In Your Midst

From the Desk of the Pastor

March 2004


I’m convinced that being the pastor of St. James Cathedral is the best ‘job’ in the world. It doesn’t always feel that way, of course, but often I am reminded that it’s true. And quite often what makes it ‘the best’ is the way God speaks to me—and challenges me—through the faith of others in this marvelous parish. An example is the short essay that follows. It was written by Alison Warp, one of our wonderful ushers (we have many!). When she sent it to me a few months ago I read it with tears in my eyes. I found it to be a simple yet profound expression of faith and commitment by a person who, like Jesus, is “in our midst as one who serves.” I hope you find it as moving as I did.

Father Michael G. Ryan

I pray in the Blessed Sacrament chapel before mass. I let myself be held and feel loved in God’s arms. Then I pray to try to give the love to others for an hour. I pray to be patient and kind. I welcome the regulars and visitors alike to the church. I give directions to the bathroom. I try to not be irreverent. “Turn left at the crucifix” I do not say. I hand out bulletins. I find people a place to sit.

I take collection. I try not to notice who gives or what they give. But I see that one who used to give a few coins has given nothing for the last three weeks. I hope it doesn’t indicate that she has no coin at all. Maybe she’s changed to direct debit. When someone holds the basket while they pull out their check book and write a check, I wait and don’t make faces and act irritated. God give me patience.
I try not to roll my eyes if I don’t like the intercessory prayer. I wonder if the pastor notices that I don’t respond “Lord hear our prayer” to the ones I don’t like.

We sing my favorite Sanctus this week. I sing and gently rock. I close my eyes and hope nobody walks into the sacred space or onto the altar when I’m not looking. You’d think the regulars, at least, would know better than to walk in front of archbishop’s chair during mass, but it is usually too late for me to do anything about it. I consciously open my heart to the prayers. When I do, I can feel the eternal in my body, through my body.

I kneel on the rock floor to set a good example. I don’t know how many years my knees can take it. The religious supply stores must sell discreet knee pads. I’ll have to check.

The Eucharistic Ministers bring communion to my section. They serve the seated elderly first. I watch them to make sure they don’t miss anybody. Then the rest of the folks receive. I watch for tripping hazards--kneelers in the down position, wet leaves—as they file to receive communion. The ushers receive last. I am getting hungry. I receive true food and true drink.


Alison Warp is one of our wonderful Cathedral ushers.

Link to other articles in the March 2004 issue


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