Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Fresh Pair of Eyes

From New Orleans 2010

We saw a lot in New Orleans last week.  I joked this morning that we spent more time in church on vacation than we normally do. We visited Touro synagogue, and three Catholic churches and a convent for good measure. The absolute highlight of those explorations though, was meeting Jack Guidry. We almost missed the opportunity. We ate lunch and were headed back toward the French Quarter and saw the sign for the church and the Father Selos Shrine and turned down a street into a neighborhood that included St. Mary's Assumption church, a church operated home for the elderly, the Selos Shrine and museum, and a Catholic school.

From New Orleans 2010

When we walked into the church, a workman eating lunch in the doorway told us to watch our step, because they were repairing termite damage inside and we "might fall through the floor." It's possible he's not on the regular greeter's team. :) Bunny was almost beside herself at the beauty that presented itself from every angle. While she rushed from place to place, I caught the eye of a man with a lanyard and badge who introduced himself as a volunteer. "I'm Jack Guidry" he said, and the warmth of his presence was evident immediately. To call what he gave us a "tour" would be to belittle it and him. He gave us his heart for God and for his Church.

From New Orleans 2010

His knowledge of the church was amazing - he didn't know everything, but "he'd only been there 20 years." For over an hour, he took us through the amazing story of how the church was built, the short but incredible meaningful ministry of Father Selos, the church today, and so many facts about the art, furnishings, and people who made (and make) up that parish that we listened hard, lest we miss a word. His narrative was interrupted at one point by a woman and her husband. She was wearing a patch over one eye and came forward and hugged Jack and proceeded to tell him that she had undergone surgery for brain cancer. While she lost one eye, she was in good health now and her future was bright. She credited the prayers of Jack, the people in the church, and of the saints for the blessing of healing. She had come into church to pray the day before her surgery and met Jack. He prayed with her and gave her a relic from Father Selos, who was known for his compassion and care for the sick. She returned it to Jack as we watched and saw the woman, her husband, and Jack share the joy of the knowledge that God heard their prayers and acted on her behalf.

It was worship - and it was amazing to stand there and watch it.

As they left and we stepped outside to make our way to the museum and gift shop, Bunny walked off to take a picture of something in the garden and I told Jack that I got the feeling that his church was one of those places the ancient Celtic Christians called "thin places." Those believers, who really kept the faith alive during the Dark Ages, practiced the spiritual disciplines of solitude and meditation with a fierceness rarely seen. In that pursuit, they looked for places where they felt the presence of God was stronger. They called them "thin places" where they believed the distance between the "now" and the Kingdom of God was smaller or "thinner." The look on his face was priceless. A bigger, warmer smile I don't think I've ever seen.

We continued our exploration together and when we left we had a great appreciation for the work of the Christians who literally carried the materials to build that church brick by brick from the river. But they have nothing on Jack, who's carrying the message today in such a winsome way that you want to move there and worship with him - even if you are a Baptist. :) Such a grace-filled man.


Bunny and I have a friend and a brother in Christ in New Orleans and his name is Jack Guidry.

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