There is a family who lives on North Pine Creek Road and wanted to ride their bikes over to the picnic on Sunday afternoon. When the downpour began, they decided against it, driving their car the few blocks instead…..only to find that not a drop had fallen in the parking lot of the church. In the other direction—a couple of streets down from the church—there was a guy on South Street, mowing his lawn around 6pm, who got drenched when the skies opened and a minideluge let loose. Over at the picnic, the five drops of rain that fell at the same time aimed themselves carefully, hitting only the tent tops. Throughout the afternoon, we heard reports of cloudbursts over many other parts of town, but, with regard to the picnic, it was like we had Moses sitting under the beer tent, raising his staff (and glass!), parting the storm clouds as they blew over St. Anthony airspace.
It was amazing. More amazing still was what was happening under the “weather bubble.” Over two hundred and fifty volunteers had been at work since early in the morning getting things ready: lugging chairs, covering tables, slicing onions, setting up booths, and heating up the grills. At high noon, we gathered in a circle for a prayer, asking God to help us be good hosts, to keep everyone safe, and to let us recognize that Christ would slip in among the guests of the day. Apropos of that prayer, I can tell you that I never saw a happier bunch of volunteers, who not only “played well with others,” but worked so hard—in so many ways—to underline the sense of hospitality at the heart of our parish. Secondly, no one got hurt. There was a minor medical concern about someone at the very beginning of the picnic, but all is well. Finally, profoundly, Christ was there. In the family and friends sitting together, Christ was there. In the laughter and storytelling, Christ was present. In the Grandma teaching the five-year-old how to polka, Christ danced. In the contented face of the kid whose lips were stained Italian-ice red, Christ grinned. When that happens, when God attends your picnic, you really don’t have to worry about the rain, do you?
This wonderful parish did it again. It made me so proud to be a part of it and, at the same time, humbled to witness what can be accomplished when people work together selflessly toward a common goal. We are proof, once again, that the Kingdom of God shines through human nature at its finest. What happens here can happen in other places. What lasts for six hours will eventually exist for eternity. I don’t think that’s exaggeration. I think that’s faith…..