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Trust God to deliver the message

many hatsOne of my challenges as a deacon has been to preach each year to the youngsters in my parish who are receiving the Eucharist for the first time.
I have approached this assignment keenly aware that I am an ancient party trying to communicate with seven-year-old boys and girls.
One year I tried to give myself an edge by using a prop—a Howdy Doody doll my mother had given me as a reminder of my own childhood.
The kids’ body language, whether they were fidgeting or slumped in their seats, didn’t give me any indication of whether my message had reached them.
The adults, however, were delighted, and as first Communion season approached the following year, folks began to ask me what prop I intended to use.
This has become a minor tradition in the parish and, while it is good for a few laughs, I have had the uneasy feeling that I have become as much a standup act as a homilist.
After recruiting such aides as Snoopy, Pinocchio, and Raggedy Ann to get me through this annual obligation, I decided this year to go to Mass equipped with the 23 hats that had accumulated in my closet.
In a large shopping bag, I had a variety of baseball caps, two cowboy hats, and a fez.
As I put one after another of these hats on my head, I pointed out to the children that no matter how my appearance had changed, I hadn’t changed at all.
I used that example to explain that although Jesus comes to us in the appearance of bread and wine, he is the same living Jesus who was born and taught and died and rose from the dead.
After Mass, I got a lot of compliments, from adults, on my taste in headgear, and several questions about what trick I had in mind for next spring.
As for the kids, I was glad that none of them had dozed off or wandered away.
A subsequent event has taught me that there is another way to tell this story, and that is that in carrying out my ministry to the children and their parents, I had failed to trust the Holy Spirit.
I had measured my experience at the first Communion Masses in terms of my own patience and self-satisfaction, not in terms of the Spirit’s freedom to blow where it will.
Two months later, a woman told me that her daughter, who had received the Eucharist at that Mass, was shortly thereafter diagnosed with type-one diabetes.
This child had calmly coped with learning the nature and implications of the illness and with what likely will be a lifelong ritual of glucose tests and insulin shots.
The mother told me that at one point during this period her daughter said, “You know, mommy, Deacon Chuck said that no matter what hat he wore he was still the same person. And even though I have this disease, I’m the same person, too.”
That wasn’t the message I was trying to deliver, but I’ll take it; and from now on, I’ll try to do my job cheerfully and leave the rest to God.
Charles Paolino is a member of the RENEW staff and a permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Metuchen.

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One Response to “Trust God to deliver the message”

  1. Richard W. Alcorn Jr. says:

    That was very cute and shows they do listen but not as we wish sometimes so like you said God will show us the way regardless show one may think . God Bless and keep doing the lessons for the children and adults as we all learn no mater what age we are . Richard

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