Thursday, February 21, 2008

Communion Calls

Communion Calls

Before I came to the monastery, I was a parish priest for twenty years. Once a month throughout those years, I brought communion to people who could not make it to Mass. Such visits are known as communion calls. They were usually done on the first Friday of each month.

I had my list and drove to each person’s home. I would often stay for a while, but had to keep my eye on my watch so as not to keep the next person waiting. I knew that the people looked forward to my visits since most of them were elderly, lived alone, and did not have many social contacts. I had with me a small metal container, called a Pyx, into which I placed the hosts that were needed for the visits. And I had a little green ritual book, with a few ribbons, to mark the places where the prayers for the sick were. Most of the people knew the prayers by heart and would recite them with me, which I liked.

I was thinking about the people I knew in those days, early this morning. We had an unusual event late yesterday afternoon – it snowed for a while and there is a light blanket of snow on our fields this morning. When I looked out the window, for some reason, while gazing at the peaceful beauty of the scene, a memory came to me of Pops, a man I used to see every first Friday. He once told me that he loved snow when he was younger but as he aged it became such a worry for him. He was afraid of falling – and he did not get as many visitors.

Pops lived with his daughter and her family. His daughter’s name was Agnes. I cannot remember her husband’s name. They had an adopted daughter who at the time was a teenager. She was a very pretty girl and I heard, years later, that she became a model. Agnes would answer the door when I came to the house and after setting up a small table with lit candles, she would excuse herself and return after Pops received communion. He sat in a comfortable recliner chair and he had a small dog, a really cute dog, who would come to me with his tail wagging, would sniff my shoes, and then, seemingly satisfied that I was okay, would jump onto the recliner chair right next to Pop. There was just enough room for him. He snuggled against Pop’s thigh and was very quiet, but attentive, as Pops said his prayers and received the small host, the presence of the Lord. After receiving, he would close his eyes for a few seconds in prayer, then open them and look at me for the okay to start talking. And talk he did, about his life, his loves, his worries, his hopes. Agnes would come back into the room, offer me a soda, and then sit and join in the conversation. The little dog never moved, but always listened.

Vincent lived in a small apartment. I often had trouble finding a parking place near the building. He was originally from Greece and was on in years. He wore tailored suits, and donned the best of them when I visited him. He had quite a hair-do. The grays and whites were arranged in a style that reminded of Elvis’s early look. Vincent kept a large shrine to the Virgin Mary in his living room. It filled one corner of the room – a large shell-ike structure in which there was a statue of Mary. It was surrounded by plastic flowers and at her feet were always arranged fresh fruits, one of which Vincent always offered me before I left. “It is special, very special,” he would say.

Helen was a very large woman whose size, I think, confined her to her bed. Her husband was a small Chinese man and I never heard him say a word. He smiled a lot, and I could tell that he and Helen loved each other very much. Helen was once in the Air Force and there were pictures of her in her uniform on the walls of her bedroom. On the table near the bed was her favorite picture which she pointed out every visit I made – it was a black and white photograph of her and her husband taken while they were on their honeymoon, in Hawaii. In the picture, she was much thinner and towered over him. He was smiling in the picture – and I noticed that his smile had stayed much the same over the years.

Margaret lived alone in a huge house. She never married. She had a lot of cats. I would be reading the prayers and cats would be at my feet, in my lap, sneaking up behind me on the couch where I sat. She often told me that the cats liked me. There were pictures of Richard Gere all over the place. She said she was related to him. I wondered about that but never said anything. “Real cutie pie,” she would tell me. She was in her eighties.

I am sure they have all moved on now and live in the communion they once received every Friday. Pops. Margaret, Helen, Vincent – they are ageless and have become a part of me, in my heart, the place of all communion.

I think we, who are here on this earth, live in this communion but cannot quite see that yet. We can taste it. We can love from it. We can hope for it. We somehow take into our bodies and hearts the fullness of the life that is all around us. We are in a living banquet and are rather modest in the ways that we celebrate it. It is a banquet with honeymoons and smiling faces, cats on the sofa and doggies at our feet, of women bringing sodas and old men anxious to speak their hearts and their loves. All of this was never far from the reception of communion. All of life is a communion call – as if God is the ever present first Friday Visitor, asking that we be with him, receive him, welcome him.

I look at the beauty of freshly fallen snow – it is rare, here in Georgia, to have snow. Just yesterday I was telling a group in our retreat house that I used to love the sound of falling snow when I lived in the northeast. There was that pervasive hiss as the snow fell and touched the earth. Even when the snow stopped falling, there seemed to be a sound in the air, the sound of snow, a peaceful yet rich sound. Something like a communion of white, of innocence, of purity. Billions of hosts, coming softly to the earth, covering everything. A gift from God, as is everything, coming from above, arising from below, whispering to me as to where he is, communing with us.

The whole universe is a Mass – feeding us every day. The banquet of God, this life we live. It is special, very special.

1 comment:

Tavish said...

thanks i really appreciate it!
exquisite shots,quite like the one titled 'Mass',immediately elicits emotions,beautiful capture!

Cheers!