It wasn’t a flash mob, exactly…but I had to wonder what the locals thought as they strolled by Ss. Peter & Paul parish in downtown Waterloo, IL last evening.
An unexpectedly joyful noise, emanating from the Faith Formation House. And we did actually have the joint rockin’ at times – the three dozen (or so) folks who had shown up there to learn more about Kairos Prison Ministry.
It was a brilliant touch on the part of Tom B., the Kairos Volunteer who organized the get-together: Have the group join in song.
Of course, the strategy really only works if there’s a “group” on hand to start with. And I’ve learned through the years that when you lead with “prison ministry,” it can be a bit of a struggle to attract more than two or three hardy souls to a gathering.
So what was the ‘secret sauce’ at Ss. Peter & Paul? Why did this event draw a nice crowd, when so many other similarly-promoted meetings tend to wheeze toward the finish line?
At least part of the answer is ACTS. The parish has been involved with the retreat program for several years now – partnering with Immaculate Conception, just up the road in Columbia, IL. Tom B. has been an active participant in that ministry, too…so he’s already built strong relationships with faith-filled people in both communities. They know him. They trust him. And they aren’t surprised whenever he asks them to break into song.
Regular readers of this blog will notice a pattern, I suspect: I myself was drawn into Kairos Prison Ministry through some cherished ACTS connections at my own parish in St. Louis County. The Holy Spirit started working on my heart there – tilling the soil, as it were – more than 15 years ago. At the time, I had no idea that my path would eventually lead to witnessing in a maximum security prison, deep in southern Illinois.
Or for that matter, that I’d wind up in Waterloo on a beautiful summer evening…joining an impromptu choir in raising the roof at the Faith Formation House.
But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. As today’s gospel reminds us, this is precisely how the Kingdom works. There’s always a bit of mystery to the process. In fact, Jesus says, we should probably even expect a few false starts.
‘A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.’
Then when it all finally comes together, the result can be nothing short of amazing:
‘But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.’
So yeah, I guess I’m looking at you, Waterloo (and Columbia): Got your ears on?
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.