SPREADING THE GOSPEL FROM MY DESK!

“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”
–Mark 15:15

Until a month ago I had never so much as engaged in a Face Time call, much less entered the realm of Skype or Zoom. Eccch, was my thought. I don’t want to see people when I’m talking to them on the phone. I don’t want to communicate sitting in front of my laptop by way of a grainy video.

But like much of the rest of the world, I discovered very quickly after the quarantine was imposed that Zoom meetings of various kinds were a godsend.

Next came the phenomenon of the livestream Mass, the very thought of which, again, a month ago would have made my skin crawl.

Then every church in the Archdiocese closed up tight. A few days later, I came to see the livestream Mass as a beautiful gift, a welcome and essential balm.

Meanwhile, I learned how to participate in a Zoom meeting and I learned the rudiments of hosting one. I also continued to post on the blog I’ve maintained for ten years.

One morning in prayer the thought came: I wonder if my blog readers would be interested in a little Lenten reflection Zoom gathering?

Many other thoughts, believe me, instantly arose. No-one will show up. Crazy people will show up. People will ramble on for too long. People won’t like me once they see how I really am. We’ll all feel too awkward to say anything. I’ll be tired and crabby that day, the wifi reception will be bad, the whole effort will be a debacle.

But one fringe benefit of the quarantine, I’ve found, has been an increased willingness to throw caution to the winds. So I posed the idea, sent out the Zoom link and, in mingled excitement and trepidation, waited. 

A few emailed in advance and said, “I’d love to come but I’m not Catholic.” I replied, “Of course, come! Of course you don’t have to be Catholic!”

The day arrived, the wifi cooperated, and the gathering was easy and beautiful. Some of us were Catholic and my guess is some weren’t. No-one asked; no-one cared.

Among others we had a priest from Kansas, an event planner from County Kerry, Ireland, a Camino walker from Croatia, a young husband and father in Florida who has a prison ministry, a woman from Germany who’d stayed up late to join and spoke of praying during Lent for all the people around the world who must fast from the Eucharist pretty much all the time.

I’ve always wished the Church had more of this: small groups where, guided by the Gospels, we feel free simply to say where we are: “I love my kids but I’m ready at the moment to kill them;” “My mother-in-law is coming for a week–St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us; ” “I’m full of self-pity and I can’t find God anywhere;” “I just lost half my IRA but I’m also weirdly grateful”…

Afterward I reflected about how that is the best kind of “evangelization.” Not pushing someone to buy a 12-CD set and a fancy Bible. Rather, just sitting around talking and inviting  people to share, in an uncontrived and unselfconscious way, how faith permeates and guides our lives, like yeast all through the loaf.

The first meeting over 20 people showed up. Several more asked to be put on the list. By the time I sent the second invitation out, the recipients had grown to over 40.

Eleven or twelve came.  

That the group shrank rather than grew was, in retrospect, quite funny.

Afterwards I realized I’d been expecting a groundswell. Inwardly, I’d been ever so slightly preening. Always, like Peter at The Transfiguration, I want to build a booth and start a carnival, with myself as lead barker.

The fact is that those two gatherings were a highlight of my Holy Week and Easter. The people who donated their time and hearts were ministering to me, not the other way around.

Christ says, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

We tend to think he means two or three, and up. But maybe he means two or three, period. Maybe he means that in a very small intimate group is where we’re most likely to find him, and to feel him.

In The Long Loneliness, Servant of God Dorothy Day wrote:

“We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know him in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone any more. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.

We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.

It all happened while we sat there talking, and it is still going on.”



12 Replies to “SPREADING THE GOSPEL FROM MY DESK!”

  1. Ruth Ann Pilney says: Reply

    I felt no desire to see with whom I talk. I tried Skype to see and talk with my friend living in Rome. I love her, but didn’t like the experience of seeing her and myself simultaneously.

    However, my cousin FaceTimed me last week twice and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also spoke to someone on zoom, mostly for business reasons, and despite some discomfort it was okay. The streaming Masses have been a blessing. So, I think I am willing to try hosting a gathering of my Lay Carmelite friends. Your post is encouraging me to have the courage to do so. Thank you, Heather

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Ruth Ann, I’ve had the same experience. Deep resistance at first. But now I’m leading an online Writing Workshop, with 8 people! And yesterday I talked to my little sister for the first time ever, even though we speak on the phone frequently, via Zoom–and it was a whole new kind of wonderful experience! So I applaud your efforts to host a gathering of your lay Carmelite friends. Where two or three are gathered together in my name…SOMETHING is sure to “move’…Happy Mother’s Day to you and thanks for reading and responding.

  2. I really liked being part of thees meetings. Such unique oportunity and a blessing!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      I did, too, Helena. It was wonderful to meet you and have you at the meeting and maybe we will gather again at some point!
      Happy Mother’s Day to a fellow spiritual mother–

  3. Kathleen Sullivan says: Reply

    This is interesting. Am in 8th week of lockdown and my parish still has nothing other than one livestreaming Mass on Sunday I have a Zoom account and offered it for parish council, finance council, RCIA , etc, but pastor isn’t interested. They want to wait and see what happens. We had 6 small groups but ours is the only one still meeting (on Zoom). Thanks for reminding me WE ARE THE CHURCH. At least our small group is growing!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Beautiful, Kathleen! Who knows what will emerge from this strange cocoon-like time during which we’re all in some way metamorphosizing…the great thing about livestream Masses is that you can participate anywhere, at any time of day…I’ve come to be incredibly grateful for them and light my little candle at my desk…Happy Mother’s Day to you and all the best with your continued Zoom group–

  4. Meeting with you and other readers is absolutely one of the highlights of my Easter season! Thank you so much-it was such a grace and a beautiful surprise to me. What a gift to ‘meet’ other readers too and share across the many miles x

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Lizzie, the feeling is entirely mutual! What a treat to have you join in from England, and I LOVED our post-gathering chat…blesssings to you as we head into the AScension and Pentecost…xx

  5. Heather, Thank you for your reflection and hosting the Zoom meeting. Although I live on the East Coast, I took off early from work to be able to make the second one. I’ve followed your blog for at least 6 years and was excited for the opportunity! Although you’ll probably shrug it off, I felt surprisingly clammed up to interact with you in real time as a participant!!! I was grateful to receive invite to writing workshop too–which again I thought–what an amazing opportunity, but also afraid I might clam up! I guess writers can take on a larger than life status sometime, so I wanted to reach out to say thank you, again, maybe I’ll have the opportunity to interact with you again one day, virtually or in person, but until then, thank you for your witness through writing.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Erin, it was such a crazy thrill to have you–people can’t fully understand till they get older themselves the ridiculous thrill I, for one, get from having anyone younger than like 40 at this point deign to have anything to do with me! I’m always like Oh that is so sweet, they are consenting to hang out with a DOTARD…I’m touched to the bone that you took off early from work to be with us! Ha ha talk to one of my many siblings and they will be glad to disabuse you of any notion that I am special, or even marginally presentable, in any way! The Writing Workshop is a blast btw! We just had our second session. I’m sure I’ll offer more down the line so will keep you on the list. And I also hope to have another little Zoom meeting for whoever wants to come, so stay tuned. For some reason every day has been occupied from morn till eve but I am ever more open to and mystified by the phenomenon of “community”…Also big thanks for following for SIX YEARS! Are you a writer???

  6. Thanks, Heather, you are very kind and forgiving. I’m only a dabbler in writing – poetry and some sparse reflections on faith & art. Visual art (painting, drawing) is my primary creative release. But I really love your writing – I find it a very authentic voice. It is a skill I might like to grow in more, so thanks for keeping me on the list & thanks again for your witness!! I’m a Notre Dame grad, as are my parents, and we all enjoyed your recent Brian Doyle tribute as well.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thanks, Erin, I hope our paths cross again and I’m so glad you and your parents caught the Brian Doyle tribute. All the best with your painting and drawing!

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