It was early morning right after my workout. I was enjoying my daily routine of coffee at Starbucks and reading The New York Times. I looked up and saw a young couple standing in front of me at the table. He was smiling. She was smiling, with a hint of anxiety in her eyes.
I knew them as one of our many young couples and families from church. We shook hands and exchanged some pleasantries.
"We're on our way to the hospital," she said, "to be induced. And we hoped you might say a prayer for us."
This was no random meeting. They knew where to find me at that early hour, because I have had occasional conversations with her husband at Starbucks when he picks up his coffee on his way to the office.
And I believe the Spirit led them to me that morning.
I thought, There is no better way to undertake some consequential event--like the birth of a child--than by prayer and with God's blessing.
I rejoiced that this young couple felt such a deep desire for God at this moment in their life together. They wanted God with them, and prayer would bring them into the awareness of his presence.
We joined hands there, with a table full of workmen looking on, and I prayed for the two of them--for their unborn baby and for a safe delivery. And then I made the sign of the cross on their foreheads--the same sign of the cross that one day I will mark on the forehead of their baby--and we hugged.
"I'll be by the hospital to see you this afternoon, " I said, adding, "This has been a week of births."
Just two days earlier, when I found out about the birth of a child to church members, I visited the baby and the family in the hospital and said prayers of thanksgiving and blessed the baby. (I would have held and kissed the baby, but the grandmother was not going to let him go.)
Preparing for new life to come into the world and welcoming that new life--resurrection moments--are among the blessings I receive as a priest of the church.
As such I am in a unique position. I am sharing with people in hard times and in happy ones, expressing, I hope and pray, something of Christ's loving presence.
When God called me to the priesthood, he had this sacred work in mind for me. Thanks be to God.
Priest or layperson, may you find sacred work to do every day.