jesus’ life was following his Father’s will. He says in John, chapter eight, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.”

We see perhaps the most beautiful example of Jesus’ total obedience in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus leaves his disciples to pray, and he asks God to spare him. He prays, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus expressed his freedom through submission to God and His will.

The Religious Life

saint-benedict-1508869_640The religious life helps us to see the freedom of obedience, not just to God, but also to religious authorities above us. Monks and nuns across the world follow orders or rules that guide their daily existence. One of the most famous of these orders is the Order of St. Benedict. He writes about the virtue of obedience:

“not living according to their own choice nor obeying their own desires and pleasures but walking by another’s judgment and command, they dwell in monasteries and desire to have an Abbot over them. Assuredly such as these are living up to that maxim of the Lord in which He says, ‘I have come not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me’(John 6:38).”

These orders prescribe a pattern for daily life including the most mundane details like the clothes one wears. The order prescribes daily life in such detail, because obedience in small things trains the heart to obey God when temptation arises. Following the rule helps the faithful Christian obey God when it counts.

Thomas a Kempis wrote about this in his famous book, Imitation of Christ. “Go where you may, you will find no rest except in humble obedience to the rule of authority. Dreams of happiness expected from change and different places have deceived many.”

For people who are used to talk of freedom, obedience can seem scary. We imagine harsh dictators and cruel oppression.

In the Catholic Church, however, obedience is a great virtue. Obedience to Christ and to religious authorities opens the door to manifesting the image of God by submitting our wills to the will of another. In this way, we train ourselves to be obedient to God.

Megan Dahle is a Catholic Blogger who likes to emphasize in her writing both the life of prayer and how to live bravely as a Catholic in modern society. She is a devoted mother and wife and a Catholic business owner. Before this eCommerce adventure, she was an accountant. She enjoys coaching robotics for her daughters’ FLL teams and gardening.

Know Yourself – Know Your Vocation

Mira Killian“Do you want God’s dreams for your life or your dreams for your life?”

When a kindly priest asks you that question in the confines of a confessional, the “correct” answer is pretty obvious.

Except, how am I supposed to know God’s dreams for my life? What am I supposed to do with my life? What is my purpose?

To explore this question, I’d like to take a little side trip through popular culture.

In the live action science fiction film Ghost in the Shell, Mira Killian believes she understands her purpose. She and her parents drowned when their refugee boat was sunk by techno terrorists. Her parents’ deaths were final, but Mira is granted a second life through the miracle of robotic technology. Her brain—the only salvageable part of her original being—was implanted in a new robot body. Motivated by her own tragedy and a desire to stop future attacks, Mira works tirelessly for the anti-terrorist bureau called Section 9. Within a year, she’s promoted to the rank of major and responds more readily to her rank than her name. Her job is her identity.

Her world starts to shift when a terrorist hacker beings killing high-level employees of Hanka Robotics, the company that built her body. While working the case, she begins experiencing glitches—brief visual hallucinations—that leave her feeling uneasy.

Her creator, Dr. Ouelet, erases the glitches and assures Major that they are nothing to worry about. She also encourages Major to keep taking the medication that keeps her flesh brain from rejecting her robot body.

In a reflective moment in Dr. Ouelet’s lab, Major says, “Everyone around me, they feel connected to something… connected to something I’m not.”

It’s the first time that Major gives voice to the idea that she might be on the wrong path—that she might not be fulfilling her proper role. She might have benefitted from the insight of theologian and author Parker Palmer:

Today I understand vocation quite differently—not as a goal to be achieved, but as a gift to be received. Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice ‘out there’ calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice ‘in here’ calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.

So long as she doesn’t really know herself, Major can’t really understand what she is supposed to do. That lack of understanding lies at the root of her feelings of disconnectedness.

As the story unfolds, the glitches intensify and she begins experiencing repeated visions of a burning building. It pops up at the most inconvenient of times, like when she is closing in on the deadly terrorist Kuze.

A moment’s distraction leads to her capture. Kuze’s goal is not her torture or death, but rather her enlightenment. He knows what she is, where she came from, and understands the emptiness she feels. He has experienced it, too. He tells her that the medicine is intended to repress her real memories and that she will regain her true self if she stops taking it.

Which makes me wonder about my true self. What am I doing—or NOT doing—that is keeping me from who I should be? As a Christian, I want my intentions for my life to line up with God’s. Am I making myself busy to show God how “righteous” I am when I should spend more time worshiping? Am I substituting rules, regulations, and rubrics for living my true calling? Am I so busy judging people that I don’t make time to love and help them? Like Major’s medicine, my choices can seem to be positive when they’re actually a barrier to the life I should be living.

Troubled by what Kuze told her, Major sets out to find the truth. Her quest leads her back to Dr. Ouelet who tells her that most of what she “remembers” about her old life was implanted. She and her parents weren’t on a refugee boat, nor was she the only experimental subject. This knowledge sends Major off on a new path. She needs to know who she was and how she came to be the Major.

Major’s “knowing” of her true identity came at the cost of surrender. She had to give up her image of herself and accept that the truth might be different from what she had been told. In some ways, she might have been more comfortable taking the medicine and having her memory wiped. Learning the truth about ourselves can be unnerving, but it may be the best way to figure out our future.

The way forward, I think, is to cultivate a relationship of deep honesty and openness with God. That means being vulnerable and humble, and honestly asking “What did God make me to do?” It probably means finding an objective person – a counselor or spiritual director – to serve as a sounding board and give me candid feedback. Just like Major I’m going to have to surrender my illusions for the truth.

Tough stuff? Sure. Knowing myself deep down is no easy task. It’s scary. My illusions are comfortable and safe, but the lives of the great Biblical figures and generations of saints show me that God most often speaks to the people who are listening. Maybe if I start just by trying to listen, God will help me see beyond my imagined self to the true self I’m meant to be.

In the meantime, I think I’ll meditate on Thomas Merton’s famous prayer of abandonment:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

(A different version of this post first appeared at Area of Effect magazine. It also expands on an earlier post on this site.)

— Dad (of Evan)

 

Decisions, Decisions

© Copyright P L Chadwick and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence 2.0 attribution and sharealikeTwo roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth…

Robert Frost perfectly captured the agony of choice in his poem The Road Not Taken. Each choice we make closes off others, each represents a commitment of sorts … a path we have chosen to follow knowing that there may be regret for the path left unexplored.

This came up recently on the Word On Fire Show with Bishop Robert Barron. The particular episode was a discussion called Heroic Priesthood. After spending some time talking about what it means to be a priest and how the ordained priesthood differs from the priesthood of all believers, Bishop Barron spends a few minutes talking about discernment. He suggests several useful tools including listening to the voices of others and finding a spiritual director. At the end of that he says:

Realize that life is short. One thing I find with the millennials a lot is they have this thing about keeping every option open all the time. That I have all options open all the time. Well you don’t. Life is short. It goes by fast. And so you can’t just keep everything open, you’ve got to say, “Jump in.” Jump onto a path. It’s not going to be perfect. You will have some regrets, but everybody does.

(The whole episode is worth your time, so click on over to listen to it as it includes some advice for the parents of discerners as well.)

So, what’s the antidote to indecision? Decisiveness. Easier said than done, though. What do you do if all options seem equally valid?

There was a good answer in a profile piece that ran on the Washington Post. It explores the discernment journey of a seminarian in DC. Anthony Furgeson felt drawn to the life of an artist and only gradually heard the call to priesthood.

He describes his early sense of being called as “horrifying”. He talks about waffling between being thrilled and terrified by the idea of religious life. Eventually, just before Christmas of 2013, he arrived at a moment of clarity.

“I felt like there was a fork in the road,” he recalls. “I could either choose life with this really nice girl, or I could apply to seminary. I knew I had to decide, and I knew if I decided one way, it would kinda close off the other path.”

At a Sunday Mass he prayed for guidance. “The response that I really sensed back — and I’m not going to say it was a Charlton Heston voice — it was just very gentle, quiet, placed-on-the-soul interior realization that it didn’t really matter which way I chose. The Lord would be there either way.”

Knowing that made it easier for Ferguson to consider what he truly wanted. “And when I thought about going into the priesthood, I really did feel that there was a warm sense of peace,” he says.

I’ve heard this sentiment echoed by a couple of priests — God is not going to be angry if you choose one good over another. Conversely, God will be with you no matter which path you choose. So, as Bishop Barron says, “Jump onto a path.”

For parents, this means being willing to give your child the space to discern and let them know that they have your support either way. No matter what, they will still be your child and you can be confident that God will be with them.

I don’t think Robert Frost was speaking of religious life, but he made a good point when he finished his poem with:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

— Dad (of Evan)

A son is a son…..

photo

I grew up hearing the rhyme, ” A daughter’s a daughter all of her life, but a son is a son till he takes on a wife”. But what happens when the son doesn’t take on a wife, like when he becomes a priest. The most common question I get from other people is “What about grandkids?” I am okay with not having grandkids but my first question was “Am I going to lose my son?”

I recently took a trip to D.C. The trip was not only to see my son, but as a surprise for my mother as well. My very thoughtful sister, Beth, was bringing my mother down from Pennsylvania to visit Evan for a weekend. She suggested that I also come to D.C. and surprise Mom. The plan worked worked like a dream and even my father kept the secret. My mother was surprised and happy to see me. It was wonderful getting to spend time with her and my sister.

I arrived a day earlier than my sister and mother and Evan had to work that morning. I wandered down to the kitchen for a cup of tea and found another seminarian doing the same. Michael C. is a lovely man about nine years older than Evan. We struck up a conversation that lead to him talking about his calling and the path his life is taking. At the end of the conversation he commented that it was like talking to his mom, but not. There are some things you can never talk to your mom about because….she’s your mom. I also felt like I was talking to a son. A son I was just getting to know and who was already fully grown.

The conversation got me thinking and I took some time to ask a few of the priests in residence at the college about their moms, and moms in general. Usually these gentlemen talked about the fact that they were close to both their mom and dads but became closer to their moms around the time of formation. Some commented, as the “single” man in the family, they were often looked on to coordinate family events and help their mother.  One individual commented the the death of a mother was often a mid life crisis event for priests.

After two days of visiting and touring DC on bus, Beth and Mom returned to Erie on Sunday morning. I stayed because my flight wasn’t until Monday morning. Evan and I had some time to visit the church of his spiritual director. I attended my first Eastern Rite Catholic Mass (a lovely spiritual event if you ever have the opportunity to partake) and dinner that evening was takeout from Evan’s favorite pizza joint (& Pizza). After the meal, Evan left me saying he and Mike H. were bottling a batch of beer they had brewed earlier. I stayed in my room for a while then suddenly grabbed my phone (camera) and went down to the kitchen. I got to spend two lovely hours talking and taking pictures of these young men while they bottled their cream stout beer. Mike loved asking me questions about Evan as a child. Evan groaned and Mike laughed about Evan’s climbing prowess and escape abilities at ten months.  This made for a very congenial evening. A toast at the end with flat beer and Mike commented, “I know you don’t see it because you aren’t here all the time, but the whole house gets lighter when a mom visits. There is just something about a mom, even if it isn’t your mom.”  (Another new fully grown son!)

I have had time to reflect on all this and I have come up with my own interpretation of the mom-son-priest relationship. God made man and woman to be support and help to each other. In a relationship where the man marries, that support and help comes from the wife. When a son gets married the mother steps back and allows the marriage relationship to flourish. A man who becomes a priest will still need that relationship of support and the benefit of a female perspective. Usually, the woman who suits that role best will be his mother. So a son is a son… for the rest of her life.

BTW. When asked if I would call Evan “Father” after ordination, I cheerfully reply “Of course, Father Sweetheart”

-Mom C.

Journey to Bethlehem; A Christmas Prayer

There is no room at the inn.Since 2006 the good Christian folk of Mountain View Baptist Church have been kind in allowing Cathy and I to participate in their interactive drama Journey to Bethlehem.  The play runs four nights each December and typically draws between four and five thousand guests.

The guests are gathered into groups of approximately 40 people and introduced to the character of Gadielle; a working-class resident of first century Nazareth, devoted family man, and occasional target for Roman harassment.  Following a run-in with a local centurion, Gadielle tells the assembled guests that they will be safe if they become part of his family for the evening.  He takes them from the streets of Nazareth to his home where they meet his wife Naomi and their only child, hear a brief speech from the local Rabbi, and once again come face-to-face with the Romans.  On Caesar’s  orders, the “family” must travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be numbered in the census and to pay the Roman tax.

Having no alternative, Gadielle and Naomi lead the family south to Bethlehem.  Along the way they encounter more Romans, meet the magi, experience an angelic visitation with the shepherds, receive interpretation of prophecy from another rabbi, encounter more Romans, shop in the busy Bethlehem marketplace, fail to find room at the inn, and — finally — catch up with Mary and Joseph who are caring for their newborn in the stable.  The journey covers nearly a mile of the church grounds and ends with a brief gospel message at a simple wooden cross followed by a visit to the “cocoa tent”.

The logistics of the drama are complex, requiring close coordination among the 150+ cast and crew.  In addition to the cast members at each of the “stations” along the journey, there are eight or more Gadielle/Naomi couples.  At any given moment there are between four and six “families” somewhere along the journey with new groups starting out every ten minutes.

Cathy and I got involved through my parents who are long time members of Mountain View.  Mom got stepped up first and later Dad joined her.  They recruited us to be a Gadielle/Naomi couple in 2006 and we’ve been in every production since.  Up until Dad’s death in 2011, my parents tended the inn.  Mom continues to be involved as a greeter who hands out Jewish passports to the guests as they register for the journey.

During our participation with the production, Cathy and I have seen some remarkable things.  When the angel appears to proclaim the birth of the newborn king, we kneel in awe and reverence.  More than once, we’ve had our entire family spontaneously kneel with us.  At the manger we’ve seen small children creep forward for a closer look at the doll representing the infant Jesus.  Memorably, this year, Cathy had a brief interaction with a tattooed-and-multiply-pierced young lady who hung to the back of the family during the entire journey.  “Thank you for letting me come along,” she said as the journey ended, apparently grateful to have been included.

At the end of each year’s production, the cast and crew are utterly spent.  The long nights of performance in cold and wet weather have taxed people’s reserve and the final farewells are delivered in raw, hoarse voices.  The guests themselves are no less hardy.  People of all faiths and none travel from all parts of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming.  They wait in line for hours for the opportunity to spend an hour walking through the darkness experiencing the journey.

I’ve thought a lot about what drives us — cast, crew and guests alike — to go to such extremes.

I think it’s simply the experience.  Journey to Bethlehem is incredibly visceral.  From the first moment of the journey to the last, the family is on the move.  The trail is full of sights, sounds and smells.  The light from a campfire reflects off the polished Roman armor.  The smoke drifts past as the angel proclaims his message of peace.  The merchants of Bethlehem call out to the guests, offering goods for sale and begging for news of the promise messiah. The dark and the cold contract close, convincing everyone that we are indeed travelling through the ancient world.

Human beings, I think, crave an experience of faith.  The journey gives that to them.

One of the problems with religion in America (and perhaps the western world in general) is that we have over-intellectualized it.  We treat belief as a subject for academic study; something that can be gained or given through mental exercise.  In so doing, we have traded away the best part of faith.  It is little wonder people are wary of religion; we talk to them about God, but never show Him to them.  We are like professors trying to frame a scientific explanation for love and completely missing the point.  Faith isn’t subject to rational evaluation.  It is a suprarational act.

Perhaps it is time we remember that and invite the world to share in the experience of faith rather than endlessly debating it.

Which brings me to my Christmas prayer for all of you.

God, creator of all things,
grant us the grace to encounter Your infinite love
through our experiences with Your bountiful creation.
In the name of the Father,
And of the Son,
And of the Holy Spirit.
Amen

— Dad

Visiting the King in Memphis

St Mary's Memphis

Last Saturday found me in Memphis, Tennessee at the tail end of an educational conference.  My colleagues took advantage of the the opportunity to head off to tour the king’s home, Graceland. I stayed behind for the vigil Mass for the Feast of Christ the King at St. Mary’s parish.

 

From the outside, St. Mary’s is a sturdy, unassuming brick building built along familiar lines.  A cornerstone near the front door anchors the parish in 1864, the start of the post-Civil War reconstruction.  Classic column-and-arch architecture lends the compact interior the feeling a European cathedral.  Fitting, as it was built originally as a German parish.  The hand-carved wooden pews, confessional and altar give the space a sense of weight and dignity; the earthly embodiment of the heavenly ideal.

There is no denying the beauty of the church and its parishioners are justly proud of having just celebrated the parish’s sesquicentennial.  What struck me most — and moved me during my time there — was the sense of community beyond the walls of the church.

As I entered, a small group near the front prayed the Rosary.

Hail Mary, full of grace…

Their public prayers formed a sort of Greek chorus behind my own private prayer before the Mass, reminding me that I am loved by God individually and as part of a larger community.  The modest crowd that filtered in was a visible sign of the universality of the Church.  Across the world, in thousands of other parishes, hundreds of thousands of people were celebrating the same Mass with the same Liturgy and the same readings.

It was comforting and moving, sitting in the company of other believers whom I had never met and would likely never see again; yet sharing the experience of the Eucharist.  It was a moment both commonplace and profound.

And that, I think, is what I took away from the experience.  Not the homily (although it was a good homily), not the music, or the readings or even the beauty of the space.  The gift I received from the King that day was the simple truth that none of us is alone; we are all pilgrims on a journey toward heaven and there is great comfort in knowing we that none of us is alone.