“Here it comes…” Fr. Bonney whispered to me out the side of his mouth. We were standing in front of McDonald’s drive thru line at the shopping center. During the previous two weeks, he had phoned every “big box store” in Cherry Hill, asking them for permission to use their sidewalks on Ash Wednesday to bring ashes to the people. Everyone had been polite, and every one had said either “that doesn’t fit with our policy” or “I’ll have to check and get back to you.” Needless to say, no one had gotten back.
So here we were, in below freezing temps stamping our feet amid piles of snow, clutching our coffee to keep our hands warm, clearly making a spectacle of ourselves. It’s a little hard to hide a 6-foot tall priest in a black cassock and purple stole and a chubby little LEM in a white alb waving and greeting all the sleepy folks in the drive-thru line. At this point, about 10 cars of people had requested ashes, and several had asked for prayers.
And then a man in a headset and a uniform shirt comes out and walks directly up to us. “Here it comes…” “Take a deep breath,” I said in my best Senior-Warden-let’s-stay-calm voice. “We can get through this together.” I don’t know what Fr. Bonney was thinking, but instead of “Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return,” all I could think was “If anyone will not receive you, or listen to what you say, then as you leave that house or that town shake the dust off your feet.” I was all ready to be pleasant and offer to move along and chalk one up to “lessons learned.”
And then “it” came indeed. The man in the headset said, “Hello, Padre. My name is Miguel. Could you pray with me?” … After prayers, and imposition of ashes, Miguel said, “Hi, I’m the manager here at McDonald’s. This is great, what you’re doing, but it’s really cold out here. If you need anything, just come inside and ask for me and I’ll take care of it.”
Lessons learned, all right. Thanks God, I had it coming.