The parson was surprised when the invitation came, really surprised.
He'd known Greg for many years. Greg lived in the really, really big city, far, far to the north. The parson lived in the country, way down South. Who would have thought that circumstances, family, and several twists of fate would not only create an avenue of acquaintance but a bonding of two totally different persons.
The parson was, well if you've been reading this site for more than a day, you know who the parson is. Greg was an – Hmmm! What's the appropriate word for a male old maid? Greg was that. He was one of those people who are creatures of habit. He arose at the same time each day. He hopped on the train to go to work. He labored faithfully and joyfully for his employer,. He hopped on the train to return home. He cooked dinner. On specific nights he watched specific programs on the television. On other specific nights he read books from the New York Times best seller list.
Greg was one of those fellows who was a friend to all. The lady at the dry cleaners always was delighted when he, on the specific day allotted for this duty, picked up and dropped off his shirts and suits. Greg was a confidant to the server at the diner he visited on Tuesday and Thursday of each week, often giving her advice on how to handle delicate issues that impacted her living. On Wednesday mornings, on the way to catch the train, the lady at the counter already had the doughnut filled with the lemon flavored cream inside, along with the 20 ounce cup of decaf coffee, ready as he entered the door. Greg would inquire about each of her kids by name.
On Sunday, every Sunday, Greg headed for church, the Roman Catholic Church. Greg was Roman Catholic born, and Roman Catholic bred, and when Greg died Greg was Roman Catholic dead. It was Greg's death that prompted the invitation that brought the parson to the really, really big city.
Greg, for some strange, unknown, reason made a specific request in his will. Now Greg and the parson, being separated by a decade in age, being separated by geography with Greg abiding in the really, really big city, and the parson a product and resident of the rural area many, many hundreds of miles south of Greg's residence, had been limited in their contact with each other. Yet, over the years circumstances seemed to bump them up against one another.
In his will, Greg, this stalwart Roman Catholic, this officer in the Knights of Columbus, this good friend but separated in so many ways from the parson, had asked that the parson deliver his eulogy. Greg wanted the country parson to stand in the pulpit of the massive church where Greg worshiped all his life and speak as a Protestant pastor to all Greg's Roman Catholic friends.
Picture, if you will, the parson standing in the pulpit of the really big Catholic church. Picture the congregation wondering why Greg would pick this peculiar Protestant parson to speak. Feel the parson's nervousness being where he was on the occasion that brought him there. Picture that and then realize this story is not about Greg, but Greg's priest.
The parson completed his eulogy. The parson spoke a prayer. The parson stepped from the pulpit and made his way to a pew. He sat down, and then the parson realized what he'd just done. He had placed himself in the exact spot to ensure he would be the first to go forward to receive the Eucharist. The parson chastised himself for not thinking this through. He was not Roman Catholic. He could not receive the Eucharist.
When the appointed time came, the parson rose. He moved forward toward the altar. And, knowing the proper etiquette, he folded his hands across his chest and said, “Bless me, Father.”
The priest hesitated. He seemed to study the parson. Then, instead of speaking the expected words, he said, “You are blessed, my brother.” And with that he placed the wafer upon the parson's tongue.
The parson did not remember much of the remainder of that service. He was totally distracted by the tears of joy running down his cheeks.