Rambling on the Unusual

[author’s note: From our deployment to Iraq.]

July 11, 2010
Unusual things happen at Cathedral. I’m not saying this to insult or compliment anyone; it is a fact that every priest in the diocese knows—unusual things happen at Cathedral. A few examples? Sure.

There was the time two years ago I came back to the rectory and the police had a gentleman face down in the grass in the front yard with pistols drawn. How about the time I opened the Church one morning and a man came in, knelt in front of the altar and proceeded to beat his head on the floor. Or the time the lady was taking a bath in our holy water dispenser by Our Lady of Guadalupe’s altar. I could go on, but you get the idea—at Cathedral we specialize in the unusual.

With this in mind I was having one of my first Masses here on Joint Base Balad, Iraq, called JBB for short. The Saturday evening Mass is attended by mostly TCNs. These are Third Country Nationals who come to Iraq with contractors to get work. They cook, clean and do every job imaginable on this Base. At this Mass we have Catholics from India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, etc. There will be about 100 TCNs and maybe four or five Soldiers and Airmen. The Mass began as normal, but when I began to preach a lady in the middle row started screaming; not talking loud, not yelling–screaming. It took awhile to figure out that she was screaming, “Jesus-Alleluia!” Naturally I thought of Cathedral and imagined these people knew about Cathedral and were welcoming me with something that would happen at St. Mary’s. As I looked around the congregation, they were all staring in shock at the woman, so I guess it wasn’t a welcoming ritual after all.

At this point I realized my homily was in vain, the very loud woman was more entertaining. It was just as well since I was preaching about the July 4th holiday and there were only three people there from the US, the other hundred saw July 4 as only a date on a calendar.

Most times our words are meaningless and we should use actions. The action the Good Samaritan used in the Gospel story [Luke 10:25-37] spoke of his faith; he didn’t have to argue with anyone, convince anyone or prove himself, his actions were enough. Do we show our charity to all, or do we have to convince them with words of that which we do not show?

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