My friends from church had planned a great outing to the park, peddling a four-seat surrey around the lake. However, the whole thing almost didn’t come off, because of a joke taken the wrong way.
Two weeks before my friend, “Angela” (not her real name), texted me, asking if I had received a photo of a dancing cat. I was feeling playful so I texted a response to her saying, “You mean the one with you dancing with a mouse?”
“Now, Jamey, be serious. Did you get the photo?” she replied.
“Maybe it wasn’t a mouse, maybe it was someone in a mouse costume.”
“Jamey, stop joking around. I want to know did you get the photo?”
Finally I said that I got the photo but I joked again, “But looking closely I don’t think it’s a cat. I think it’s you in a costume.”
This really riled her and she stopped texting. The next week at church she didn’t even talk to me. All week I thought of the Scripture “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother…” (Matthew 5:23-24). I prayed about it.
The following week, as a peace offering, I decided to give her the CD’s she had been asking me for of a Lenten Retreat we both had attended.
We walked into church at exactly the same time—this seemed providential. I offered her Father John Powers’ A Healing Way; Life to the Full and Joy Complete.
“I’ve already got them. John gave me his,” she said curtly.
I lit a candle for her and prayed for her in the chapel.
I saw her later in the Sacristy, as I was wheeling the computer and projector out for Mass. She was taking the Holy Chalice out of the cupboard.
“I’m sorry if I offended you,” I said. “Please forgive me.”
“I can’t talk now, I’ve got work to do,” she snapped.
Later I walked by her in the Sanctuary. “I prayed for you,” she said.
“I lit a candle for you,” I replied. She smiled slightly. Then I joked, “I wish you’d get everything straightened out. Lighting a candle for you every week is costing me a dollar a week.” She laughed and in a few minutes we were back to normal with her chatting away about her grandchildren and her book reading class. Thanks be to God.
I said a prayer of deep gratitude.
It all sort of comes together sometimes: on Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit, the Sacristy, the Holy Chalice, lighting a candle, prayers, Father John Powers’ Retreat, my contrition, “Angela’s” forgiveness, humor and the prudence of knowing when not to be humorous. To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, “There is a time to joke, and a time to refrain from joking.”
So we had the great outing with my friends, “Angela”, Manuela, and John, amidst thousands of families barbecuing and playing soccer. Manuela started it out right by giving us each a bottle of St. Anthony’s Blessed Oil from the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi in Manhattan.
Ours was a Catholic outing—no drugs, no drunkenness, no put downs, no arguments, no off-color jokes, no adultery (or as I observed a few couples smooching: “rolling in the weeds with the one I love…this afternoon”). No cursing, except one word yelled by me when our buggy was going at high speed down a hill and Manuela barely missed a parked car by a half an inch.
“This thing doesn’t have seat belts,” John laughed and said.
“Or airbags,” I chuckled. “’Angela’ should have put on the safety helmet they give to the kids.”
I later gave Manuela a tip as penance and for being such a good driver and getting us back alive.
Later, we walked by the Meditation Garden, that was just a gully that looked like it hadn’t been mowed since the 1965 World’s Fair. A drunk was sleeping near the bushes. We decided not to meditate.
Then John, who is usually quiet, then says something amazing, “There’s the Vatican Shrine near here.”
“What’s that?” we exclaimed.
“It was from the World’s Fair. Michelangelo’s Pieta was on exhibit there.” We went over for a photograph to put on our Facebook pages.
Then we made our way to the L train near Citi Field to get out of there before dark because “Angela” said, “They found these snakehead fish in the lake here. They’re twenty inches long and they have teeth and they can walk on their fins. At night they walk on the land and they bite.”
Yikes! It’s a good thing Manuela didn’t run our buggy into the lake.
This little “family” warms my heart. Not one is perfect, all are eccentric, and they all fascinate and inspire me like you wouldn’t believe.