Much-needed purge inspires reflection on blessings of parishes past

Reflections on Life
Father Jerome LeDoux
Seven months and three weeks had slipped on by and most of my books and other effects were still warehoused in a small back room of Our Mother Of Mercy Church in Fort Worth, Texas. “Enough is enough!” I told myself as the time loomed large for a new pastor.
“I need to clear out whatever belongs to me, to Our Mother Of Mercy Church or to St. Augustine Church in New Orleans. I should just junk the rest.”
By dint of three days of slavish separating of mine, theirs and junk, all that I had left in Cowtown had been whittled down to two and a half 12” X 12” X 15½” boxes ready for shipment. With less than an hour to leave for DFW airport, the Knights of Peter Claver, who had been meeting in the old convent, descended upon the rectory to say “Hi” and “Bye.” After an exchange of pleasantries, they stared in wonder at the photos, religious trinkets and other items strewn over the carpet.
“What you see is not junk, but all pre-sorted according to category and place of destination,” I observed. “If you see anything you like, collect it for yourself.” At which point, they fell in almost as one, swooping down on photos, holy cards, any kind of keepsake that struck their fancy. It was a delight to watch them go over the whole array, almost displaying guilt by claiming them.
As their ranks thinned out and as flight departure time drew nearer, three of them volunteered to help scoop up the final loose bits scattered here and there. One final smaller box would suffice to swallow this miscellany of items for shipment. All I could do was say, “Thank you, Lord!” and exhale as I have seldom done before.
Once more, brother Aaron Page chauffered me to DFW, but, unexplainably, the Saturday traffic moved like molasses in January. Given our slightly tight window of time, my arrival at the terminal was past the cutoff for boarding passengers. But none of this mattered since I had exhaled and said, “Thank you, Lord!” The kind folks at the ticket counter gave me a boarding pass for a 6:15 p.m. flight out.
Annoyingly, that flight was postponed. Again, nothing at all mattered since the gorilla was off my back. When we were cleared for takeoff, I was gradually able to assess the difference between the Embraer E-190 and the workhorse Boeing 737. After flying the scrappy little Embraer a few times, one is reminded of smooth, stone-slinging David, while returning to the muscular 737 puts one in mind of incredibly powerful Samson. It is hard to believe that this roomy jet ranks among the group of medium-sized jetliners. Cruising smoothly at about 540 miles an hour, it likewise defies belief that this heavier-than-air “hunk” is so agile in flight.
Flying appears to enable our thoughts to soar as well. Moving is usually at best an odious task for most people. We turn a jaundiced eye at the sundry variety of things we have accumulated over the years. A distinct majority of people suffer from the gradual accruing of belongings and just plain junk that they did not take the time to sort out and trash. However, most writers have a built-in problem. It is summed up in the law: “The day you decide to junk something is the day before you need it.”
As one totes up the years, especially a writer, one becomes ever more wary of consigning things to File 13, the trash. As I was processing my remaining effects in Fort Worth, I readily discarded some old newspapers, but slowed to a crawl as I soon saw why I had saved so many articles and stories. Usually, each saved paper contained the makings for one or more columns on subjects across the board. To the casual observer, this was all trash; to the writer, bountiful treasures of knowledge.
The lateness of my flight urged me to overnight in New Orleans. Sunday was decision time for choosing a church to attend Sunday Mass. Ben and Sandra Gordon encouraged me to attend Mass at my former parish, St. Augustine in Faubourg Tremé. I balked at first, still smarting over my rejection there for seven years. As I entered the church, it was obvious that the choice had struck pure gold.
Reacquainting my eyes to the beauty and décor of the church, I was stunned by the outpouring of affection and pleas for blessing from the smiling populace. If a picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps a loving smile is worth several pictures. At any rate, the smiles and cheers abounded as Pastor Emmanuel Mulenga, O.M.I., introduced me. A spontaneous “Shake the Devil Off” rendition shook the building.
“You made many people happy by your appearance this morning,” Sandra said. Yet, they were equally my joy and blessings.
“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.)