A Christmas Eve in Half Moon Bay
Some 20 years ago, on Christmas Eve, my friends Richard and Martha, devout Catholics, invited me to join them for Midnight Mass at their church. As a Jew, I had never been to a Catholic mass before and I didn’t know if it would be right for me to be there. But it was a sacred event that they were inviting me to, and they were good friends and I trusted them, so I said sure.
When we got to the Church, Richard and Martha introduced me to Father John, the priest who would be conducting the Mass. He welcomed me very courteously and made me feel at home. But that was nothing compared to what was to come.
The Mass began, and I was surprised to notice how closely it seemed to track with the traditional Hebrew prayers. I recognized some of the same Psalms, in the same order.
But then it came time for Holy Communion. I knew that as a non-Catholic I could not be included, and would have to sit this one out, while everyone else went up for Communion. Father John picked up the wine cup and said the prayer in Latin. Then, looking into the crowd of worshipers, straight at me, he repeated the blessing, this time in Hebrew.
No one else in the church may have understood what he was saying or doing, but I did. He was recognizing my presence, and honoring me me by including me. It was an act of courtesy that I’ll never forget.
Father John and I became friends after that, and would sometimes go up to San Francisco together to go to the movies.