Juice and Joy
Friday, January 14, 2011
This water bottle was a playful little Christmas gift to me from Rebecca, my daughter. I love the ‘Redeems Parched Sinners” tag written across the bottom. It seems that the company, Blue Q, specializes in all sorts of off-beat, “gently” offensive products that poke fun at various religious traditions.
The bottle’s message also reminds me of Father Phillip Kelly, an unconventional Catholic priest and friend of mine who passed away some fifteen years ago at the age of 86. Whatever direction the trend in ministry was moving in at the time among priests you could be sure that Father Phil was going in the opposite direction.
Phil, or Father Phil, as many called him, ran a somewhat off the record retreat center for people who felt disenfranchised by the Church. Phil celebrated Mass every day at noon for anyone who cared to attend. He also ran several support groups for people recovering or coping from all sorts of life’s challenges.
The facility, called St Joseph’s Community in Dartmouth, MA, had a lovely little chapel with the look and feel of a little church…except for a few “Father Phil” touches to the décor.
Instead of holy water in the finger-dipping urns at each entrance to the chapel, Phil had live plants growing there instead. One finger urn had a crop of philodendrons growing that reached nearly to the floor.
There was the usual alter, with a Crucifix behind it in typical Catholic fashion, but on the other wall was something entirely unusual. Phil had mounted a huge old, frayed janitors mop on the wall, upside down, so that the mop head was up and flopping over and the handle pointed downward towards the floor. Just under the hanging mop head itself were the words, “don’t be a mop.”
Whenever Phil was getting ready to say Mass or convene a gathering of people who were arriving, Father Phil took out a large spray bottle labeled “holy water,” with a cross made with a magic marker, and commenced to walk around the room spraying this “holy water” from wall to wall.
Once, when I asked Phil why he did this instead of providing holy water in the usual way at the entrances, he explained, “If a little bit is good on the tip of your finger, why not fill the room with it, breathe it in and let it settle upon God’s children as they arrive?”
If Father Phil were alive today I think he would have gotten a chuckle out of seeing my daughters gift, “Holy Water…Tap Into It…Redeeming Parched Sinners!”
Now that’s what I call religion!