These anecdotes come, as you might guess, from America, and from the blog of St. Francis de Sales Church in New York (Priests Diary). I found them fascinating, and I am sure you will too.
TV pastor Robert Schuller tells about the time Bishop Fulton Sheen spoke at the Crystal Cathedral. Fulton Sheen was one of the most effective religious communicators of his time. In the early 1950s his weekly television broadcast was the most popular program in the country.
Because he was so popular, thousands of people came to hear Sheen at the Crystal Cathedral. After the message, he and Robert Schuller were able to get to their car only because a passageway was roped off. Otherwise, they would have been mobbed. Along both sides of the ropes, people were reaching out in an attempt to touch the bishop. It was as if the pope himself had come to town.
As Sheen was passing through this section on his way to his car, someone handed him a note, which he folded and put into his pocket. Then, as he and Schuller were on their way to the restaurant where they were going to eat lunch, Bishop Sheen pulled out that note, read it, and asked Schuller, “Do you know where this trailer park is?” Schuller looked at the note and said, “Yes, it’s just a couple of miles from here.” The bishop said, “Do you think we could go there before we go to lunch?” “Sure,” Schuller answered. “We have plenty of time.” So they drove to this little trailer park, and Bishop Sheen went up to one of the trailers and knocked on the door.
An elderly woman opened the door, and seemed surprised–flabbergasted, really–when she saw who had come to visit her. She opened the door and the bishop went in. After a few moments, he came out, got back in the car and said, “Now she’s ready for living–in this life and the next.”
– There is an old legend about DaVinci’s painting of the Last Supper. In all of his paintings he tried to find someone to pose that fit the face of the particular character he was painting. Out of hundreds of possibilities he chose a young 19-year old to portray Jesus. It took him six months to paint the face of Jesus. Seven years later DaVinci started hunting for just the right face for Judas. Where could he find one that would portray that image? He looked high and low. Down in a dark Roman dungeon he found a wretched, unkempt prisoner to strike the perfect pose. The prisoner was released to his care and when the portrait of Judas was complete the prisoner said to the great artist, “You don’t recognize me, do you? I am the man you painted seven years ago as the face of Christ. O God, I have fallen so low.”
– On July 20, 1969, the space rocket Apollo 11 became the first manned vehicle to land on the surface of the moon. It was an event that inspired awe all around the world. The first of the three astronauts to walk on the surface of the moon was who? [Neil Armstrong]. Do you remember the name of the second man after him? It was Buzz Aldrin. After landing on the moon, Aldrin radioed earth with these words:
“I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way.”
Then, when he journeyed out of the space module onto the moon’s surface, he did something quite significant. He took out a small home Communion kit and became the first person to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion on the surface of the moon. This is to say that the event we celebrate is the only religious rite in all the world that has been celebrated on the surface of the moon.
Here’s an interesting sidebar. Aldrin kept his intent to celebrate Holy Communion on the moon a secret, even from his fellow astronauts. Why? Because earlier someone had filed a lawsuit regarding the reading of Genesis 1 by the astronauts on Apollo 8 as they circled the earth on Christmas Eve a few years earlier. It is nice to know, isn’t it, that the Eucharist has been received by a man on the moon.
– “When I try to tell people what Ronald Reagan was like,” says Peggy Noonan, former White House speechwriter, “I tell them the bathroom story.” A few days after President Reagan had been shot, when he was able to get out of bed, he wasn’t feeling well, so he went into the bathroom that connected to his room. He slapped some water on his face and some of the water slopped out of the sink. He got some paper towels and got down on the floor to clean it up. An aide went in to check on him, and found the president of the United States on his hands and knees on the cold tile floor, mopping up water with paper towels. “Mr. President,” the aide said, “what are you doing? Let the nurse clean that up!” And President Ronald Reagan said, “Oh, no. I made that mess, and I’d hate for the nurse to have to clean it up.”
—Dear Lord, I know you want to wash my feet. I know my fear, my resistance. I’m not clean. I’m embarrassed to admit to myself all the ways I am dishonest, self-indulgent, negligent, defensive, and failing in my relationship with you, with others – failing to love. Wash me. Let me accept, embrace, how your self-giving sets me free from my sin and offers to heal me. By your being broken and given, poured out and shared, make me whole. Let my heart be freed of its anxiety and fear, its anger and lust. Fill me with joy and peace, that I might give you praise. Send me to wash, to forgive, to free, to nourish, to embrace and give life. By your grace, may the poor know that your love abides in my heart and in the community gathered around your Sacred Table.