“It is essential to know all the times and seasons of one good place.” –Thomas Merton
An unexpected benefit of quarantine has been returning via computer to a parish in Denver I’ve always loved: Most Precious Blood. Seeing pictures on-line of the sanctuary with audio of the choir singing helped me realize how much it meant to me for many years. I began attending there when I was in graduate school nearby—alone and brand new to the area. Later, I taught in their school, then began bringing my infants and toddlers, later children who attended the school too. When my sons began seriously dating the women who’d become their wives, we brought them there on Christmas Eve. Although my residence changed three times in a 50-year span, MPB parish remained a steady constant.
When I’m in town, I always return and find familiar faces. Not to idealize: over the years, there were inept pastors, terrible preachers, annoying parishioners and time-wasting activities. But the whole human spectrum played out in one arena: there were also fine lectures, lotsa coffee and potlucks, superb music, an introduction to RCIA which would be important personally and professionally, deep friendships. I’d always objected to the way priests toss around the term “community,” as if rubbing elbows with 500 strangers were the be-all and end-all. But for a few years, I think I experienced its bonding blessings there, spilling into the watering hole across the street and many private homes.
Often, I was eager to escape after Mass since demands loomed: guests for dinner, grocery shopping, exercise, social or work commitments, a trip to the mountains. But maybe I should’ve lingered: pervading the place was a sense of faithful people doing tons of good. Their list of ministries is long, and now, fine people anchor the staff: music and liturgy directors, education leaders, social outreach coordinators.
The pastor, Pat Dolan combines unique talents: extraordinary musical ability and a wild sense of humor. Over the years, my journals have been sprinkled with his memorable ideas. He phrased beautifully the mantra I’ve used since moving OUT of my comfort zone several years ago: “I’m not in my element here, but how can I help?” Committed to a Spirit “much bigger than us,” he never gets too lofty or self-impressed. In a recent reflection on “Salt and Light,” he described attending a racism protest wearing full black clerics and face mask, unable to find the other ministers he planned to meet, in 90 degree heat. “It wasn’t an ethereal moment,” he grinned.
For some, MPB may be too liberal, and for others, too conservative. But for many it has been a blessing that stretches through seasons and years.