I visited Mary today. She is in her late 80's or early 90's (it wouldn't be polite to ask...) and lives alone with a walker and a cat. Her granddaughter looks in on her each morning and some daughters at other times. She has suffered much and yet is full of life and her mind is much advanced on her body.
I've visited her several times, bringing communion and conversation. Today I showed her pictures of my daughter, Mimi's wedding to Tim and told her about my family.
The cat seldom comes out when I'm there and didn't at all today, probably not trusting me.
But visiting people like Mary--who have seen and felt so much--is one of the great joys of being who I am--a priest of the church.
A friend was there when I arrived, bringing Mary flowers for the sweater Mary knitted for a friend of hers.
Mary introduced me as "Father Jim" and I told the friend, probably my age, to 'just call me Jim', and the two of them had a conversation about what to call the ordained. They needed, it seemed to me, to put something in front of my name.
I'm just 'Jim' in my own mind, but I realized today, at Mary's, that that isn't enough for some people, so I'll let them call my 'Father' from now on, if they want to.
It's good to learn something important--and that's what I learned today at Mary's. You don't always get to 'name' yourself. Sometimes you have to allow others to 'name' you instead.
Something to ponder and live into, I suppose.
God bless Mary and her friend and all those who care for her. Webs of relationship are what matter in this darkling world. They really do.
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