St. Paul’s Cathedral in Massachusetts is the Diocesan seat of Worcester. It is a beautiful old Gothic church built in the 1870s, and sits atop High Street Hill.
In the continuing efforts of the Diocese to further the education of its members, St. Paul’s periodically provides daylong conferences on faith related topics likely to be of interest to the laity.
One bright but chilly Saturday in April, I attended a conference entitled “Mary, Our Mother” that featured four very well informed speakers on Marian theology. Brother Francis, a Franciscan friar from Guadalupe, New Mexico sported the latest styles of the thirteenth century in his gray robe, sandals, and long white beard. But he presented a very twenty-first century multimedia slide show relating the story of Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, a humble Native American convert to Christianity. In 1531, Juan Diego saw a vision of the Virgin Mary, which ultimately resulted in the conversion of eight million Mexican Native Americans to Christianity. Thanks to Juan Diego’s vision, the dreadful reign of Aztec native worship and human sacrifice finally came to an end.
Biblical scholar and writer, Dale O’Leary, a convert to Catholicism and former Evangelical Protestant, cited Biblical references for Mary. Her daughter Kelly, also a writer, discussed Mary as a role model for today’s woman.
In the midst of these thought provoking presentations, Father Reidy, the pastor of St. Paul’s, took advantage of an interval to speak to the participants.
“Dear Friends. As you know, the theme of today’s conference is Mary our Mother. I can tell you from firsthand experience that mothers are a wonderful thing. For example, my mother is here today and she told me that the church is too cold. She said ‘Why don’t you turn up the heat, Rick?’ ”
An audible sigh of relief could be heard echoing through the church. The remainder of the conference was spent in comfortable warmth.
A few months later on a brilliant October day, I attended another conference at St. Paul’s. The theme was the Holy Spirit. Once again, the conference featured four very knowledgeable and motivating speakers.
After an interesting presentation given by a Ukrainian priest of the Eastern Rite, we broke for lunch. We went across the street to the parish hall where sandwiches and beverages were provided.
I do not live in Worcester and usually attend Mass at St. Bridget’s near where I live. I did not know many of the participants at St. Paul’s and looked about the cafeteria hoping to see a familiar face. Not recognizing anyone, I took an empty seat at an already occupied table. Sitting across from me was a distinguished looking elderly couple. Several other people were also at the table.
“How are you enjoying the conference?” asked the wife.
“Oh, I’m enjoying it very much,”
“It gives us a good dose of reality,” said her husband.
They are converts, I thought to myself.
“The church is a bit cold,” I said conversationally.
“Now when I was here in April for the Marian conference,” I gabbled on. “I remember Father Reidy saying something about mothers being such a good thing and that his own mother was at the conference that day and told him to turn up the heat.
“Well, I sure wish his mother was here today. Maybe this time, he’ll need the Holy Spirit to inspire him to raise the thermostat.”
A shocked silence ensued. All eyes at the table turned to stare at me.
Finally, a woman spoke, “Do you know who these two people are?”
“Uh-----no,” I answered.
“They are Father Reidy’s mother and father.”
Finally, I recovered my aplomb. “Well, like I said, Mrs. Reidy. That was a real good idea of yours, telling your son to turn up the heat.”
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I recently learned that Mr. and Mrs. Reidy, and their son the pastor, are indeed converts to Catholicism. Previously they belonged to the Congregationalist Church. How did I know this? It takes one to know one.
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