Men’s Fellowship

Mens Fellowship

Long before I had any interest in joining the Catholic Church, my friend Jack (then a recent convert) invited me to the Friday Morning Men’s Fellowship. I didn’t accept his offer for a while, but he was so persistent. When I did finally go, I found it to be friendly and interesting. On the other hand, I had no interest in converting, so in some way it was an exercise in observing Catholics in their natural habitat.

After attending that first time I was back once or twice. My real interest did not come until I was in RCIA for a while and past that point of just “testing the waters.” By then I was interested in everything Catholic. I started attending the Men’s Fellowship and have not missed any since — including January 8th when conditions were so cold and icy that few made it.

The group meets in the PLC at 7:00am with about 50 or so in attendance. Everyone grabs their name tags, a cup of coffee, and a donut then greet each other while folks continue to arrive. Bill opens each meeting with a joke and announcements. A prayer is offered, and a speaker presents a topic of his interest for 10 to 15 minutes. After that each table discusses whatever they wish. My table reads and discusses a chapter from the Bible (we are currently working our way through Sirach).

One of the many nice things about the Men’s Fellowship is that you meet a lot of people and particularly get to know the guys at your table. Some of us hang around for awhile to continue our discussion or to chat about other topics.

A few weeks ago Tony was passing around the speaker sign-up sheet for the next six months. I don’t know what came over me – temporary insanity I assume – but I signed up for the first open space. That date quickly arrived – last Friday.

I decided my talk would be about those times “when the Holy Spirit insists.” That is, those times when you feel really compelled to do something, even when you would rather not. It seemed like a good topic as we approach Lent. The two recent examples I had from my own life are my conversion and this blog.

Rigsby (my good friend and RCIA sponsor) re-introduced me and offered the prayer. I then talked about my background and why I left my Protestant church (basically what I wrote about in How I came to be an ex-Protestant). That was followed by why I felt that I had to create this blog. Finally, I read a sample from the blog on why I decided to convert to Catholicism (How in the world did I end up here?).

If you have been reading this blog you already know that no one would mistake my efforts with those of good writer. Trust me, I am an even worse public speaker! I didn’t want to read a prepared speech, so my notes were just the points I hoped to make. It did not take long before I got a bit lost and ended-up skipping a bunch of them. On the positive side, I took about the allotted time, so maybe that was a good thing. I hope that it made sense and am grateful these things are not recorded.

My plan to read something in conclusion was so that no matter how scattered I might be in the rest of the presentation, I would at least end with something coherent. For the most part that worked. The only monkey wrench with the piece I read was trying not to get too emotional reading it. I made it through but I didn’t always have the steady voice I was aiming for in several parts (especially the very end).

I met our Archbishop!

I Met Our Archbishop

My daughter is a senior at a local Catholic high school. Last week she and other students were recognized for their academic achievements in the prior semester. We are proud of her as always, but I do not usually attend these things, as she has had a continuous string of them from the beginning.

I felt that my attendance at this one was important as it would be her last since she graduates at the end of this semester. The school always sends a nice invitation. It said simply:

Please join us for Mass
Honoring Principal’s List
Deans’s List Recipients
Thursday, January 21,2010
9:15 a.m.
Reception immediately following Mass

We left in plenty of time, but it rained hard that morning. When that happens, traffic around here always gets really slow and backed-up. Sitting in traffic, as the minutes ticked by, I began to estimate that we could not possibly be there on time. Maybe our attendance just wasn’t meant to be, but we went this far so we persisted. We got to the school only a few minutes early, quickly picked-up passes at the office and rushed off to the gym. We made it there a little wet and a little flustered but right on time and went in.

I wasn’t expecting anyone to be there to greet us. The lobby was fairly empty at that moment except for two priests assigned to the school and a calm, distinguished gentleman in bishop vestments including an amaranth red zucchetto (skull cap). It was Archbishop Wilton Gregory, personally greeting the arriving parents.

In that moment I was a little startled…   and unprepared. I was trying to think quick and remember how to address a bishop. “Your Excellency” would have been correct, but even “Father” is appropriate. I must have looked dazed – like a deer in headlights – so Archbishop Gregory simply shook my hand and said in a confident but gentle voice, “good morning.” The best I could offer was “good morning” in reply, but I could tell that was OK. I suppose this happens often when people meet him.

Archbishop Gregory celebrated the Mass. He is a very good speaker and delivered a powerful homily. One unusual part was the Eucharistic Prayer. I never thought about this before, but usually the celebrant will say “We offer them for Benedict our Pope, for {name of Bishop} our bishop, and for all who hold and teach the catholic faith that comes to us from the apostles. That would not fit when the celebrant is the bishop! Archbishop Gregory simply said at that point “for me, your unworthy servant.”

I was thrilled to meet Archbishop Gregory and delighted to attend a Mass at which he presided. The thing that impressed me the most, however, was that this bishop from the unbroken line of bishops originating with the apostles selected by Jesus, took the time in our large archdiocese, to visit one of our many schools and personally handout academic awards. At the dismissal he made all the students quite happy by saying “Don’t worry, I didn’t forget — whenever your Archbishop visits you get a free day!”