Saturday, we spent a few hours at the Italian Hospital in Amman; I’ll post more on our extraordinary visit to this wonderful facility later. But at the end of our time there, I found myself unexpectedly—and happily—pressed into diaconal service.
Several people on our tour were dismayed to learn that we would not be able to attend Mass this weekend before leaving for the airport early Sunday morning. So at the end of our tour of the hospital, I pulled aside one of the two Dominican Sisters who works there and explained the situation. “Is it possible,” I asked, “that we might be able to have a brief communion service here?” She eagerly agreed and led us into their convent chapel, which does double duty as the chapel for the hospital.
I flipped through my iPad and was relieved to find the prayers for today’s Mass at the iMissal app. Sister Elizabeth led me to a small closet and offered me an alb. She sized me up and smiled. “This is for short priests,” she said. “Good!,” I grinned. “I’m short!” I slipped on the alb and she passed me a white stole; they didn’t have a deacon stole, so I’d have to make do with what they had available. A few moments later, I walked down the aisle, genuflected, made my way to the little podium and took a deep breath.
“We’re going to improvise here,” I began. “I haven’t looked at the readings for today, but let’s give it a shot.” We made the Sign of the Cross and began. Frank Weathers was our lector. Scrolling through the iMissal app, I found all the pertinent parts: opening prayer, readings, Our Father, Lamb of God, and the Prayer after Communion, and managed to stitch together a coherent little liturgy.
Happily, the first reading from Acts was all about deacons (!) and the second reading, the gospel, offered the familiar but welcome message so many of the people in the Middle East need to hear right now: “Do not be afraid.” I spoke a little about the remarkable people we had met at the hospital—patients, staff, religious—and how they all live that message with joy and hope, even those who have fled persecution and are facing frightening storms of life. “Do not be afraid.” I encouraged all of us who are concluding our visit Sunday to embrace that message, too— recalling so many heroic people in the Holy Land and the great message of the gospel we are trying to convey to our readers back home.
The iPad was an invaluable help, by the way—you can see me using it before distributing communion below.
It was a brief service, maybe 15 or 20 minutes long, with just seven or eight people gathered. But all of us who took part felt nourished by it. What a thrilling, humbling experience to be able to offer this gift in the Holy Land.
One of my fellow travelers, Denise Johnson-Bossert, put it beautifully: “We have met Jesus in those around us, we have received him in the Eucharist, and now we need to bring him into the world.”
“Denise,” I said, “I should have had YOU give the homily.”
I can’t thank the Dominican Sisters enough for making this happen: Sister Elizabeth and Sister Vinitha could not have been more welcoming, generous, or kind. Keep them in your prayers. I know I will. (And a special diaconal bow of gratitude to Frank Weathers, ace cameraman, who snapped these pictures of this special event!)