Last week before church I was praying hard for a deacon. Let me explain...
I was scheduled to read at our 12:30pm service last week which, coincidentally, was a mass being offered in memory of my dad. Now, when a deacon is on the altar, he reads the general intercessions so the lector doesn't have to. Thus my prayer for a deacon. I didn't think I could get through reading this particular petition.
I entered the sacristy to sign in. No deacon. "Drat! Come on, God, where are you when I need this prayer answered? Don't you know I'm not strong enough?" I went into the church to save my seat so I could walk the Book of the Gospel up to the altar in the procession. Right behind the customary lector pew were Deacon Tom and his wife, Pat. "Okay, God, that's not funny! I asked for a deacon and you KNOW I meant co-celebrating the service...not sitting behind me! That ain't right, man..." How specific do I really need to get?
The service proceeded as usual. It came time for the petitions, and I walked slowly but purposely up to the altar. "Three intercessions down, four to go," I thought. "I'm doing great. I'm gonna get through this! Okay, three more, Cynth. You're okay. Just keep reading. Don't think about it." I looked up for the last petition bravely, scanned the faces in the congregation, lovingly spoke. "For the repose of the soul of Joseph McGonagle." Almost there...almost through. Voiced cracked a bit on Joseph McGonagle but it's done.
No, wait, I still have to say, "Lord, hear our prayer."
"Lord, hear our prayer," I squeaked then hightailed it off the altar, into my husband's waiting arms. A moment later, though, he had to get back to play with the band. He hesitated and I said, "Go ahead, I'm okay," as I was trying not to make noise with my wailing and gnashing of teeth. He said, "Are you sure?" and I nodded silently. The thing was, I wasn't sure. I could feel it boiling over.
Then I remembered Deacon Tom and his wife, Pat, sitting behind me.
Of course, it was designed.
A few weeks before my dad passed, Pat ended up sitting right behind me at Mass...same spot. I turned to her after the service and said, "I'm feeling called to ask you to pray for my family, especially my dad." (I had no idea why I was doing this. I like Pat but I don't know her well. And approaching acquaintances for prayer is not exactly a common practice for me.) She asked what the problem was, and I told her Daddy was really having trouble with anxiety because of the unfamiliarities that come with Alzheimer's.
She said, "I just lost my own dad recently to Alzheimer's."
We just looked at each other, and I started to cry...tears of joy, tears of thanksgiving for this moment. Then Deacon Tom came up to us and asked if he could say a blessing over me. I felt filled with grace. That was the last time I saw the Halliwells until last Sunday.
When Drew left to play the next song, I simply reached behind me and took Pat's hand. She covered mine with her free hand and just held it while I let go of my grief. I cried until the end of the service. For so many reasons...
The gift of being able to ask an entire congregation to pray for my father,
in my own voice, in my own way.
The design of that chance encounter with the Halliwells back in April...
God's foresight of the future mass where I would need someone to understand and empathize with my grief.
You see, God knew what I needed.
He always does.
I didn't need a deacon on the altar.
I needed the one behind me, who hugged me at the sign of peace, and said he was so sorry.
I needed his wife to hold my hand while my husband went to play in praise of God and his amazing grace, another blessing being born at this mass for my father.
I thought I needed one man for one reason.
God knew I needed another to hold me up after I mustered every ounce of strength to speak of Daddy.
Thank God, He knows my needs.
Thank God, He believes in my strength.
Thank God, he doesn't always answer my prayers exactly as I intend.
Thank God - for God.