From Father Shin: Rain Man Part II
Last month I wrote about my journey through New Jersey and the strange coincidence that every time I travel, it rains. It rained again last week. I traveled to Tampa, Florida last Thursday on what was actually a second attempt. The first involved a cancelled flight to Tampa, a day in the Washington-Dulles airport and extremely bad weather in Florida. So I tried my trip again. After a delay (of course, at Washington-Dulles again), I made it to Florida.
My trip was a call of duty, of sorts, because my friend’s wife is dying of cancer. Hannah has been ill with liver cancer since last fall. When I saw her last fall, despite this deadly illness she was full of life and hope and energy. She hoped to beat this cancer. When I finally arrived at my friend’s house and went into the living room where she was being taken care of, I went into a total shock. The thirty-eight year old woman of vibrant life had become like a figure in the ad for famine relief. She was nothing but skin and bones. Her skin was brown with dark patches – lifeless, hopeless, and helpless. The evil cancer cells had devoured her life.
I cried out the loudest cry of anger and despair from the guts. “Lord, Hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.” But silence was all there was. The loudness of silence pounded into all my senses. Only a trained ear could handle such a decibel. Nothing in my seminary and priestly training had prepared me for this kind of encounter with God. I suppose one is never really prepared for any kind of meaningful encounter with God. They say there are two kinds of preachers – those who have something to say and those who have to say something. At the moment I was the kind who felt obligated to say something, but really had nothing to say and could not dare say anything.
She reached out and held my hand as if she knew what I was going through. She held it so tightly that I could feel my own life’s energy draining away. I hoped to be of some help to her, and I mainly just hoped that my visit would cause her no harm. But in the holding was a moment of holy encounter. The Sacred filled the distance between us. I felt moisture in her cold and bony hand. Maybe I was feeling my own perspiration. Before I knew it, with our eyes, we were praying together. Soon our inner voices became one. We were praying with one voice, a voice crying in the wilderness.
As if giving up on our prayer, she opened her eyes and withdrew her hand from me. Then she offered some melon. They were the sweetest melons, she said. Reluctantly I picked up a piece and took a bite. She asked me how it tasted and proceeded to make me give her a detailed description of the taste and texture and juiciness of the melon she no longer could eat. On some level it was rather absurd and paradoxical. It was her way of experiencing life and holding on to life. Through my description she was trying to reach back into her own memory of life’s small pleasures and beauties.
And I was coaxed into seeing life in a way I ordinarily don’t see. The sweet taste of a juicy piece of melon is an ordinary experience of a fleeting moment usually taken for granted and soon tucked away in the brain’s overcrowded, unconscious compartment with other small and insignificant memories. But here it became an extraordinary experience, an encounter with the beauty of holiness in God’s creation. I saw life with an eye of one who was fast losing it. In a moment like this, life is more than just precious and priceless. Life takes on an infinite value and an eternal quality. If Hannah was trying to hold on to life through my mundane description of the taste of melon, I was privileged to glimpse life’s eternity through her eyes.
We don’t have full control over various forces in life and the inevitable directions they take us. However, how we see life is up to us. We can choose cynically to see and dwell on life’s negative and ugly side. Or we can choose to find and see life’s positive and beautiful side. Depending upon particular situations, most of us see life in both ways. But when life’s negative aspects seem to overwhelm us, we should take care not to be trapped there. Usually the negative things turn out to be small and insignificant in life. What Hannah helped me to see was the gift of life in the midst of dying.
I had to fly right back the next morning for another call of duty in Times Square. As it turned out I was stranded once again at Washington-Dulles for six hours. Thunder storms in New York metropolitan area. Surrounded by agitated sighs, frenzied calls on mobile phones and occasional yelling by anxious travelers, I was in another world, in another dimension of life. The cab ride home from LaGuardia that evening was the best cab ride I had ever had in New York. Isn’t life beautiful?
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Jack, Olga, Helen, Shirley, Hannah, Dawn, Mary, Lucille, Frances, Eleanor and Carl.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Isaiah 57:14b-21, Psalm 22:22-30, Ephesians 2:11-22, Mark 6:30-44 . . . 9:00 AM Celebrant: Father Shin, Preacher: Richard Lawson, 10:00 AM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Breidenthal, 11:00 AM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Breidenthal, 5:00 PM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Shin . . . Confessions will be heard on July 22 by Father Shin . . . Confessions will be heard on July 29 by Father Gerth.
SAINT VINCENT’S NOTES . . . Those who are new to Saint Mary’s may not know that Saint Vincent’s Guild is the acolytes’ guild. It is made up of Masters of Ceremonies (MCs), subdeacons, thurifers, crucifers, torchbearers, “boatbearers” and any other non-clergy one may see serving at the altar. The MCs met last Sunday for a “working brunch.” The meeting began with the Rector and Curate thanking the MCs for their hard work, their flexibility and commitment, their dedication to details, their care of the altar vessels and vestments, and most of all for their faith and the good and generous spirit that has developed within the guild of servers. Projects discussed by the MCs included: plans to renovate and organize a basement room to be used for the inventory of the church’s candles and candelabra; plans to meet with a textile conservationist from the Metropolitan Museum of Art who will help us learn more about the care and storage of our vestments; plans for a servers’ event around the visit of Professor Louis Weil in March 2001; and plans for a servers’ retreat.
ALTAR FLOWERS are needed for August 20 and 27. If you are interested in donating flowers in memory of a loved one, or in thanksgiving, please call the parish office at 869-5830.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . At the Board of Trustees meeting on Monday two new board members were elected. Congratulations to new Trustees, Mr. Robin Landis and Mr. David Gillespie. . . . Another Tuesday in Times Square—On a day of complete sunshine, there was a shower of rain on 46th Street. The “shower” came by way of a leak in a hose used to clean the building across the street. For almost thirty minutes an enormous amount of water was sprayed from the roof of the building, arcing over 46th Street toward Times Square, hitting buildings, slowing traffic and prompting people to take out their umbrellas. If the façade of Saint Mary’s appears slightly cleaner, you will now know why. . . .The Trustees’ reception for new members on Monday night was a resounding success. Eighteen new members were able to attend and enjoy some very good food and some even better conversation. . . . Please notice the new cards on the table near the entrance to the church. One side contains some basic information about Saint Mary’s and the other side lists all of our worship services. Feel free to take several of these cards with you to help us spread the spirit of Saint Mary’s and to enable people to find us more easily! . . . The Rector is on vacation, returning to the office on Wednesday, July 26 . . . Attendance last Sunday 141.
A Collect for the Good Use of Leisure
O God, in the course of this busy life,
give us times of refreshment and peace;
and grant that we may so use our leisure to rebuild our bodies
and renew our minds,
that our spirits may be opened to the goodness of your creation;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Worship at Saint Mary’s
The Holy Eucharist
On Sundays Mass is said at 9:00 AM, 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM. A Solemn Mass is offered at 11:00 AM. Monday through Friday Mass is said at 12:15 PM and 6:20 PM. On Saturdays Mass is said at 12:15 PM.
The Daily Office
On ordinary Sundays Morning Prayer is said at 8:40 AM and Evening Prayer at 4:45 PM. Monday through Friday Morning Prayer is offered at 8:30 AM, the Noonday Office at 12:00 PM and Evening Prayer at 6:00 PM. On Saturdays the Noonday Office is offered at 12:00 PM and Evening Prayer at 5:00 PM.
The Reconciliation of Penitents
Confessions are heard on Saturdays between 11:30 and 12:00 and between 4:00 and 5:00. Appointments can also be made with members of the parish clergy for the Reconciliation of Penitents at other times.
The ordinary Fridays of the year are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
The Calendar for the Sixth Week after Pentecost
Monday Thomas à Kempis, priest
Eve of Saint James’s Day 6:20 PM
Tuesday Saint James the Apostle
Wednesday The Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Thursday William Reed Huntington, priest
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Mary and Martha of Bethany
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector, The Reverend Allen Shin, curate, The Reverend Thomas Breidenthal, assistant, The Reverend Arthur Wolsoncroft, The Reverend Canon Maurice Garrison, The Reverend Amilcar Figueroa, assisting priests, The Reverend Mary Haddad, assisting deacon, The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.