As we entered the sanctuary, my eyes scanned the pews, just like always. Our second-on-the-left pew was still unoccupied, but just in front, I noticed a pair of white-habited nuns. We slid into our seats and I helped Evie pray with Jesus, then I leaned over and tapped a nun on the shoulder. “Are you Little Sisters of the Poor?” I whispered, and she looked surprised, but nodded assent. “My daughter,” I continued, “is discerning a vocation with you. She was up to Louisville about a month ago to visit you.” She smiled. She remembered. Then the other one turned to face me, and I was delighted to see our “gateway” nun, Sister Mary Katherine!
I’d heard about the Little Sisters in the regular news, you know, because their case against Obamacare was going before the Supreme Court, and when I looked them up, I discovered that they operate nursing homes for the elderly poor the world over. “Delaney!” I hollered. “Have you heard of this Order?!” They are pretty much everything she has been looking for in a religious order, and it’s a bit of a wonder she hadn’t found them before. Just a couple of weeks later, we were at the State Fair in Louisville, and there were nuns just everywhere. I approached one and asked, just like I did this morning, “Are you Little Sisters of the Poor?” And that is how we met Sister Mary Katherine. She’s a chatterbox, as Jonny put it, so there’s never a lack of conversation with her, and her friendship and affection are offered without hesitation or reserve. In short, she’s easy to love, and just by association, we can’t help but love her Order, too.
And so it was a joyful meeting this morning, and I hope Jesus will excuse us for our whispered exchanging of “family” news instead of recollecting ourselves for Mass.
Sister Mary Katherine was visiting in order to beg an offering via the second collection for their Louisville house. She unexpectedly mentioned our family in general and Delaney in particular. That’s probably what got the visiting Father’s attention in the first place. Just to make sure he didn’t forget about us, Evie and Henry kept the noise emitting from our pew at an astonishingly high and sustained level. I spent more time than usual correcting them and trying to keep them separated, but we were occupying less pew space than usual, and had fewer adults available to run interference, so it wasn’t going very well.
Finally, it was time for Holy Communion. I approached Father with Henry on my hip and a hand on Evie in front of me. “God bless you,” he said, tracing a cross on Evie’s forehead. “God bless you,” he said, tracing another on Henry’s. Then he turned to me. “You know who really needs a blessing is you!” he said. “God bless you!” and he traced a cross on me, too, before offering me the Host. I laughed out loud right then and there, because you know what? We’re crazy! We’re a whirlwind of chaos and destruction! We’re noisy and we leak under the pew and slip into the aisle and try to play games with the people behind us. We leave a trail of spread-eagle hymnals and missals in our wake. We have to go the bathroom – a lot. Sometimes we have to leave the building altogether! I can tell you exactly when the last time I could pay attention to the Mass was, because both the babies were at David’s end of the pew and I basked in the rosy sunlight slanting through the stained glass windows while I listened to the homily and prayed the prayers and knelt without straining to hold myself and two kids in a semi-upright position. It was glorious. So I’m glad Father noticed, and I’m glad he didn’t offer platitudes about how blessed we are. (We are!) I’m glad he looked at our zoo and thought to offer a little bit of extra grace instead. I’m going to carry that with me for quite a little while, because it meant a lot to me.
Sitting in the front, we’re always the last ones out, so Sister Mary Katherine had a few more minutes to chat by the time we made it to the door. She took our contact information (again) and I guess we’ll be going up there soon to visit. Delaney wasn’t home this weekend, and I know she’ll be sorry she missed them. They’re her people, her tribe, and maybe, someday, her family. God’s will be done.
I may not have been able to focus on Mass today, but this was a really great Sunday, and I want to remember it, crazy kids and all.
We are blessed, and, today, blessed just a little bit more.