I have never met him, nor have I ever spoken with him. I have read his words and been aware of his presence in my life for more than a year. Occasionally he sends emails and they are a joy to read. Filled with reflection and acknowledgement, he reminds me that the words we speak can travel far and reach places we never visit and find a place in people’s hearts.
Contact was established through a small camera, mounted just under the gallery in Kilmovee Parish Church. Though the church was emptied of its congregation, the lens brought something of what was happening there to people of and from the parish. It was a means to an end with an eye towards the end of pandemic, lockdown, social distancing, sickness and most importantly of all, the increasing death toll caused by Covid-19. It was a blessing at a time when we were devoid of much evidence of blessing and a voice when voices were isolated, uncertain and muffled behind masks.
He happened on a Sunday Mass, most likely not live because he lives in the United States and our times were not in sync. Somehow, he made a connection and, for more than a year, joined our parish for Sunday Mass and quite often daily Mass and night prayer. He told me how much all this meant to him and seemed at home in our virtual parish, that was and is rooted in the reality of life in a country parish in County Mayo in the diocese of Achonry. I was glad to know he was there.
His emails picked up on some points that I had made, spoke of his own life and journey and left no doubt around how much faith matters to him and the difference it makes in his day to day living of life. They also reminded me of the need to try to connect with people, even when to the naked eye, there were no people present. When parishioners returned, when sound was again heard in our church, it was so welcome, and his emails reflected that too. He spoke of how wonderful it was to see the people of this parish he had joined through cyberspace. He felt he knew them and continued to feel at home among them. As it should be.
I moved parish in August and now live in Tubbercurry and Cloonacool parish in my native County Sligo. Towards the end of August, I received the package I mentioned. Nothing fancy or elaborate, a prayer candle with a prayer for peace attached. I recognised the sender’s name. It was my email friend and included a few lines wishing me well. I was happy to receive it and grateful for his continued support and kindness. I put the candle on the table, put a match to its wick and allowed it bring light and peace to the room.
A few days later I received an email. He told me that he had sent me a small package and had tracked it as far as Dublin but beyond that he did not know if it had arrived. He hoped he had the right address. I replied telling him that it had arrived and that I was grateful. I should, of course, have replied sooner but maybe there’s a lesson in that!
I hope there is because I shared that story with three First Holy Communion groups and their families. It strikes me that the man could track the package but he could not track the gratitude or the difference his gift made. For the First Holy Communion children, Jesus could track the journey to that point where they say “Amen” but how can we reassure him of our gratitude? Only by saying thanks and letting it be known that the gift received matters deeply.
Is there an unacknowledged gift in your life? Is there a word of thanks due to someone? The delivery can be tracked but the response… well, that is down to us. Maybe it is the ‘Amen’ to Eucharist at weekly Mass.
A consoling line
A parishioner in the new parish called in recently. The parish had been without a resident priest for twenty months and he came to welcome me. What he said next shocked and pleased me. He told me that he had driven by the house, looked in and noticed my car and that it took him back to his childhood when he passed the church one day with his father who looked in and said “I like to see the priest’s car at the house. I feel safer knowing that he’s there.” I never really thought of it like that before but I was happy to hear him saying it.