Father Manny: A Day In The Life (of an #Episcopal priest)

A Day in the Life...
Busse Woods November 2009
Wednesday morning, 6:05am, it is still quite dark out. A thick fog had settled upon the northwest suburbs muting the autumn colors and muffling the sounds of nature. All was still; the trees were motionless. Even the birds were nowhere to be seen. Traffic was heavy headed eastbound. Not much to do but endure the bumper to bumper situation, remain patient and, well, pray. I do quite a bit of praying while I drive. It's not a testament to my driving skills, but rather a practice in which I've engaged for as long as I've been driving. Praying brings a palpable peace upon me that is far too pleasurable to ignore or do without. So, I pray. More heavy traffic. More prayer. St. Alexius Hospital is just off to the left. I park at the farthest spot from the front door. I like to walk and quite frankly, my car is safer parked farthest away. I ask the front desk receptionist how to get to the ICU. She points to the elevator and says get off on the 3rd floor and turn left. I find and opt for the stairs and walk the 3 flights, turn left and locate room 364. I see Erlene in the hallway, talking to the doctor. She and I embrace and talk about how Vernon is doing and how she's coping. After donning a blue cover-all and gloves, I go in to see Vernon. He's not too responsive: he has tubes here, there, seemingly everywhere. I hold his hand and gently stroke his head with my other hand. He tries to talk, but his breathing tube prevents any audibility. No problem, I share with him that the community is praying for him and for Erlene, that we all miss him and wish him to return to us happy and healthy. Despite the tubes, his smile can not be denied nor missed. It is contagious. Erlene smiles, I smile and I have to think that even God is smiling with us at that very moment. And why not? We are His children and God loves us with such intensity. I say my goodbyes to Vernon and Erlene and begin the drive to Elk Grove.
Vernon and Erlene
(Little did I know that this would be my last visit with Vernon. I will treasure the time spent with him and always remember his most infectious smile. Rest in Eternal Peace, my dear friend.) Barrington Road is clearing up by now. After all, it's after 10am and the morning rush has pretty much ended. I turn left on Schaumburg Road, past a series of strip malls, schools and churches. A quick right on Meachem to Biesterfield Road, over and across Rt. 53, past Alexian Brothers Medical Center, the Village City Hall and Police Station, veer left to Jewel and pull up behind the store. I ring the buzzer once, twice and three times. Finally, an employee opens up and announces he has "some stuff" for us this week. 8 full boxes of canned goods and staples I carefully load into my car. The cans and bottles rattle up against one another and I fear something will break and spill onto my fresh and neat car seats. Fear not. All went well and nothing broke, spilled or was the cause of all my earlier prayers going out the window with any utterance of disappointment or anger. Went in through the back door of the church, unlocked the sacristy and greeted Jim who was unpacking all the bread and pastry he had picked up earlier that morning at Panera's. I took the large cart, down the ramp out the back door and carefully sidled up next to my car. Unloaded all the cases and heaved the cart into the church, up the ramp and into the Pantry Room. We unloaded the boxes and began to stock the shelves with the bounty made gift to us. The bare shelves had life again and the pantry guests would have some selections from which to choose. How wonderful.
CoffeeHourDeMystified609
Back into the church, I prepare for the weekend Services by getting the chalices ready, cutting the altar bread into halves, one set into the freezer again and the other set into the fridge for use this weekend. Printed the Stewardship inserts that will go into the Worship Programs once they are ready. Music books are straightened out, the chairs in the church are lined up in order and the funereal candles we used for All Saints Day were lugged back into the storage room. Checked the Book of the Gospels to be sure the proper passage is readied. The phone rang three times, solicitors, a neighboring church inquiring where we purchase our altar wine and some one asking about our food pantry requirements. Haven't had any breakfast but I'm not hungry. I could, however, use a cup of coffee. I brew a fresh pot, pour myself a cup and take it outside with me as I walk around the church. All looks so nice, so clean and well kept. I smile and again I consider the chances that God is smiling along with me. And why not? It's just after 3pm and already several pantry guests have gathered. In fact, they've been at the church since 1pm. They are invited in where coffee and pastry await. They have been huddled at the table in the Gathering Space, talking, laughing, sharing recipes and stories. It is a community; a gathering of friends who meet up every 1st and 3rd Wednesday, compliments of the Holy Innocents Food Pantry at St. Nicholas Church. I look at their faces, those happy and grateful faces and my heart is full with joy and peace. I smile. I know that God is smiling with me right then. And why not? Bob Kalicki and Gary Lackey have arrived by now. We share some stories and chit-chat about this and that. I fill Bob in on what's going on, about the food we received from Jewel and that all the bread and pastry Panera's gave us is all ready, packaged and available to whomever desires it. I say my goodbyes to the Pantry Team and to the guests, I grab a couple bottled waters from the fridge, make sure the sacristy is locked up and all is as it should be. I get into my car which is rather hot and stuffy. Here it is, November 4th and it feels like it's mid-September. I love it. How much longer are we to be blessed with these rather late, Indian Summer style days? 'Embrace and savor them while we can,' I say to myself. Next week, we could have snow. What bliss. I drive the 2 miles to Eunice's home where she awaits my arrival. As I walk up the drive, a rather friendly squirrel carefully and cautiously crawls over to me. I keep calling him over and he responds. Darn it, no food to give. He nibbles at my shoe, looks up and scampers off. A little touch of nature right at my feet. I knock and walk in, give Eunice a hug and sit myself down in the wing back chair which is my traditional place. We talk, laugh and laugh some more. It's what Eunice and I do when we get together. I bring her up to speed on what's happening at St. Nicholas. No, not gossip, but actual concerned conversations. We talked about Vernon, about how Nancy Allan is doing, about how beautiful the gardens look again in large thanks to Connie Nicholson, Marilyn Brown and Bob Kalicki, too. We talked like a family would talk about each other...with love and care. And after the conversations, we pause and prepare for Holy Communion. I offer a prayer and share Jesus with Eunice. We are silent for a moment. Then, we pray the words our Lord and Savior taught us..."Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name..." I bid my farewell, give Eunice another big hug and find my way to my car. Fortunately, the two bottles of water are still cool to the touch. I'll need them as I know traffic headed north will be heavy this time of the day.
Fall Leaves It's 5:30 pm, the sun is preparing for its descent and the sky is a brilliant reddish, orange. It's autumn's beauty on display. The birds that were absent earlier this morning are everywhere. My car windows are down and I can hear them overhead. I see a line of geese headed south in their classic "V" formation. It's wonderful. I'm at a red light watching the traffic pass by, watching the birds begin their migratory journey, squinting into that setting sun...and I smile. Yes, God is smiling, too. And why not?

You Are Always Welcome (Back)

St Nicholas #Episcopal is the product of several mergers. Today the son of a former Holy Innocents family came to us as a visitor from out of town. When I asked what brought him to St Nick’s today, he mentioned the family connection, said that it was his father’s birthday, and said the ashes of his family had been at Holy Innocents but didn’t know what happened to them.

“Oh, they’re right here!” I exclaimed, and pointed toward the baptistery. “The Holy Innocents columbarium came with us when we closed. You can visit your dad, there’s a chair set up for prayer. He and the others have a home with us.”

He teared up a little, and I noticed that he and his wife spent quite a lot of time near the columbarium during the “Peace” break and the second half of the service.

 The columbarium contains the ashes of some former Holy Innocents parishioners, and possibly some more recent St Nicholas people as well.


The Paschal candle stands nearby, reminding us of the Light of the world and of our birth and baptism into the community and fellowship of Christ. The book contains names of other dearly departed, and for the upcoming celebration of All Saints/All Souls, more names will be added.

The chair provides a hospitable place to sit and reflect with those who have gone on ahead.

We were so happy to be here to help this visitor reconnect with his family, and to assure him they’re safe at home at St Nick’s.

As the celebration of All Saints falls on Sunday Nov. 1, there will be special music and other observances. The choir of St Nicholas is working on a very special piece for the anthem, Morten Lauridson‘s “Prayer.”

The text is taken from the poem of the same name by Dana Gioia, and it is heartbreakingly lovely. We in the choir hope to do it justice.

Prayer, by Dana Gioia

Echo of the clocktower, footstep in the alleyway, 

sweep of the wind sifting the leaves.

Jeweller of the spiderweb, connoisseur of autumn’s opulence, 

blade of lightning harvesting the sky.

Keeper of the small gate, choreographer of entrances and exits, midnight whisper travelling the wires.

Seducer, healer, deity or thief, I will see you soon enough—

in the shadow of the rainfall, in the brief violet darkening a sunset—

but until then I pray watch over him as a mountain guards its covert ore

and the harsh falcon its flightless young.


Consent Needed from the Community: Video and audio taping of our worship and celebrations

VideoTape

We have a wonderful choir. We have engaging and lively worship. On occasion, we would like to videotape and audio record particular events.

However, we also need the consent and approval of the Community of St. Nicholas. The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese has instituted a program called “Keeping God’s People Safe,” which requires of us to be mindful of what we record, where and when we place such recordings and the necessity of the community’s consent.

Thus, we will have a consent form present at the weekend Worship Services for the next few weeks. The form will ask each of us if we agree to have occasional video and audio recordings done at St. Nicholas for the purpose of placing said recordings on our webpage and a few other sites that feature churches offering their programs for others to see and hear. We ask everyone to please take a moment, read the form and, if you are in agreement, provide your consent by signing the form.

Your cooperation is requested and appreciated. In advance, thank you one and all.