Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Happy First Communion Patrick!

This weekend, I had the joy of celebrating First Holy Communion with my nephew Patrick. My trip to Gulfport, Mississippi was seamless - God has blessed all of my sacramental travels this year.

Time spent with Patrick is a treat. He is already a true southern gentleman. "Yes or No" questions are always answered with a "Yes, ma'am" and a sweet smile. Patrick's golf game is phenomenal for an 8 year old, but even more astounding is his golf etiquette! I loved every minute of every day of this trip, because I love Patrick so very much. I love his passion for animals, the fact that he loves to run and play, and the way he drapes himself over you to cuddle when you're sitting next to him on the couch. I love his "Notre Dame" bedroom and the fact that he beats me every time in basketball. But most of all, I love his sweet spirit and his caring soul. I really wonder if there is anyone more holy and in love with Jesus than a second grader anticipating receiving Him in the Eucharist for the very first time.

This was my first trip back to Gulfport since Hurricane Katrina. I was mentally prepared for the damage of the storm, but not emotionally prepared. On Saturday, after a delicious brunch at the Beau Rivage, my family took me on a "devastation tour" along the coastline. I was truly shocked by what I saw (or rather, what I didn't see). The shore that had previously been lined with lovely homes and businesses was barren and empty. Foundations marked the spots of many of the buildings that were washed away by the storm surge, but little else remained.

At St. Thomas, my family's church and Patrick's former school, there was very little left of what had once been such a vibrant faith community. The remnants of a gym and playground were the only signs that anything had ever existed on the property. Having attended this parish in the past, my heart hurt for all that had been lost.

That hurt, however, was replaced on Sunday by a sense of amazement. St. Thomas has rebuilt in temporary quarters. Children attend school and the parish worships together in what was formerly a roller skating rink. When my family pulled up in front of what looked to me like a really big trailer, my heart sank - "This is where my nephew is going to school? There aren't even any windows!" I thought silently to myself.

But I was wrong - what was lost has been found in this compact space, and I'm willing to bet that the faith and spirit of those who worship at St. Thomas has grown in the process. As we celebrated the First Communion mass, serenaded by a children's choir and led in worship by one of the most wonderful priests I've ever met, I found myself having a change of heart. My sense of pity for the poor people of St. Thomas was quickly shifting to a sense of envy - truly "Church" is the people, not the building. The love of Jesus and of life was so tangible to me during that Mass that I felt a great sense of joy for my nephew Patrick and for my family who have the opportunity to be a part of that special faith family.

My sister Brady, one of the heroes in my life, is a Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist at St. Thomas. On Sunday, after Patrick had received his First Communion from Fr. Louis, he lined up in front of his mother to receive the precious Blood of Christ. The joy of watching Brady share this moment with Patrick is something I will always remember - I am so very happy that I was able to make the trip and be present with them.

St. Thomas is still rebuilding and the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans still desperately need our help and support. I think it will take years for them to rebuild all that has been lost materially. But in the end, they will be better off because of the sense of faith and community that is so clearly present in their parish.

Patrick, thank you for the opportunity to share your special weekend, and for the joy you bring to my life and to all of your family. You are a precious gift from God! I love you!

1 comment:

Patsy Bishop said...

Lisa, My name is Patsy. I am the secretary for St. Thomas Parish in Long Beach. I am delighted to have Anne as one of my volunteer helpers (her only drawback is that she travels too much!!!). I loved reading your "report" of Patrick's First Eucharist and your trip to the Coast. Tears came to my eyes when I read about Brady giving Patrick his first "Blood of Christ." How special!! They are a great family and we are blessed to have them here. Your comments about the skating rink church/school were the same as mine. When Fr. Louis first told me about it, I couldn't believe it would ever work. But it does work and it works well. It has been a blessing for us.