“What is this, some kind of wedding?”
The question jolted me into the role of evangelist.
I’d been standing near the edge of a large crowd of people praying and participating in a Eucharistic procession, pushing my infant son back and forth in a stroller, listening to a reading from Scripture. A man had walked up and struck up a conversation—asking the usual questions about how old my son was, if he liked riding in the stroller, and so forth. I’ll admit; I was mildly annoyed. I was trying to be as reverent and prayerful as one can be while rocking a stroller back and forth.
But when the man asked, “What is this, some kind of wedding?”, I realized he wasn’t rudely interrupting. He had no idea what was going on, but he was interested.
I smiled and replied, “No, it’s not a wedding.”
He quickly offered another guess, “Is it a Mass? It kind of seems like a Mass, but different.”
“No,” I explained, “it’s a Eucharistic procession—we’ve been walking and praying, and stopping at different places to sing and be silent with Christ in the Eucharist. Anyone can join in.”
“Oh wow, this is really something,” he said, as he pulled out a camera phone and started to video-record the final benediction. I closed my eyes and went back to praying.
A few minutes later, once the benediction had ended, he asked, “Can you explain what this is again and I’ll record it? I’ve gotta show my friends this.” So I explained again.
And then he quickly took off to catch up to the rest of his group in a hurry. I was kind of hoping he would have joined us for the final prayers, instead of video recording it. But there was something so real, so vivid about his excitement. He had encountered something on an ordinary Sunday afternoon that had made him stop. Not only stop, but stop and ask. He wasn’t ready to join in at that moment, but maybe a seed had been planted.
This is the power and mystery of public witness, of not keeping our lamps under bushel baskets (Matt 5:15). It’s not just about having more public Eucharistic processions. It’s our entire way of worship, our way of life.
In a world devoid of reverence for the sacred, a Eucharistic procession stands out. In a noisy, busy society, the silence of contemplative prayer or meditative chanting would cause onlookers to stop. In a self-interested culture, simply listening to and treating the poor with hospitality and dignity can be shocking.
Most Americans (and even most self-identified Christians) aren’t in a pew each week. Any time we can bring our Christian life, our witness, outside the walls of our parish buildings, there’s the potential for others to encounter the sacred where they’re least expecting it–and for the Holy Spirit to guide us in our baptismal calling to evangelize.
Copyright © 2013, Colleen Vermeulen