Sacerdotal services by Robynn
As many of the readers of Communicating Across Boundaries know, I am Canadian. Initially I was here in the US on an R1 visa. It’s a religious worker visa and it really only allowed me to do sacerdotal services. I could offer the sacraments: baptize, and serve communion. I could also bury, marry, and pray.
And that’s all I was allowed to do.
I volunteered in the lunchroom at Bluemont Elementary school where our three children were enrolled. The Principal really wanted to pay me. No one wants to be in the lunchroom. It’s noisy and chaotic, it’s loud and often out of control. She thought the least she could do would be to pay me for my ‘hardship’. But my visa strictly stated that the only work I could be paid to do was religious work. I could only do sacerdotal services. I could have prayed in the school but I think the supreme court has had something to say about that over the years!
So I volunteered. That was several years ago.
Now I have a green card and I can officially work in the lunchroom at the elementary school. Three days a week I don my plastic gloves and I serve up canned pears and apple slices. I hand out whole wheat rolls (thanks to Mrs Obama!) and I dole out green beans. After the food is served and before the next class comes stampeding through there’s time to do what I love best about lunch room duty. I roam. I visit with the little people. I laugh at their jokes and hear their stories. I open milk cartons or yogurt tubes. I tie shoe laces. I release kids to go to the bathroom and I encourage them to wash their hands when they’re done.
But ironically I find myself also performing sacerdotal services. I hear confessions and I absolve the guilty. I comfort the broken-hearted. I help with conflict resolution. I hear who started it and I ask them to be brave enough to be the one to stop it. I encourage forgiveness and kindness. I break open their sandwich containers, I stick straws into juice boxes. I call them to sit and to stand. I tell them to ‘go in peace’ as they race out the door to the playground when lunch is done.
I wipe tables and I wipe tears.
As I walk through their tables I also offer up prayers for them. Many are lonely and afraid. Some don’t have enough food in their lunch box to sustain them. I worry for those whose nutrition is in jeopardy. Some seem so sad and terribly troubled. Some can’t eat. Their tummies hurt. I petition their Heavenly Father on their behalf. There are a few who seem already earmarked for trouble. They are already making choices that seem to determine their outcomes unless God steps in with grace. I humbly ask him to.
There’s a lovely story in the gospels where a group of mothers brought their children, loud and noisy, disheveled and disorderly to Jesus. And I love what happens. Jesus’ friends try to send them all away…but Jesus calls for the kids to come. In the lunchroom, I do that. I quietly bring them all to Jesus. They are very noisy. Not many of them remember their manners. They don’t eat their vegetables. Their faces are messy and their hands are sticky. Pushing and shoving, giggling and wiggling, Jesus still calls for them to come.
The priest, the mom and the lunch lady have a lot in common. They perform sacerdotal services. It’s loud and messy but it’s holy work.
And now I get paid (a little!) to do it!