If you’ve ever been to a Catholic church, you will notice something that is the bane of pastors and associate pastors everywhere.
Toward the end of a service, after a practicing Catholic has received Communion (bread and wine), most of them will return to their seats. However, to the consternation of many pastors, a number of attendees will head for the exits.
For those of you haven’t been to a Catholic service before, leaving imediately after Communion means leaving before the service is over. It’s like leaving a movie after the villains have been vanquished but before the heroes say goodbye to each other.
Sometimes, there are reasons for leaving early. Last Sunday, I had one. My older son had gone camping with his Scout troop. They were scheduled to return at 12:00, but there’s never been an event where they didn’t arrive home early. I’d planned to stay for the full service. However, staring at a packed house with a service that was going longer than usual, I decided I needed to leave.
While in line for Communion, my younger son leaned his head back and looked at me. “Dad, we can’t leave. Father’s at the door.”
I glanced to my left at the church exit that led to the rear parking lot and the location of my car. My son was right. Our assistant pastor was celebrating the Mass that day. Sometime during the Mass, our head pastor had entered to watch. He stood in the center spot in front of the four doors that led out of the worship area.
I glanced at my watch. There was a minimum of ten minutes to go, fifteen if there was a speaker talking about a retreat or something similar. I uttered a silent prayer that my son’s troop might be on time instead of early.
A minute later, my cell phone buzzed. I checked the number and knew time had run out. I leaned over my son’s head. “We’re going.”
We received Communion and headed toward the exit. I did what any good Catholic would do.
I looked him in the eye, shook his hand, and said, “Forgive me, Father, but I got buzzed in line. My son’s troop is home early from their camping trip."
Father laughed, slapped me on the shoulder with his Bible, and told me to go.
My son stared at me as we walked out the door. He couldn’t believe we left early.
When he’s a dad, he’ll understand.