Last week I was blessed to visit two parish communities who have each been meeting for well over two decades. I was invited to attend meditation and Lectio Divina at the Junction on Friday commencing at 11am. There were around ten people in the group who came together to silently reflect and then break open the word. Scripture at the best of times can be challenging and we can always find ways on how it can relate to our life in all its brokenness and joy filled moments. There is such healing when we are open to listen to others and when we are also listened to. Dei Verbum was such a gift to the Church at the second Vatican Council as it is today as it encouraged and still encourages us to apply the skill of hermeneutics to scripture to help us look with open eyes at all the details which assist in revealing the truth. It is often we find God in the smallest and simplest of things, but it only becomes apparent through the context, the timing, what came before and after and who was present.
The other parish I visited was Charlestown on a Wednesday morning. This community, like the Junction come together once a week, to pray, reflect and have formed quite a family of the faithful. The women at Charlestown speak about finding God in all things. The discussion I was part of was rich and varied. From a reflection on what is revertant and the story of a boy who had not long before made his first holy communion was seen giggling after receiving the host on one occasion. When he was asked why he was giggling, he replied he was talking to Jesus and telling him the story of the three little pigs. In many eyes this may seem irreverent but talking to Jesus as friend is not.
Another story was when two of the women who both belonged to a St Vincent de Paul chapter and who were caring for a father and son when the mother just passed away. The boy found comfort in knowing that one of the ladies’ names was the same as his pet goat. It was the love for this goat, and the connection of the animal’s name to the earthly connection of the human person that gave that little boy comfort, hope and love in the face of great tragedy.
The themes of finding God in all things flowing at the gathering and I was introduced to a song which relates to the tale of a young American soldier arrested and charged with playing cards during a church service.
This song Deck of Cards was set during World War II, where a group of U.S. Army soldiers, on a long hike during the North African campaign, arrive and camp near the town of Bizerte. While scripture is being read in church, one man who has only a deck of playing cards pulls them out and spreads them in front of him. He is immediately spotted by a sergeant, who believes the soldier is playing cards in church and orders him to put them away. The soldier is then arrested and taken before the provost marshal to be judged. The provost marshal demands an explanation, and the soldier says that he had been on a long march, without a bible or a prayer book. He then explains the significance of each card:
Ace: one God.
Deuce: the Old Testament and New Testament in the Bible.
Trey (three): the Holy Trinity.
Four: St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John.
Five: the five wise virgins in the parable of the Ten Virgins.[Matthew 25:1-13]
Six: the number of days taken by God to create the earth according to the Genesis creation narrative.
Seven: the day on which God rested, now known as the Sabbath.
Eight: The people God saved during the Great Flood: Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives.
Nine: out of the ten lepers cleansed by Jesus, according to the Gospel of Luke (see Luke 17:11-19), who did not thank Him.
Ten: the Ten Commandments handed down by Moses.
King: Jesus Christ; King of Kings, Lord of Lords.
Queen: Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Jack or knave: Satan or the Devil.
365 spots: the number of days in a year.
52 cards: the number of weeks in a year.
Thirteen tricks (in a game of whist or bridge) or values: the number of weeks in a season, or quarter of a year.
Four suits: the number of seasons in a year [in some versions: the number of weeks in a month]
Twelve face, picture or court cards: the number of months in a year.
He then ends his story by saying that "my pack of cards serves me as a Bible, an almanac, and a prayer book." The narrator then closes the story by stating that "this story is true," by claiming he was the soldier in question or that he knew/knows him.
Finding the sacred in the secular is something that always gives us a sense that God can be found in all things.