The following article was written by Fr. Dwight Longenecker, an American priest who is a convert first from Evangelical Christianity, then to the Church of England (Anglican) and then who became a Roman Catholic and is now a Catholic priest. As a Benedictine priest he wears a cassock, which is a long robe, tied at the waste with a rope or cincture. A few weeks ago I wrote in the bulletin about wearing my Roman Collar as a Catholic priest and the witness it provides to others about the presence of the Church and the priesthood in the world today. The following short article reminded me of my message about dressing and being identified as a priest and how it arouses conversation and interest in some while avoidance and a dis-ease with others.
“Today on the way home from Mass I stopped at Krispy Kreme for a dozen donuts. I’m wearing my cassock and Benedictine scapular. Here’s what happened.
First guy I see is about thirty. Hospital scrubs. He says, “What church are you?”
“Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church.”
“I’m the son of two Lutheran pastors.”
“I can help you with that if you like…”
Laughs. ” I really like the new pope.”
“Me too. What do you do. Doctor, Nurse?”
“Nurse. In the cardiac unit at St Francis.”
“I was just there last week to anoint an old fellow. After the anointing he said, ‘Father, it’s so beautiful!’ I asked what he was seeing. He said, ‘Christ the King!’ Then closed his eyes.”
Thinks it through. Orders his coffee. “Thanks for sharing that!”
I start to order my donuts. The girl says the Lutheran paid for them. Nice.
Another guy comes through the door. “What religion are you?”
“Catholic. Catholic priest.”
“You look real sharp in that outfit.”
“Thanks. Where do you go to church?”
“Greenville Christian Fellowship. I used to be Catholic.”
“That means you’re still Catholic. You should come to Our Lady of the Rosary sometime.”
“Maybe I’ll do that.”
Older woman about sixty comes through the door. She looks like an Italian grandma. I’m still picking out my donuts.
“I can’t think of the last time I saw a priest in public.”
“Most of them don’t wear the cassock anymore.”
“That’s a shame. I was brought up Catholic. What parish are you Father?”
“Our Lady of the Rosary.”
“At the junction of I-85 and Augusta Road, but you can’t tell it’s a Catholic parish because we don’t have a church that looks Catholic. It’s just a warehouse.”
“What a shame.”
“But we’re doing something about that. We’re building a beautiful new church that will look like a Catholic Church!”
“Wonderful! I’ve come back to the church because of the new pope. That other church (names one in town) what were they thinking when they built that? It looks terrible.”
“I can’t disagree with you. But we’re building a beautiful church. Do you have a million dollars? We need more money.”
“I can hardly afford the donuts, Father!”
“OK. You come see us sometime.”
I love being a priest, and wearing the cassock always sparks good conversations. So many people want to love the church. They want to love Christ. They want a priest to be a priest and set a good example. We need to work with all the good spirit that is out there, and forget about the negativities.
My choice was a cup of coffee, a sour cream donut and a Boston cream donut and I’ll start my diet tomorrow. I mean, if you can’t celebrate Epiphany with a visit to Krispy Kreme what’s the world coming to? Next thing you know they’ll be abolishing Monsignors…”.