Blessed William Laud. For the life of me, I don’t understand why General Convention is ok with William Laud on the kalendar but not King Charles I.
Morning Prayer and Mass (American Missal) was for William Laud. As soon as mass was over, I prepared a full kit to take to South Carolina, grabbed a cup of coffee, and hit the road. I was travelling to South Carolina to visit and say mass at the home of Brian and Christine.
I have permission to share this story. What a day.
I don’t remember exactly when Brian and Christine came to St Timothy’s, tempus fugit. She has a Canadian Anglican/Coptic Orthodox background. He was a mathematician at Wake Forest. I’m not sure I’ve had the pleasure of a more kind, supportive, and faithful young couple.
I remember distinctly her first pregnancy. It was during the first lesson at Maundy Thursday when I noticed she had slipped out, looking ill. A few minutes later she returned, looking tired, but gave an assuring nod to her husband. In the back of my mind I suspected that evening she was having morning sickness. I was right.
Yesterday she told me that she didn’t have the easiest time conceiving and she was struggling with this. She said one day in mass I said that if you want to encounter Jesus Christ you can find him in two places: in the mass and in the hearts of those who love him. So she started coming to daily mass and building community and that, according to her, made all the difference. This was the first time I had heard this background.
The delivery of her first child was complicated and so were the first few months after. It seemed she just couldn’t catch a break. Brian took a teaching job at College in South Carolina and we were all sad to see them move, but were happy for the new opportunities awaiting them. We like to say we all will keep in touch, but I was particularly deficient in doing so.
She got pregnant again, praise God, and had a baby boy. However, during the delivery the doctors discovered cancer and it was advanced. This precious woman is just in her 30s. I have talked to her off and on, but not frequently and have been absolutely astounded at her peace, courage, and faith. She is not ignorant of the prognosis and she is not wasting a single moment with pity or despair. I’m certain – certain – there are moments of doubt and despair, maybe even prolonged ones, she wouldn’t be human otherwise, but those very much seem to be the exception and not the rule of her life.
Over Christmas she asked if Fr John Roberts and I would visit them. John was a wonderful member of our staff before he was ordained and a part of their story. John and I took this request seriously and quickly made arrangements to meet at their home (he’s now in another diocese).
It’s not a short drive and I arrived at their home just before noon. Their little girl met me at the door with a drawing and a bracelet with bells. I did not bring sanctus bells with me and I wondered if I could shake my wrist during the elevation! John arrived literally two minutes after me. Even though we are only a few hours away from each other, I haven’t seen John since I preached his ordination the year before. It was a reunion for everyone.
I said mass in their living room. I don’t see the reason why we can’t say full-on masses in people’s homes. I brought all that I needed without skimping: crucifix, chalice, wine, water, hosts, missal, and a full set of vestments. Packing an altar is a challenge so I pulled together two tv trays and did the best I could.
I need to interrupt the story of Brian and Christine for a liturgical comment. I said mass the way I always do. Ad orientem, full vestments, and full ceremonial. Yes, some things were different, because the space was different, but that was the only reason. I think it is more awkward to change the mass in someone’s home than it is to do the whole bit they way one would normally and traditionally do it.
The children are young, 5 and 2 ½. They have never had a mass said in their living room – who has? It was exciting and strange and I was an invader in their space. Ad orientem made it easier. It made the tv trays less awkward and it made the movements of the children irrelevant. The little boy would walk up to the side and peer in to what I was doing. I kept saying the prayers. He wasn’t irreverent and he wasn’t bothering me. Had I tried to face them and focus on eye contact, their movements would have felt to everyone like rudeness and an interruption. Our conversation was with God. Instead of an interruption, their movements were legitimate exploration. My plea to priests: don’t just bring a stole – bring everything. Let the family know that this is the same mass as in the church. Say mass the way you would at the cathedral. For the home you are in, is.
I said mass and Fr John anointed the whole family. It was beautiful. The readings, for William Laud, were hard: accept sufferings and hardships. But I quickly realized, this is what this faithful family is doing and this is the good news for them. Their sufferings are not in vain. They are, in God’s mystery, bringing them closer to him. I left with them the crucifix I brought for the mass.
After mass, we had a lunch that felt like a scene from A Christmas Carol and John and I were ghosts of Christmas Present; there was so much food. We talked about life, faith, and death. Never have I been more inspired. Dear reader, pray for Brian and Christine. Pray for them and pray that you may have this kind of faith. I am.
I left their home at 2pm and arrived back the church just before Evening Prayer. After Shrine Prayers I went back to the office and worked until 6:15, responding to emails, etc., still thinking about Christine and Brian and still so very thankful for the day. I was asked to bring comfort to them and they brought immense comfort to me.