Being away from the Body of Christ is perhaps the most difficult burden for faithful Catholics now. It’s a gift to have livestreamed Masses available. But it’s insufficient. We want Christ, his real tangible presence. We need him.
Bill Lahr, a parishioner of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Doylestown found himself in tears missing the Holy Eucharist and the Mass. In distress, he prayed. Then an idea came. “If we can’t come into church to receive Jesus then we have to bring Jesus to the parish,” Bill thought, “even if it is one home at a time.”
So Bill called the parochial vicar at his parish, Father Harold McKale, a priest who he knew loved the traditions of the Catholic faith and the Holy Mass, and told him his idea. Father McKale didn’t hesitate to say yes.
He recognized the need. Father McKale explained, “Since the bishops essentially shut down our churches for the common good a couple months ago, the faithful have been deprived of the Mass and its fruit, the Most Blessed Sacrament. As an active parish with many organizations, people are also feeling the loss of community cultivated in those parish groups which are vital to the life of the parish.”
So the men got to work planning the event. They decided they would use Bill’s pickup truck to bring exposition of the Blessed Sacrament to people’s homes where they would receive a blessing. Bill, a Knight of Columbus, would handle logistics. He enlisted the help of fellow Knights Mike Dougherty, would handle navigation and Tom Hendricks, who would follow behind the pickup with his flashers.
(Watch a video of the day by Bill’s son, Billy Lahr, below:)
There were initial concerns. Bill worried it would be hokey for the Blessed Sacrament to be in the back of his pickup truck. But then he reasoned, “if Jesus could ride into Jerusalem on a donkey I am sure he wouldn’t mind being glorified with his people at their homes on the back of my truck… . Just make it beautiful.”
And so this past Sunday with Bill driving the truck and Father McKale in the back with the holy Eucharist they began an 11-hour journey driving over 250 miles through Bucks County. They covered the footprint of the parish including Doylestown, New Britain, Warrington, Perkasie, Plumstead and Buckingham townships.
They also stopped and blessed Doylestown Hospital, Center Square, Grundy Hall, Greenleaf Nursing Home, Pine Run, Harborview, Belmont, Briar Leaf and the Bucks County prison.
Each time Father McKale from the back of Bill’s truck knelt before the Blessed Sacrament to pray a blessing at the homes, families, friends or neighbors gathered while social distancing.
There were 165 stops that were planned. Parishioners waited in lawn chairs for the arrival of the mobile exposition. But impromptu meetings kept happening throughout the day. Catholics who had fallen away from the faith rushed out of their homes to witness Christ. Many of them dropped to their knees at his presence. The procession stopped at over 500 homes by the end of the day!
“Our parishioners were extraordinarily grateful to be visited by Our Lord,” said Father McKale. “Many were tearful as they expressed their desire to be able to attend the holy sacrifice of the Mass. Parishioners let other neighbors know so in many neighborhoods we were flagged down by other Catholics who also wanted a blessing. Others dropped down to their knees. It was a beautiful thing to see.”
Bill recalled one special moment (there were many) when they turned down a side street in Doylestown. A little girl about 9 saw the truck coming. Bill said when she saw the monstrance in the back of the truck her eyes widened and she dropped to her knees and began to pray. After, she jumped up and ran into her home. Moments later she emerged with her parents. She jumped up and down shouting “Jesus is here! Jesus is here!”
This one day was blessed beyond measure. It all started with one man’s desire for Christ and an idea to do something about it. And it relied on a priest’s willingness to not sit on his hands but to minister to the needs of his flock. Indeed, Father McKale did not sit on his hands.
Rather, he spent most of the 11-hour day kneeling in the back of the pickup truck. But it was worth it. Since Sunday the men have received over 100 emails from people expressing their gratitude and joy.
In anticipation, we wait to gather once more and say with enthusiasm, “Jesus is here! Jesus is here!”
Kim Griffin is a member of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul Parish, Philadelphia.
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