At an inner city New Orleans parish today.
After Mass an elderly African-American woman comes up to me and speaks with me.
“Good morning, young man. Are you a visitor?”
“So nice to have you here. And your children! Not many families left in church these days.”
“I’m Edna, nice to meet you.”
“Tom, nice to meet you as well.”
“Tom, do you need anything prayed for? I’m part of a prayer chain. We get on the phone every morning, starting at 4 a.m. We get on the phone, and we pray together for the intentions folks give us. So many things to pray for! My own family’s enough to keep me busy 24/7. You got that? There’s always trouble out there. Trouble. What’s wrong with this young generation? Lord have mercy.”
“Wow. That’s really remarkable that you pray every day at 4 a.m.”
“But son, don’t think it’s remarkable. It’s not. It’s just what the Lord wants. He wants us to turn to him in trouble, to lift up our voices for others. Early in the morning, the Bible says, we must rise and lift our hands in praise and petition. Don’t you think that’s what we supposed to do?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Yes, Lord. Yes, we rely on his grace. Mercy, Lord. We rely on your mercies. Everlasting, Jesus. Your kindness is everlasting. Isn’t he awesome? Yes! Now, what you need prayin’ for?”
“My family, my job . . .”
“Oh, yes, Lord. Lord, hear your son Tom. His family, God, his family needs your blessings. Take his beautiful children in your loving arms. Help him be the father you made him to be, God. The husband his wife deserves. And Jesus, make him a godly man in his work. Hard workin’, honest, just like St. Joseph. Keep him in gainful employment, O Father. . . . Okay, now I’ll be praying for you with my prayer team tomorrow morning. Alright?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“Alright. Amen. You’re welcome. It’s why we’re here, right? To rely on each other. To lean on one another. To rely on Jesus. [She starts singing] Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus . . . [she continued through the whole song].”
“Wow, Edna, I want your faith.”
“No, son, you want your faith. We each got our special way of loving God. Be the man you’re made to be. God bless you.”
She made the sign of the cross on my forehead and walked off.