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13 February 2013

A Glorious Lenten Maladventure

These are my favorite type of posts, the ones which tumble off my fingers too quickly, all the while trying to sort out the magnificent ministerial maladventure in which I just participated.  I end up getting all the details mixed up to one extent or another, but just like the turtles upon which the world sit, it's grace all the way down.

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So today I get to South Boston and offer a reflection at the school mass.  Then I head over to the Fire Department HQ with the Pastor to give out ashes to the good folk there.  They thank us but say, "Oh, the folks at "1010" need ashes too." (We don't know where "1010" is and we don't understand the directions.) We're doing this because the fire chaplain fell and hurt himself on the ice (please, pray for him).  We get back to the parish and I need to head over to the grammar school to talk to the altar servers for tonight (because, the Cardinal is coming and I don't want that sprung on them when they get here).  I grab some egg salad in between all this and get ready to make a few communion/ash calls.

I leave the parish and realize I have a problem.  My first call is in Spanish.  I don't know how to say Ash Wednesday en espanol.  And I certainly don't know how to say, "Repent and believe in the Gospel."  I start calling everyone in my phone book who may be able to help me.  No answer.  Why would anyone answer?  It is 2:00 pm on a Wednesday.  Everyone is working.  In the midst of this, I make a left turn the wrong way down a one way.  And I need to back up around a snow bank.  And I'm still calling.  Nothing.

I'm driving down Columbia Road at this point, still working the phone, trying to fit my hulking friar-edition Ford Taurus around snow banks and people driving on the other side of the road, while at the same time attempting to find something resembling a parking space without a picnic basket, chair, old toilet or some other place holder in it.  I find one about three blocks from my first stop.  Good enough.

Finally get through to a friend: how do you say "Repent and believe in the Gospel."  "Let me check with a coworker."  And now I'm trying to copy down a transitive verb in Spanish that I know I'm never going to be able to pronounce.  (Someday, I'll be arrested for crimes against the Spanish language.)

Leave the car, bring the ashes and Holy Communion.  A couple comes walking toward me, one after the other, in the type of one of those tense arguments where one person is shouting obscenities about the level of their love for the other all the while lighting cigarettes one end from another.
Dude: It's Ash Wednesday.
Me: Yup, want some ashes?
Dude: No.
Lady Friend: Can I have ashes?
Me: Sure.
(I love Ash Wednesday -- it's the one day of the year where I don't need to worry about someone stealing something, whether someone is Catholic, whether or not anything: you want ashes, you get 'em.)

I meet another two ladies.  They don't know when they're going to get ashes.  "Are you a monk?" "Sort of, a friar."  "We can't get ashes."  Boy, can I help you with that.

First communion call done.  In Spanish.  Ashes were distributed, communion received.  No one got hurt.  I'm not sure what I said in Spanish.

Second communion call.  Find another parking space a long ways from the apartment.

Guy stops me: "Are you with the Church?"  "Yes."  "Glad to see you doing the work."  "Thanks."  "Thanks for your service."  "It's what God has called me to do, it's my pleasure."  "I hope you get a better boss -- hope the whole new pope thing goes well."  I laugh.

Second communion call not home.

Third call.  Parallel park to get there.  Nice visit.  Lost in South Boston getting back to the rectory one more time.

Now I'm writing this post.  Time for midday prayer.

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