As I write this reflection, I am still on vacation in the Caribbean—the final full day, in fact. By the time you read this in the church bulletin, however, I should be home again at the parish.
I spent most of the two weeks with two priest-friends whom I have known since college. We have vacationed (and gone on retreat) together for many years now. They departed a few days ago, leaving me with some days of minimal activity and much treasured solitude.
I finished celebrating Mass this morning. It was the memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, bishop and doctor of the Church—a Redemptorist saint. It is a great privilege to be able to offer Mass each day, even while on vacation. I travel with a “Mass kit” enabling me to make each vacation location into a place of prayer and worship. There is no vacation from God. How many times I have reminded others of that! Practice what you preach, Fr. Edward!
After Mass, I took a walk to the neighboring building complex where there stands a small food establishment hidden from public view serving an American-style breakfast—The Green Monkey. The place was much more crowded than the last time I was there, earlier in the week. One table was occupied by three medical students from the nearby university discussing the situation in Israel and Gaza and questions on an exam. A flat screen TV had CNN on, reporting news from the Middle East. Most of the remaining table area was filled with some “islanders” from Trinidad and Tobago, as I would come to find out. They told me that it was their first time on the island of St. Maarten/Martin.
One of the women from this large party passed me by, and, seeing me sitting alone, stopped and said, “Hey, you’re cute. Are you married?” Did she just make a pass at me? If she only knew!
I watched this group as they gathered together around a single table prior to eating their meals. “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Catholics? The sign of the cross was followed by an extended prayer of praise and thanksgiving led by one of the women. The medical students seemed a little uncomfortable at this point. Then something quite beautiful happened. The group broke into various harmonies while singing some hymns and psalms. The flash concert included members of the group offering a sign of peace to everyone present in the restaurant. “Peace be with you!”
After the large group left, the medical students, the waitress and I joked about having attended Church this morning. The waitress later apologized for this spontaneous eruption. No apology was necessary.
It seems that my newly-found friends from the islands had no embarrassment or hesitation witnessing publicly to their faith.
God was obviously with them on vacation.
"Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father." (Mt. 10:32)
How beautiful and inspiring!
Fr. Ed Namiotka