Friday, June 10, 2011

Close Shave?

When I was a boy I had a crew cut. It was 1950s style, dictated by necessity. My dad had a buzzing barber’s shears, and once every two weeks he took me down to the basement, with its nauseating smell of plumber’s grease and burned fuel oil, and he shaved me at one of the closest settings. My brother had a crewcut too, for the same reason.

Today at Adoration, I entered the chapel to find an adult friend, Joe, at one of the four kneelers in the sanctuary. As I made my way up the center aisle toward the Blessed Sacrament exposed in front of Joe, I took note of three other, unexpected guests, seated in the second pew from the front to my right: a grandmother (apparently) and two boys with crew cuts. Like me 50 years ago, one was a sandy blond; the other had darker hair, like my brother.

The woman with them was reading a book on St. Thérèse of Lisieux, to judge by its cover. I could not see exactly what the boys were reading—it wasn’t Marvel Comics—but their studiousness impressed me. They didn’t raise their heads at my passing. I knelt on both knees before the Sacrament, then took my place at a kneeler beside Joe. As I pulled out my Rosary and began telling the beads, I was aware of a tableau: two men at prayer, two boys seated in the pews behind them.

The three in the pew remained until I had completed the Sorrowful Mysteries. Then they came to the edge of the sanctuary and knelt, all three on both knees. I couldn’t help turning my head to admire them, and I smiled as they exited, one of the boys walking carefully, heel to toe, tracing out a straight line to the door, like a drunk successfully passing a sobriety test.

Half an hour later, after Joe had left, my young friend Jenny entered the chapel with her two sons, Thomas (3) and Graham (1), two years apart like David and I. I know this young family, including their father, Ian, and I am always touched with the beauty both of the boys and their mother, who often brings them to Adoration at the same mid-afternoon hour as I have taken up. While Mom knelt, the boys prayed, each in his way: Thomas singing and waving a stick, Graham intoning Ma Ma Ma Ma.

With apologies to Jesus, I went over to the boys to converse with them in their double stroller before they left. Jenny and I exchanged a few words: local news about our new assistant pastor, as well as a “Pentecost Garden Party” on the docket for tomorrow. (Catholics are so crrrrazy!) Then the mother and boys rolled out of the chapel, and I returned to my reading.

I guess I’m starting to believe in signs.

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