After yesterday afternoon's rain, last night was pleasantly cool with a gentle breeze necessitating use of a pyjama jacket and sheet cover to sleep comfortably for the first time since I arrived. First sign of autumn on the way I wonder? This morning I was at Vinaròs, then Alcossebre celebrating the Eucharist preaching a sermon revised in the light of the news about Fr Clem to disappointed congregations, wondering what's going to happen now to maintain continuity of ministry. In fact, the Sunday after I leave, the Area Dean will come for a united chaplaincy Eucharist and congregational meeting. It's the date when he was meant to be licensing Fr Clem, so arrangements for his travel and weekend stay were sensibly retained.
Just as I was about to start the Alcossebre service I was accosted at the sacristy door by a woman whose halting Spanish made it difficult for me to establish what she wanted. Then others appeared, an entire family, and I tried to explain that I was not the regular Parish Priest who'd already gone, and that this was an English service. One of the daughters tried to explain their problem in halting English, and then I heard others speaking French behind her. Relief ! In a few moments I established they were all disconcerted by what they thought were paranormal phenomena in their apartment. They wanted a priest to go around to bless the place and sprinkle a little holy water.
Although I'd fielded the pastoral problem, I couldn't deal with it, nor felt I could, as this would be what the Parish Priest would normally deal with. Instead, I made an attempt to reassure them that however real these things may be, there was nothing that could harm them. The worst thing was their own fear. The most important thing is to remember that as baptized people they share in Christ's victory over evil, and can claim his protection. I reminded them how to bless themselves and the rooms of the apartment with the sign of the cross and prayer, and encouraged them to think they could do without a priest for this. The penny seemed to drop, for they went away smiling wanly, leaving me to get on with the Eucharist.
My view is that you don't tell people there's nothing to be afraid of in inexplicable events, but recognise there could be a good reason for them to be anxious. Then, remind them of Christ's victory over evil, of perfect love which casts out fear, and encourage them to claim their baptismal birth-right with simple confidence in prayers they know. It's not so much 'blessed assurance' as the blessing of re-assurance. On times everyone can get rattled and un-nerved by events, and a little forgetful of the fact that God is in the thick of it with us, waiting to be asked to give what He wants to give. Although that little intervention before the service seems bizarrely different on the surface, what I had to say to that family was much the same as what I had to say to worshippers. It's the Good News, after all.