For years, Fr. T.E. Jones’s blog was mandatory reading, at least for me. For seven years, Fr Jones recorded the priestly and parochial life of St Peter’s, London Docks, where he was vicar. I loved his blog, which concluded in 2013, for its domesticity. Fr. Jones didn’t just record the major events at St Peter’s; he shared the beauty of the routine and mundane. It was a real look into the real life of a real parish. This May I was thrilled to meet Fr Jones, now retired, at the National Pilgrimage at Walsingham. He was gracious, charming, and witty, exactly as I had imagined.
While not done with social media (still very useful for parish communications), I am certainly over it. I am tired of the rancor, snark, and virtue signaling (am I now virtue signaling the fact that I don’t virtue signal?). I would much rather ‘follow after the things which make for peace, and the things wherewith one may edify another’ (Romans 14.19).
While I am certainly Fr. Jones and I do not serve the famous St Peter’s, London Docks, I do have a desire to share the holy domesticity of parish life, for both a record and, God willing, edification.
Saturday, December 1, 2018
Commemoration of Nicholas Ferrar, Deacon
I had the pleasure this morning of leading an Advent Quiet Day in the parish, sponsored by the Daughters of the King. Mass was for the commemoration of Nicholas Ferrar, a patron saint of holy domesticity. I have never been to the little church of St John’s at Little Gidding, but very much hope to one day correct that.
At the Quiet Day, I discussed the iconography of three images of the Virgin Mary: Mary, Ark of the New Covenant, the Seven Sorrows of Mary, and Our Lady of Walsingham. I find the image of Mary as Ark of the New Covenant profound in its parallels to David before the Ark in 2 Samuel. I’ve always had a devotion of the Mater Dolorosa and hope this title will help those in attendance find consolation in the strength of Our Lady, who endured so very much. And Our Lady of Walsingham is just so very special. When I enter the church every morning, she greets me as if it where my own mother wishing me good morning from the kitchen.
After a simple lunch with the retreatants, I went to my office to work on my Spanish. On Wednesday, I received a call from the pediatric decedent affairs coordinator asking if the Society of St Joseph of Arimathea would pay for the cremation of a 22-week-old. The answer, of course, was yes. It will always be yes. This was the 23rd child in less than two years we’ve taken care of. Friday afternoon, the funeral home called to tell me the family had changed their mind about keeping the ashes and asked if we would bury as well. Again, yes, Always, yes. Our wonderful sexton, John, responded to a quick text to see if he could prepare the grave on very short notice and he completed the grave within the hour. The family was coming by our infant cemetery at 2pm and I knew they spoke very little English. My Spanish can’t be much better than their English. I took four semesters of Spanish in college but I am really not able to do more than struggle through my order at our favorite Mexican restaurant.
We lack suitable liturgies for the burial of children in the Episcopal Church. The 1928 Book of Common Prayer is far better, but I don’t have a copy in Spanish. It was committal only at 2pm, so I pieced together some prayers and practiced. When the family arrived in two cars, I met them in the parking lot and did my best to say, “I am sorry my Spanish is not good, but we pray to God from the heart.” We walked in the drizzle down to the cemetery and buried the tiny urn with broken hearts and broken Spanish, trusting that God will heal and hear both.
The afternoon was spent with a pot of tea and computer screen, working on the next day’s homily, the first Sunday of Advent.
After watching my eldest son’s basketball game, I drove back to the church at around 8:30pm to welcome our guests to our homeless shelter. Tonight is the first night of our 122 day season (our sixth). With the rain and dropping temperatures, I was surprised (but happy) to only greet four guests, faces that were both familiar and brand new.
One new guest was over at the out-of-tune piano and filled the space with music. The space in the room wasn’t the only thing her music filled.