They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
Geri, Joyful Seamstress
When I began serving as a seminary field worker at St. Martin of Tours in Mascoutah IL, I met Geri, her husband Earl, and their teenagers. They were there every week for the 9 a.m. Lutheran mass in the gymnasium of Holy Childhood Roman Catholic school and involved in all the activities of the parish.
Geri and Earl had been childhood sweethearts and were in their mid-to-late 30s at the time. They hosted a big pancake dinner each year for friends and family and set up tables in their basement to feed “the 5000.” When the guests were still eating and food was getting scarcer, Earl would say, “FHB.” Afterwards, he explained that meant “Family, Holy Back.” You provided for your guests, then the teens could load up on PB & J sandwiches after the guests left. “That’s the way my father did things,” said Earl. Good hosts.
While I was on vicarage, the congregation finally built their own building. A farmer in the congregation gave a prime corner of farmland at the intersection of two major roads. Parish members participated in much of the construction. Then, Brother Mel and the brothers from the Marianist Art Studio in St. Louis did all the interior work. The walls in the nave and chancel were filled with a giant, moving, earth-tone fresco, reminding the parish their church was located in fields that were planted and harvested each year. The brothers drew lines and involved the parishioners in the creation of the fresco. An anodized welded Christ was attached to a fresco cross, giving the appearance that the Risen Christ was leaping from the wall. The brothers crafted a beautiful wooden altar table and ambo (pulpit) and wove the fair linen. There were steel candle holders. The fired ceramic baptismal font had four faces personifying the rivers of Eden with the water bubbling up and out over those faces. Their thirst for the Water of Life was breath-taking.
After vicarage, I returned to serve as their deacon for two more years. What joy it was to take part in the dedication mass in the fall of 1979 and, later, to be ordained to the holy ministry on May 30, 1981, in that space and to celebrate my first mass at that table. I was formed as a presiding minister in their midst.
On the day of ordination, I was presented with a Slabbinck red chasuble, handwoven in the Netherlands. I continue to wear that chasuble with its distinctive Pentecost flames each “red” day in the liturgical year. Geri presented me two albs, one with white and the other with red piping, and green and purple chasubles that she had sewn for my use. Another woman, Linda, sewed a white chasuble and stole. I wore the albs until they were threadbare and continued to use the green and purple chasubles until about a year ago.
Several years after ordination, I received word that Geri had died in her early 40s from cancer. Each time I put on one of those albs or one of those chasubles I thanked God for Geri, her love for God, and her love for Christ’s Church and its pastors. Frankly, without Geri, I would have been unable to provide myself with vestments in the first years of ordained ministry when salaries were hardly manageable.
Last year, when we collected money for Todd Cook’s ordination gifts, I thought of Geri and the dear folks at St. Martin of Tours, who were so generous with a young Texan. I became part of their family.
Thank you, dear Father, for Geri and all the joyful seamstresses who bless their pastors and parishes. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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