Surprising Encounters

So it’s been a busy couple of days, which is why I’ve been scarce.

I got my plane tickets for Edmond, OK (which is where I am writing from right now, in the rectory at St. John the Baptist parish–a fantastic parish, by the way).  I felt very confident that I knew how this past weekend as going to go as I sat at my computer scribbling last Thursday.

Then the phone rang.

It was my buddy Doug O’Brien, calling from Marytown out in Chicago.

“Mark!  Looking forward to seeing you this weekend at the retreat!”


“The retreat you’re speaking at?  Mary, Mother of the Son?”

My mind raced.  I had totally forgotten about it and not put it on my calendar!  Yikes!

Happily, it was not too late, so I went to, booked  a ticket for first thing next morning, packed my bags and was off to Chicago lickety-split!  Got in Friday evening, went to Marytown, hit the hay about 8 PM…

…and awoke at 12:30 AM Saturday morning and could not sleep the rest of the night.  So I stuck things up on my blog for days in advance and eventually dragged myself down to breakfast.  I wondered if I’d collapse into narcolepsy during my talk that afternoon, but happily the Holy Spirit came through and I was able to do it without forgetting Mary’s name or doing something else stupid.  Then it was pack up the book table and blast off for O’Hare.

Which is where things got strangely blessed.

So I’m going through the TSA line, past the guy at the little desk who asks to see your boarding pass and driver’s license.  They always have the uniform and creepy “hands of blue” gloves from Firefly and Serenity.  But you grow immune to these things when you fly a lot.

Anyway, the guy takes me driver’s license, peers at it and at me, and says, “Mark Shea…. do you write for the National Catholic Register?”

I tell him “Yeah.”

He says, “Pleased to meet you!  I enjoy your work.  My name is Fr. Andrew So and So.  I’m a Ukrainian Rite priest.”

Not what you expect from your TSA agent.

We chat for a secon while he goes over my documents and stamps them and then, on an impulse I doubt the people in line behind me appreciated, I ask for his blessing.

Sez he, “Gladly!” and places his blue-gloved hand on my head and pronounces a priestly blessing over me.  I’m suddenly acutely conscious that people are in line behind me and thinking “I have to keep moving or they are gonna kill me” but also wanting to be polite to, you know, God and his holy priest.  He finishes the blessing and I thank him and hurry on, grateful for this unexpected encounter with grace.

I go through the scan and all that jazz, and am putting on my belt and shoes when Fr. Andrew appears again to chat a bit more.  Turns out Ukrainian rites priests don’t make a lot of money, hence the moonlighting for TSA.  I think him and am on my way.  Funny old world.

Got home at 11.  Hit the hay, spent a lovely Sabbath rest with the fambly, and then was up and out at 4 AM yesterday, for Edmond, where I spoke last night and will speak again tonight and tomorrow night on This is My Body and on the Heart of Catholic Prayer. If you live in Oklahoma, come on out to St. John the Baptist parish in Edmond for their Lenten mission tonight and tomorrow!  It’ll be great to meet you!

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  • Matthew

    Do you wait for invitations to speak? Or do you seek opportunities? Because you really should come down to ‘Bama.