Monday, July 26, 2010

One of those holy moments

Being a priest, I'm privileged to be with people in times of joy and sorrow and everything in between.

Yesterday, I visited a friend after the Sunday services. I took with me the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood.

My friend's fighting a serious illness, which has limited his access to the world. Every time, we talk, I'm impressed by his courage, his positive spirit, and his faith in God.

I'm also moved by the love of his family and friends for him. They were gathered around him in the family living room yesterday. His friends included three college classmates. They'd heard he was ill, and they travelled from long distances to be with him, encouraging him with their presence, their jokes and banter, memories of life in college some thirty years ago.

I began the home Communion service, asking for a few moments of silence in which to remember God's presence and to give God thanks for the gift of friendship--both the friendship of others and the friendship of God for us. Friendships sustain us.

We said the prayers, and then I distributed the consecrated bread and wine--Christ's real presence for every person there.

The blessed bread and wine communicated Christ's grace or favor to each person amid his or her particular needs and struggles. I know my friend's needs, some of them anyway, but not those of the others who were there. But God knows those needs and meets them through the gift of his love in the sacrament.

We joined in a final prayer. I asked God for a miracle of healing for my friend and the destruction of the disease in his body. I prayed earnestly in faith for his full healing and for God's victory in his life.

As I said goodbye, I told my friend that I'd be back to visit. And I shall, for this is what I'm ordained to do--to be the physical and spiritual expression of God's healing presence to others. To be with God's beloved children in times of joy, sorrow, and everything in between.

Perhaps these visits are holy moments for others, even healing ones. They certainly are for me.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The real story behind Winter's Bone

When I read the novel, Winter's Bone, a couple years ago, I found its southern realism hard to take.

There was something painful, like the throb of an abscessed tooth, in reading about the fictional lives of the Dolly family. They are a family caught up in poverty, meth cooking and selling, lawlessness, and death in the hollows of the Missouri Ozarks.

And when the film came out, I resisted going. Reading the novel was like pushing a plow through a rocky, stumpy field; and surely, I thought, seeing the film wouldn't be any easier.

But I went to see Winter's Bone the other day. And I'm glad I did.

It's superbly crafted: well-written, directed, acted, and filmed. (Local actress Beth Doman has a role in it.)

The film concentrates novelist Daniel Woodrell's story in a way the novel strings it out, as novels do, and delivers it to the viewer with the force of both barrels of the shotgun that 17 year-old heroine Ree totes to the door when a stranger knocks.

Winter's Bone shows the power of love--Ree's for her mentally impaired mother and her brother and sister. She sacrifices, suffers, and risks her life for the survival of her little family. She's all they have, in the absence of her father, a meth cook and seller who's jumped bail, disappeared into the hills, and imperiled the family home and property.

Ree fears she and her family will be living in the woods. So she goes in search of her father, resolved to produce the man himself to the bail bondsman or the evidence that he's dead.

At first I thought Winter's Bone, which made it to the screen with help from the Missouri Film Commission, didn't do justice to Missouri and the Ozarks, which I love.

But it does. It's not really a film about poverty, drugs, and lawlessness, but about the morality, the courage, the love of family embodied in young Ree Dolly.

It showed the true spirit and soul of the Ozarks.