Last week our parish hosted an interfaith prayer service with a focus on mercy and peace. One of our guests was an imam from the Raleigh Islamic Association. There were prayers, songs, and a moderated discussion between the imam and me. In the discussion, he spoke about how sometimes people would say to him, go back to where you came from, and he said, does that mean Washington D.C. where I grew up? He spoke about mulch. One day, he said, I was spreading mulch in my yard and had a lot left over. So I went over to my neighbor and asked him if he needed any. He said yes. And that, he said, began a relationship between me and my next-door neighbor. Sometimes, he said, we need to get our hands dirty. It grounds us. It reminds us that we have more in common than we think.
There was a reception afterwards catered by Sassool and there was pita bread and hummus and chicken kabobs, and a large crowd gathered down the hall, a mixed crowd of Christians and Muslims and Jews, and a sense of something shared, a sense that no one was being labeled by their religious faith, but instead by their human story. Dialogue, listening, and food all help make that happen.
At the reception, two women stood holding plates and talking with each other. One was a member of St. Francis, the other was Muslim. They had not met before this evening, but now, talking with each other, they realized they lived in the same neighborhood, and they decided, right there, that they were going to start a book discussion group and invite their friends and neighbors.
In the discussion in the church, after forty minutes or so, the last question from the moderator was this: who do you like in the World Series, the Indians or the Cubs? The imam was a Nationals fan and I a Red Sox fan – what to say? But the question seemed fitting, not so much about who wins, but how sometimes it’s just the ordinary things that can lead us to encounter, hospitality, and grace.
Many of you have heard by now that Fr. David McBriar, who was the first Franciscan pastor of St. Francis back in 1987, will be moving the week of November 13 to Siena College where he will be helping out at a small chapel near there. He will be speaking at all the masses next weekend and there will be a reception for him after the 11:30 Mass. So much of what this parish is today is because of David’s early vision, rooted in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, of the Church as the People of God, gathered on Sunday around the table of the Lord and sent out into the world as the light of Christ, whether as a stay-at-home parent or a senior citizen or off on a mission to Guatemala. All are welcome at David’s farewell reception, in the Anthony Hall Founders Room.
One final note: our second collection for Hurricane Matthew relief a few weeks back raised over $29,000.
Thank you, and blessings on your week!
Fr. Steve Patti O.F.M.