128: Two Priests Walked into a Bar and Found …

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N
o this isn’t the start of a bad joke.
    This is the continuation of the spiritual adventures of a priest in Pennsylvania who we first met at Christmas, teetering dangerously on his roof to nail up a glowing star that wound up as a surprisingly powerful symbol.
    Then, this week — quite early Monday morning — he took our St. Patrick’s Day video test. He’s a quarter Irish himself, thanks to a Kelly clan that’s part of his family tree. And, he told me in an email that he rolled his eyes at the stereotypes he found in the first two videos we offered in our little test on Monday morning.

    But he’s a good priest and he’s full of creative ideas for reaching out into his community.
    A friend asked him to bless a local bar on St. Pat’s Day. And, in the email he sent early on Monday morning, he said:

    “Your story with the three St. Patrick’s videos was great. Actually, I watched them as I’m heading off shortly to bless Molly’s Pub. I was asked to do this; and it sounded like fun.
    “These videos will now inform my prayers — as brief and as ignored as those prayers may be today.
    “I have to go in early to try to beat the ‘over-consumers’ — as in that first of your 3 videos. And I’m taking an Irish priest friend who had some reservations about going, just because we don’t want to perpetuate the stereotypes in those first two videos.
    “He says there is too much pain in Ireland to just joke about it.”

    So, Father John went along with his friend — two priests tackling the blessing of a bar and trying not to bless too many stereotypes along with it on St. Patrick’s Day.

    I urged him to send us a “letter,” afterward, about what happened. One of our founding principles at ReadTheSpirit is this: “The most powerful spiritual stories are in the lives of the ordinary people we meet.” We love publishing spiritual letters from readers around the world — and I figured there was at least an uplifting note that might result from his little adventure. We’re not talking about earth-shattering revelations — but about the tiny miracles represented in life’s seemingly ordinary moments.
    For most of us, the spiritual energy to climb out of bed each morning and face another stressful day lies in the small sparkles of divine joy we often overlook.
    This was freshly underscored for me on Wednesday, during a meeting with an author to talk about his upcoming books. As we chatted, his date book fell open on the table between us and I noticed little jottings at the top of each day. He smiled as he explained these markings: “I keep track of life’s abundances — the good things in life, because I had a tendency to be negative about life. Now, I try to write down, each day, things that I’m thankful for.”
    He turned the book around. “See? Here I wrote down — meeting with you.”

    Well, we hope that more often than not, you can look forward to a daily meeting with us here at ReadTheSpirit as an “abundance” in your life.
    And that’s precisely what Father John sent us in an email about his trip to the bar.
    No, the heavens didn’t open and angels didn’t descend — but here is what happened …

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     Two priests walked into a bar and found … “when we arrived at Molly’s Pub at 8:30 a.m., the party was already in full swing. They had opened at 7:00!
    “There was Standing Room Only and it took my Irish friend and me at least 15 minutes to work our way around to the bar — from which we were to bless the pub and the gathering. As the owner quieted everyone down, I looked behind us at the flat-screen TV and noticed the Today Show was doing a piece called ‘God Going Green,’ about churches practicing eco-stewardship.
    “In spite of the Pope’s party-pooping prohibition this year, even God, it would seem, is a bit green on St. Patrick’s Day.
    “Unsurprisingly, I suppose, we saw some folks we knew, though I was surprised at how many people — mostly young and many third-shifters — often meet in such a place to celebrate ‘Whatever.’
   ”I did a brief prayer from the service for the ‘Blessing of a Home,’ but my friend had put together a real Irish blessing — at least it sounded Irish in his brogue. This brief quietness to give God a nod in the midst of the partying concluded with a bagpiper playing ‘Amazing Grace.’
    “Happily, folks were quite respectful. And many thanked us.
    “This opportunity did not happen out of the blue — or the green. The parish where I am now doing a brief interim has partnered with the Lancaster Theological Seminary on a program open to the community, called ‘Theology on Tap.’ As the name suggests, the idea is to ‘go to the people’ — in this case those at Molly’s Pub — although we soon had to move to another pub with a larger room. Our subjects are diverse, though always with a theological or spiritual touch point.
    “The success of this venture has resulted in a related one called, ‘Theology on Stage,’ a similar theo-centric conversation following local theater productions. Both gatherings include folks seldom seen in church on Sunday mornings, but often raising probing questions and concerns — and often with pretty sophisticated theological understandings, too.
    “So there it is: Our faith says we meet God wherever two or three gather — to yell for help, to say thanks — and even to bless a pub on St. Patrick’s Day.”

    Please, tell us what you think! As simple as this story may sound, it’s the spiritual stuff that fuels  millions of our lives — small moments like this. To add your thoughts, click on the “Comment” link at the bottom of the online version of this story. Or, you can Email ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm directly. We welcome your notes!

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