Monday, December 24, 2012

Conversations With The Bartender

Mom’s live-in caregiver was to leave town on Sunday, to visit her mother and sister in Indiana, but as is her way, she suddenly changed her mind.  “I’ll leave tomorrow,” she said.  This caused no major disruptions to my plans to stay at mom’s house for the week, except one:  I could go home to my own bed on Sunday night; one less night on mom’s couch.
Blessings often come in small ways, but they are still blessings.
As her normal bedtime approached Sunday night, mom was in a contrary mood: “I don’t want to go to bed yet!”  And so, as I sat there next to her, I began to say my nightly rosary.  By the time the last Hail Mary’s were being said mom’s eyes had closed, and she softly snored.  “It’s time,” I said, putting my hands to the side of my head to indicate sleeping a sleeping position.  She looked up at me and nodded.
Heading toward my usual stop at the chapel on my way home, I said the last of the rosary prayers and saw the Box Bar in downtown Plymouth.  And I decided to stop.
All but one barstool was taken when I walked in.  “Good enough,” I thought as I sat down, ordered a glass of wine, and began to watch the Seattle football team humiliating the San Francisco team.  And then before that first glass of wine was emptied, I looked up and noticed:  so were all the other stools at the small bar.  “Another?” asked the young bartender, pointing at my glass.  “Sure,” I said.  No need to hurry home; nothing on my mind; all was at peace this December 23rd night.
After a bit the bartender returned to me, his only customer.  “Food tonight?” he asked.  “Hmmm, maybe some fries, if you’ll share some with me,” and he went off to place my order with the kitchen.  Returning, we chatted about the non-game on the big-screen television, and then turned to thoughts of Christmas.  “I don’t get to church much anymore,” he suddenly volunteered.  And he quickly switched to talking about some of the disappointing things in his life --- not connecting the two topics.  He mentioned in passing that he once had attended Catholic elementary schools. 
“You know, at one point I was away from church for seven years,” I said.  “I know what it’s like to be a good person, but not really value going to church.  But that changed for me one night, …”
And so I began to tell him of my call by God, back to church --- my conversion story.
When I told him how, in the far-away country, I had watched nuns climbing a steep rocky path on their knees, he stopped leaning on the bar, stood up straight and stepped back away: “You’re kidding me.”  I told him how God had shocked me at that moment too, and suddenly I knew, I KNEW, everything I had been taught and forgotten about God was true.  He did exist; He was in the Eucharist on the altar; He did love me.  “And I cried,” I said.
He stood there silently, looking at me.
A conversation in a bar about faith and miracles:  How did that happen?
We chatted a while longer when I noticed that time had slipped away, and my glass was empty for a third time.  “Well, that’s enough,” I said.  “I think it’s time for me to go home,” as I dropped my credit card on the bar.  I expected the tab to be about $20, and I planned to add $20 as a tip.  The “Merry Christmas” I planned to say to him was on my mind, as he pushed the credit card back to me.
“This one’s on me,” he said, “Merry Christmas.” 
“But how can I give you a Christmas gift, then,” I asked him.
“You have, my friend,” he replied. 
“You have.”
“Thank you,” I said in return, getting up to leave, “And Merry Christmas to you.”  And then I paused.  “I’ll be going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve at Our Lady of Good Counsel tomorrow night.  Maybe I’ll see you there.”
He smiled.
   - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
As I sat reading my morning prayers today, I thought on all the people who might be going to midnight mass tonight.  For how many would this be their only mass of the year?  For how many would this be their first mass IN years?  Would they feel ashamed at being gone for so long? 
And then I read my morning prayers:
There is no time with God; a thousand years, a single day, it is all one.  (2 Peter 3:8)
Make us know the shortness of our life
That we may gain wisdom of heart.
  (Psalm 90)
He has won you for Himself … and you must proclaim what He has done for you; He has called you out of darkness into His own wonderful light.  (1 Peter 2:9) 


  1. I don't know how I happened to miss this post before now, but I'm glad I came across it tonight.

    What a blessing for you to have the opportunity to share your story, and what a blessing that the bartender was affected in such a positive way. God gave you a very special gift and a Merry Christmas. He is the ultimate gift-giver. May He continue to gift you throughout the New Year.

  2. I'm glad you read this witness also, Maryellen. I thought it a great blessing of God to me ---- and, by the way in case you wondered, I rarely go to ANY bar, much less this one.

    You know, in recent days I've had a number of conversations on this topic, of witnessing our faith --- with Leila over at The Little Catholic Bubble blog, with the Friday morning Protestant bible study group, and this morning with my Saturday morning breakfast with Clem. It just seems like the opportunities to speak up were being laid out in front of me. And I hope I was up to the task of explaining the importance I felt about the topic. Everyone thinks of evangelizing as making some great preparation of a speech and memorizing bible quotes, but I don't think that is how we are called to witness. We're called wherever we happen to be; no special plans are necessary. All we have to do is live what we say we believe.

    I hope you also have a wonderful and blessed New Year.