Unexpected is not on the checklist

This past week has been crazy busy for me. I feel like I’ve been reduced to checklists, to make sure I accomplish as much as I possibly can, knowing that I can’t do it all. Church, work, home… all call for my time and attention.

One of the most significant items on my Saturday checklist was Abbey Fest in Paoli, PA. I bought my ticket months ago, well before realizing that work would also be competing for my time. As a result, I did not get there when the gates opened and missed the first two acts. It’s open seating, literally, on the grass wherever one can find room, and folks do tend to come throughout the day. The thought did cross my mind that just because I had a ticket didn’t mean that I had to go, but I think that was more of an evil temptation. I managed to find a nice spot with a good view of the stage and set up my chair and sat down. Doesn’t sound like much, but to be able to sit down, enjoying the fresh air and good, inspiring music was both restful and invigorating. As in previous years, I was glad I went, but this year I felt an unexpected joy immersing myself in the place and activities of Abbey Fest.  I found that is was what I really needed at that moment.

Another item on my checklist was to go to confession at Abbey Fest. While the abbey itself is open for folks to go in and pray, confessions are heard outside on the lawn, face-to-face. I’m not particularly fond of going face-to-face, since I usually end up crying, however it’s a bit easier there since the priests are from a variety of locations. The line was surprisingly short, although they did have quite a number of priests available, so my time to prepare was short. The priest was reverently humorous, which was very unexpected. It was one of the best confessional experiences I have had, as I truly felt that he was talking to me at my level. At the conclusion, I was considering asking the priest if I could hug him, but settled for letting him know what a great experience it was. He seemed a bit surprised and took no credit for it responding, “It’s all the Holy Spirit, not me.”

The speaker for the event was Paul J. Kim, who promotes himself as singer/speaker/inspirer. I was not familiar with his work, and even though his presentation and other events were not on my checklist, I found myself checking off each one. Paul‘s talents include making music with his mouth (and not just percussive instruments but even a trumpet sound!), as well as being able to convey thoughts, feelings and even doubts about religion and faith in a lighthearted and thought provoking way. I laughed out loud at his humor, which is unusual for me. And there were a number of times when I said to myself, “yup, I thought that way too.” Paul was able to dig down, deep into the core of the faith, and shed a different perspective to it. I was surprised to so thoroughly enjoy his presentation. It was a perfect prelude to the headline act, Matt Maher, who not only gave a fabulous show, introducing a few new songs, but led us in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the true highlight of the whole day.

The unexpected may not be on the checklist, but it was a real delight to have so many experiences all wrapped up into one Abbey Fest event.

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