There is a couple that sits in front of us at Mass on Sundays. She always wears the nicest hats. They are the quintessential older couple: smartly dressed, clearly still in love, and about the same age as our children’s grandparents. I would like to say that we would know them anyway were it not for the hats, but you never know.
A few Sundays after the family moved up here last summer, the oldest child wore a hat to Mass. It provided the perfect opening for Mrs. C to say something to our eldest about how good it is to see someone else who appreciates a good hat.
Since then the friendship has blossomed. Mrs. C has presented hats to the girls and going to Mass has become something I know they will enjoy because Mr. and Mrs. C will be there.
We have been to their home. They have baked us a cake. We pray for their daughter, who’s fighting an illness, every night. Mrs. C is one of our first-born’s “five” – that small group of people she knows she can count on, go to, trust, admire, and emulate. It’s more than just a hat now; they are part of our extended family.
As we sat behind them at Mass this morning, Mrs. C in her purple hat and Mr. C in his matching scarf, I thought about how, in a few short months, they had become a part of the village helping to raise our children. It made me think of the life of our parish community – filled with many such stories. A parish ought to be a family. Faith ought to be transformational. We discover that God loves us and values us only when we are loved and valued by others.
No matter where you sit on Sundays, relationships matter. Stories matter. Stories disarm us; shared responsibility disarms us. Faith is at the center of the table but we all share in the responsibility to make sure faith doesn’t just stay there. Our understanding of God grows only as we learn that God is beyond our understanding.
Sharing the Good News requires legs and arms and voices.
And, yes, on occasion, the right hat.