Recently I enjoyed a visit from an old college friend and his wife, whom I had not met before. A particular and blessed dimension of the visit was that this friend from the time of my entrance into the Roman Catholic Church had himself converted to Eastern Orthodoxy this past Easter.
Religion and the faith didn't come up much during the visit; it was a short one in any case and maybe neither of us were sure how to talk about it with one another.
But there was one religious moment that has stayed with me.
On one of the days I went with them to see St. Peter's Basilica. We stood in the line and chatted. After passing through security and navigating the crowds marveling at and taking pictures of the Swiss Guards at the Bronze Door, we entered the Basilica.
Upon entering I did what I always do, as if by instinct: without regard to anyone's picture-taking or the explanations of guides I went straight to the holy water stoup under (I'm pretty sure) St. Teresa of Ávila, which is on your right as you go into the Basilica. It's what you do when you enter a church. You get some holy water and make the Sign of the Cross, como Dios manda.
When I turned around I saw that my friends had followed me up to the spot in front of the stoup. They asked me to bless them. So I got some more holy water on the ends of my fingers, sprinkled them with it, and blessed them with the Sign of the Cross and in the name of the Trinity.
In the craziness of St. Peter's in the middle of the day--I'm usually there before eight in the morning, when it's quiet and prayerful--and also probably distracted by hospitality and the thought of some business I had in the sacristy and whether I could get it done, I didn't think much of this little religious moment at the time. But as I say, it stayed with me.
There I was in this most recent church built over the tomb of St. Peter, the location for which is said to have been chosen by proximity to his martyrdom. This is St. Peter, on whose confession of faith the Lord builds his Church as the universal Sacrament of salvation, the sacrament by which the remission of sins accomplished by the Sacrifice of his Passion and death and the grace of the new creation inaugurated in his Resurrection come to us. And by the Sacraments of this same Church I have become first a vessel of these mysteries and then a minister of them, such that this explosion of grace through time and space, from that moment between Jesus Christ and St. Peter down through history, has come all the way to me, such that when I bless my friends, even in the chaos of St. Peter's in the middle of the day and the (much worse) chaos of my own mind, there arrives in my friends, in their identity as new creations by baptism, by means of my particular sharing in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, the blessing of God.