The priest was about halfway through his benediction when he stopped mid-intonation and looked worriedly over at the east side of his congregation, where something was amiss. Vestments flowing, he made his way there quickly. A parishioner had collapsed and the faces of those nearby revealed... fear.
ithout being too obvious, given the circumstances, I strained to get a better view of the goings-on, and see my sister-in-law, a nurse, bent over the collapsed man. How’d she get there so fast? Just a couple of seconds ago she was three people down from me.
Easter Sunday Mass at St. Joseph’s in Arma, Kansas started at 8 a.m. My mother-in-law wanted to be there early because it tends to fill up fast.
By the time we got there, the back three
ws were full, so we peopled the next closest to the back empty pew. Ubiquitous blue, gray and silver hair. Walkers, canes and hearing aids abound. Like my mother-in-law, most of these parishioners have been coming to Mass since it was invoked in Latin.
In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti...
Legion baseball, Camp 50 and Easter Mass.
There’s a duffer whose job for decades has been to place the cardboard numbers on a board, denoting the page numbers of the hymns. He needs some help from his wife.
The organist/cantor clanks a few chords and sounds like Edith Bunker when she cuts loose on the alleluias, but bless her heart, she serves.
Here’s how small the world is:
The Man Who Collapsed in Mass is the younger brother of a man who carpooled to K-State and played American Legion baseball with my father-in-law way back in the Crawford County day.
When I knew him, the brother of the Man Who Collapsed in Mass chaired the Kansas Senate Ways & Means Committee and was one of my best sources, when I patrolled the Statehouse in search of news. Off camera, he’d confirm, deny and point me in the right direction. On camera, he would obfuscate.
On the way home, chatting about the family, we passed through Camp 50, just a few miles east of where my father-in-law grew up and where his bride and two of his daughters still live. The family of the Man Who Collapsed in Mass helped settle Camp 50 as a mining camp when immigrants extracted the coal and zinc from below the surface of the land.
One of the things I like most about Crawford and Cherokee counties is their uniqueness. They’re arguably the only two counties in Kansas with a
rooted in something other than agrarian agriculture.
The Man Who Collapsed in Mass was alert and attentive as they loaded him in the ambulance. But at some point, he will die. One day, my mother-in-law, my mother, my wife and son will die. One day, I will die. Of all the... fears that tend to cloud our judgment and rule our lives, they don’t seem to get much bigger.
The Man Who Collapsed in Mass rocketed me back to reality, to Easter and the essence of Christianity. A human being died. But after he died, he
to show his peers and colleagues that as scary as it is, death is not the end. That we need not... fear.
Jackie and I will be back with her mother next year for Easter Sunday Mass at St. Joseph’s in Arma. We’ll pass through Camp 50 to and from. When we arrive at church, we’ll sit as close to the back as possible, where we’ll part with our inequities and seek to be made pure in heart.
If it works the way it’s supposed to, we’ll be a little less... fearful.