Tuesday, August 26, 2008


During grad school, I led a special weekly "small group" at my university parish. I say it was "special" because it wasn't exactly like the other groups. A few students, no "year-rounders". The students who came to my group tended to be those who had considered leaving the Church. Sometimes they would bring their friends from the evangelical community (which I had been involved with as an undergrad, as a Catholic). The core purpose of the group was to discuss the Scripture readings for the next Sunday's mass. However, the staff had given me permission to use the group to present mini-lessons on the Catholic faith using the Catechism -- basic things. I'm not sure it had a lasting impact, but it was a good opportunity to talk about some things.

On one rare evening, nobody showed up. I hung around for a little while (I studied there typically, no big deal), when suddenly a guy my age came in and walked up the stairs to our lounge. I had never seen him before, and so I thought he was lost; and I suppose he was looking for one of the priests, but they weren't around the office that evening (they were working with RCIA in another room). He came in and sat down. We spent some time talking about life, and he mentioned that that night was the first time he'd set foot in a church in a long while; that he'd wasted the last few years of his life, and his time in college, indulging in the party scene. He revealed to me how something began to eat away inside of him, and he began to see himself as having value. He had realized the horrible ways in which he had treated women, and he knew that God had opened his eyes. He was yearning for the sacraments. I was a little uncomfortable at first, but seeing his sincerity, I couldn't help but see a moment of grace.

Another time I recall when none of the regulars showed up - the evening began the same way. Suddenly, a man, probably in his mid-40's, walked up the stairs and sat down on the couch opposite me. Indeed, he was a regular parishioner at the parish, but he needed to talk to somebody -- one person -- and the priests again weren't available. The man was utterly wracked with guilt. He had been involved in a car accident earlier that day, not too far from the church. The accident wasn't his fault, but it nonetheless resulted in the death of the other driver. I did my best to assure him of God's peace. We talked about life's simple moments, and of connections we make with others, with family, friends. I saw him several times after that night. He never said hello, but he knew who I was, and I knew who he was.

Those moments were so simple. Too simple, even. And yet, they were meaningful. Not only to those guys, but to me. And it wasn't even about me. They helped me. And I came to an even greater appreciation of grace-filled sacraments, and true freedom, holiness in Christ. For me, life is Christ!

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