I made a separate post for this because even though it was part of the greatest weekend ever (see below), it stands in a class all its own. Christina and I went to breakfast with Father Pat and his wife after church! I must first begin by saying that all of this sounds absolutely absurd if you know me very well. Well, not the going out to lunch with people part, but the going out with a priest part. I'll tell the story...
Once upon a time, I was part of an Evangelical Free church with my family for over eight years. When I was almost sixteen, we left that church (and things had been bad for a WHILE before we finally left), and didn't really settle anywhere else. I didn't even want to go to a Christian school, but ended up at North Park through a series of events and couldn't be happier! Anyway, so here I was at an Evangelical Covenant school going to an Evangelical Covenant church and things were okay. The school part was great, but I was really just going to my church because it was close and convenient and lots of people I knew went there. We didn't try anywhere else. It was much more liturgical than I was used to, and it weirded me out a bit at first. I mean, written prayers that everyone reads together? What?? And hymns--you've gotta be kidding. After years and years of Baptist church camp in Missouri I was burnt out on hymns, but they eventually weren't so bad and I almost preferred them to what we sang at school. But that's not the point.
Anyway, after a year and a half of attending this very nice church, I had begun to feel like something was missing. People weren't talking to us no matter how hard we tried to get involved, the worship was not nearly as much about God as I thought it should be (it sounds obvious, but you really don't think about it all that much when you're in it), and I really just felt like I was going because I needed to go to church. I worshipped on my own time, but I was really lacking a community, a Church. So, a few of my friends had been feeling the same way for a while and some had found homes in Catholicism...well, I wasn't quite ready for that, though I do intend to go to Mass sometime soon. But I knew people attending All Saints' Antiochian Eastern Orthodox Church just a couple miles away, and my friend Mark was being chrismated there in a few weeks. I thought I'd try it out. We were also preparing to go to Pascha and didn't want to be totally shocked when we made it there, so we wanted a few weeks to get used to the Liturgy. Since then, I've been welcomed and have experienced God in ways I never could have imagined, and I love it. I don't know that I'll be converting to Orthodoxy anytime soon, but I won't leaving All Saints' anytime soon either!
This has become much longer than I meant for it to be--too bad! So, back to why this going to lunch with a priest thing is strange for me: remember all that stuff about my Evangelical Protestant background? And the church camp? Well, I grew up being told that most Catholics aren't Christians and that they worship Mary and believe all kinds of weird stuff. I grew up knowing nothing about Orthodoxy. At all. So it was easier for me to accept things like priests and the Eucharist (not that I'm a communicant or anything, I just recieve blessings!) and the veneration of Mary through this other door. While I still have issues with Catholicism, namely the power of the Pope, I am no longer terrified of it, nor am I terrified of Orthodoxy. And now I've had lunch with a priest...from my parish...after the Divine Liturgy and church school on Sunday. COOL!
About the lunch itself--it was exactly what you'd expect from having lunch with a very nice grandfatherly man and his wife and two granddaughters. They asked us about ourselves, our majors and backgrounds, what church we grew up in, how we ended up at All Saints'...told us we should join the choir...you know, normal things. And it was AWESOME. The only thing that was odd about it was the fact that, in classic Father Pat fashion, we were invited over the chalice. Christina and I went up for blessings, and after blessing Christina, Father Pat pulled her close and said, "I want to take you to breakfast with me and my wife today." Christina told him I had driven her, and he said, "Great! Bring her along, too." Christina nodded, turned away, and said, "We're going to lunch with him and his wife!" I was shocked, went up for my blessing, and spent the rest of the Liturgy marveling at Father Pat's ability to carry on completely ordinary conversations while holding the chalice containing Christ's body and blood...it's not the first time. But it's his quirks that I love!
I hope you like long stories.