From Father John
Things that priests do. This priest hates the actual act of being stuffed in a can way above the earth speeding like a bullet. But he likes the idea of flying, and can’t seem to grasp that it is in fact, real. This priest sits in his seat and thinks too much. How many layers beneath my feet? A layer of carpet, a layer of steel, maybe a compartment, I dunno what’s under there and then another layer of steel, just millimeters thick? Then air. There is air right beneath my feet right below a couple of layers of carpet and steel?
And so as I start speeding down the runway, I always say a prayer. A prayer for the pilot, but for everyone on board, that we may get to our destination safely and that it is for the spiritual benefit of everyone on board. Who will they meet? Whose lives will be better because they came home? Maybe a business meeting and this person will introduce a new idea? I pray that it will all be for our spiritual good – the arrival.
And so I call this corporate prayer. Not prayer for corporations but prayer for all the people with whom I share the plane. I used to do this when I lived in Washington DC and had to ride the metro (subway) to work every day. I would see such misery on people’s faces. [I must say people in Louisiana are by and far happier in their daily lives. You can see it on their faces.]
In D.C. people did not make eye contact with the strangers who would surround them; they had on their faces: angst, worry, concern for the future, a general malaise, an unhappiness. I used to wonder what kind of sufferings they had as I looked at their faces —what kinds of secret worries their hearts contained. One day at Deanwood station in an area which was rather rough around the edges, read “bad-neighborhood”, a man entered the metro-train approaching me stealthily and I started to think I was going to be mugged. At that moment this thuggish looking fellow broke down into tears; snotty, alligator tears. He began speaking to me about his pains and his heartache. He told me his wife had left him and took away his little girl. He never could see her any more. He said he didn’t think life was worth living anymore. He sat there and cried and asked if he could have a hug, so hesitatingly I did. This was really strange to happen on the subway — and he said as he just as quickly started to leave, “you are so easy to talk to, thank you for listening to me.” At that moment, long before I was a priest, I felt like I had heard a confession. He told me “thank you, thank you so much” as he got up and went through the doors. I had helped someone without even knowing how. I don’t remember what I said to him; I do know I was present and that seemed like enough.
I learned to pray for the people on my train, the poor lonely people on the subway surrounded by other poor lonely people. We are all traveling the same tracks when it comes down to it. We either are on our way to heaven or on our way to hell. Some of us are experiencing a bit of hell or a bit of heaven while traveling the tracks even though our final destination may be different. Why don’t we pray for others on our plane, our bus, our train? We never know what secrets go on in their hearts —what things they suffer alone. When we pray for them maybe people are better off when we meet them, even a casual glance can make a difference. Are they blessed by our presence? In praying for strangers, maybe we lighten their load. Maybe we help people carry their burdens and one day they will know what we did when we all get to our final destination. A simple glance, a chance encounter – it can all have eternal consequences.