Prayer meeting surprises reluctant pastor

Reflections on Life
By Father Jerome Le Doux
With prayer meeting scheduled for 7:00 Sunday evening, my battery was perhaps only 70 percent recharged from the drain of three Masses and chatter. Three good snoozes only invited a fourth. Furthermore, the acclaimed Schindler’s List was due to show on the All Heroes Channel, and I had not yet seen it.
Encountering me at the wake of Isabell Mesker’s mother, Martin Daley invited me to attend the Sunday evening prayer meeting at the St. Peter Church chapel. “Come if you can!” he pleaded. “Mostly women attend the Thursday meeting, but we men will be at the Sunday evening meeting. We would love to have you.”
He called a couple of days later, then he called again Sunday afternoon to remind me.
This tug of war continued long enough to make me a bit late for the meeting. Upon entering, I laid eyes on a 160-seat chapel brimming with a standing room only crowd of eager, attentive folks keying in on Dan Bradley, a guitar player who sounded for all the world like a somewhat muted James Taylor. Finger work complemented his voice that led a devotional rendering of Alleluia and a medley of sacred compositions.
All was quiet, meditative singing, and, off and on, many hands were raised in thanksgiving and praise, while voices from all around reverently accompanied most of the songs. After a half dozen or so songs, a young lady named Cassie was invited up to sing and then to share a guitar piece. With her strum, strum, strum and at times a thrumpa, thrumpa thrump, she was less polished than Dan, but still good.
Very politely, a handful of folks invited me to move from my standing spot in the rear to a seat somewhere in the nave. I declined until finally I was taken almost by force to the very front right. When Cassie was done, a teen-aged lad next to me was called up to play the guitar and sing. Having accomplished both very well, he returned to his seat and introduced himself as Jim McDonald, grandson of Dan.
Obviously, he came by his musical talents honestly through his grandfather, although his grandfather later told me that he had stopped playing for 20 years until he resumed playing in order to play and sing for his grandchildren. What a loving and pleasant testimony to his grandchildren! Frankly, he sounded professional.
From his up-and-down movement and orchestration of the goings-on, Pat Gorman seemed to be master of ceremonies of the whole prayer meeting. And there I was musing, “I came for a prayer meeting, and here we have a religious concert as an added attraction. As Peter, James and John said on the mountain at the time of the Transfiguration, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here!’”
A mature lady sang “How Great Thou Art” and Pat Gorman sang a couple of songs, one of which he himself had composed. Ted Daley, who had sung delightfully at the wake of Isabell Mesker’s mother, edified us with a baritone selection. Throughout, there were random testimonies and prayers from the congregation about the illness or other problems of relatives or friends of the Irish Travelers.
Though it is understood that all ethnic groups have problems peculiar to their group, the Irish Travelers are people of powerful, expressive faith, of loyalty to their families and friends, and of considerable generosity. It is amazing that I have yet to encounter one person who called or came to beg or borrow. Hitting my bowl of roasted peanuts is the one exception to which everyone – Irish or not – is partial.
Smiling as I say this, I assure you that I have never been enriched by so many calls for confessions, sessions of counseling and impromptu visits as from the Irish Travelers of all ages from teenagers to mature keenagers. It has been an honor to receive visits from a handful to as many as 20 teenagers at a time.
Called to speak toward the end, I noted the close bond between Irish and black music. “’Oh Danny Boy’ is the most famous example,” I told them. Backed by Dan in C, I sang “Danny Boy” a la Jackie Wilson. Then I sang Dottie Rambo’s 1967 soul lyrics to that same Londonderry melody, “Amazing Grace, shall always be my song of praise,” known also as “He Looked Beyond My Fault And Saw My Need.”
All prayer meetings are edifying and inspirational, but, by its sheer size and intensity, this one turned out to be the mother of all the prayer meetings I have attended. Holding hands in conclusion, we formed a power circle that had to be doubled in spots because of the great number. “Lead us in your Our Father!” they asked me expectantly. So, to a sea of smiling faces, we sang the popular “Echo Our Father” that keeps repeating “Hallowed Be Thy Name” after each verse.
“God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.”   (1 John 4:16)
(Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD, is pastor of Our Mother of Mercy Parish in Fort Worth, Texas. He has written “Reflections on Life since 1969.)