There was a humble young man (only 19 years old), who stowed away on a train bound from Chicago, Illinois for San Francisco, California. He arrived at Fell Street one night with no money and no place to stay, but as luck would have it, he found an unlocked car and crawled in to sleep. The next morning he gave thanks at mass, at a little church down the street from that unlocked car. The year was 1932 and the young man was someone I would meet years later at my church. The little church I mention here was the very same one where this man still worships and were I do as well.
That man didn’t just attend one service at our church and then leave, he became a member and he got involved. He served on committees, on the vestry (parish board of directors), and inspired others to a life of prayer. Many of the wonderful photographs in the parish archives are due to his generousity and his always faithful camera. I wish he had turned the camera on himself, if only occasionally. It seems we don’t have nearly as many pictures of him as we do of others around the parish.
During the 150th anniversary celebration of the parish last year, a group of students from the neighboring school, interviewed several members of the parish for a play they were staging. This gentleman was one of those interviewed. On the night of the performance, I had the pleasure of sitting next to him and saw how the performance touched him and brought back many fond memories. The interviewer asked the student playing him if he had a favorite prayer. There was a momentary pause, and then, the young actor, clearly and distinctly from the front of the church and the much older man he was playing (with tears streaming down his face), from right beside me, both recited the words of the prayer, which is also a favorite of mine:
We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.
This prayer I continue to say to quietly, just before I receive communion each time.