Jill, a friend from church, and I visited Carl at his assisted living home on a gray November morning (is there any other kind of November morning?). Carl is quite old, suffering declining hearing and sight, but still cheerful. We happened to arrive just as Mass was beginning, not by plan, and Carl was not about to leave Mass. Carl is traditionally Roman Catholic, while we are Protestants. We took seats in the second row (everyone else was in one oval-shaped row). The altar was set on a rec room kind of table in a room that serves for table games, ice cream socials (five flavors were listed on the board), and movies. The priest was Nigerian; English was clearly his second language. His assistant, Carol, was Miss Sunshine in the very best sense of the word: friendly, cheerful, with a voice stronger than her slight frame would have suggested, and making sure everyone had worship guides in hand.
We started by singing “Amazing Grace.” The lips of all seventeen worshipers were moving in sync. One man raised both hands in worship. As the priest gave his homily, a few nodded nodded off. Most of the worshipers knew the Eucharistic liturgy by heart and joined in at just the right times. When he brought the host around the circle, he had to wake up one woman. That was all she needed, as she smiled broadly and took her portion of the body of Christ. I smiled too.
As the gifts were approaching us, Jill looked at me and whispered something to the effect of, “May we partake?” “They didn’t tell us we couldn’t,” I said. The host was brought to each of us and we partook, with great joy. This was a foretaste of the Great Supper being readied for us in heaven.
The final song was “This Little Light of Mine,” the priest nearly dancing as Carol led us. Musically, I could have been at vacation Bible school. I couldn’t help but raise my index finger as we sang, “Let is shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
We walked with Carl to his room for a brief visit, and then walked him to the dining hall for lunch, for which he insisted on being early. With the Mass, our visit took far longer than I had reckoned for, yet I drove away smiling and singing, “I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let is shine.” It was a good way to spend most of a gray November morning.