The prayer cards and chocolates given to all at Sleman’s ordination and first Mass will make simple (and for me, cheap) souvenirs for the my parish staff. I noticed in the unpacking that the chocolates are “Queen’s Chocolates.” That goes well with the image on the front of the prayer card. Waiting for me at the airport in Cincinnati after my 14 “flying hours” in the plane(s) was my friend Susan. In the car with her she had ham and cheese and bread and milk and bananas and eggs, so that I would have at home something to eat that I like to eat I when return home. The care and affection that I have in my life is much more than I deserve. Susan took me home, put the stuff in the refrigerator, reminded me about supper at their house the next day, on Sunday, for which she was going to make peach pies, my favorite, to celebrate my birthday with the family. Am I blessed or what? After a ham and cheese sandwich, I plopped on my bed with the intention of taking a quick nap, and wound up spending 14 hours in bed. Even though the hours in sleep equaled the hours in flight, my body and mind are still a bit disoriented. But I do have a piece of leftover peach pie to help remember where I am and what I have here! As, with this post, I end this journal of my journey to Fuhais, I am a grateful man.
For my last supper in Jordan and the last one of the whole trip itself, we went to a traditional Jordanian restaurant, I was told. When Suhail asked me what I would like to eat, I asked him to order me something “traditional.” He and his friend went round and round with the waiter. To the table came the multiple and tasty salads and what we would call appetizers. Then three plates of what I did not recognize. One was a layered variety of meats, thin bread and sauces. Suhail called it Jordanian pizza. And then this, “Here, you will like this. It is very delicious. and it is special.” When I asked what it was, it was “very delicious, very special.” After a couple mouthfuls and a second helping, “Do you like it? Do know what it is?” It was grilled, slightly mushier than chicken. “Is it brain?” “Yes, sheep brain, it is delicious, isn’t? It is a special Jordanian dish?” Then it was, “Do you know what this is?” “Liver?” “Yes, lamb’s liver, very delicious. You will probably want to scrape all of the spices out that are stuffed in the livers; the spices are very hot. The kidneys are very delicious … and good for you, too …. good for iron … they are very, you guessed it, delicious.” You have heard of the suggestion, “Eat first, ask later?” That may depend on your sensitivities. I made sure that, when I got to the airport, I popped in a couple of those pink pills.
There are three circles in Fuheis. The main circle in the city center where the driver dumped me from his taxi on that distressed day of a few days since. This circle is where the people live. It is the heart of the center of the village in its Christian culture. St George is really, like really big in the devotion of the people of Fuheis, almost all of whom are Christian to this day, in name at last, as,we might tend to ad. The center of the next circle is … well, get ready, you lovers of the Virgin
(1) The first memory is that it was almost always referred to as Holy Mass, Sleman’s First Holy Mass. (2) His vestment was lovely and splendidly him and his spirituality and spiritual nature. On the back a large image of the Sacred Heart, and on the front a same-sized image of the Blessed Mother. It was made for him and given to him as a gift from the Rosary Sisters. His aunt had been a Rosary Sister and died just months ago, having wanted to see this day. (3) He is left-handed, putting the incense in the thurible with his left hand. (4) My, oh my. He has a very capable and pleasing singing voice. As he first began chanting the sign of the cross, one knew that this man will reverently and capably sing the Mass. (5) In the Profession of Faith for more than the usual moment, I lingered on the statement of faith about the “catholic” church: I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy “catholic” church. In this moment it felt “wholly” Catholic. (6) Before Mass, the First Holy Mass, that is, his friend and benefactor from Austria, a Knight of some sort or other, and I were amusing each other how each of us could not believe that we were present for this moment. I teasingly pinched his arm, “See, you are awake, You are not dreaming.” During Mass, the Austrian was sitting in the front row; I was in the sanctuary seated near Sleman, separated only by the deacon and Feras. I caught the Austrian’s eye and dramatically pinched my own arm. He smiled broadly from the front row. (7) The whole liturgy, as is every liturgical over here, was what most of us would describe as chaotic: multiple videographers and flash photographers walking back and forth, this way and that, up and back, crossing in front of people and walking right in front of everyone. Ministers at the altar moved about sometimes taking care of some duty, with seemingly no regard for what was going on, even walking in front of the person speaking or even crossing in front of the ambo during a reading and putting papers on the ambo as the preacher is reading his text. It was all, in our “western, American, everything has its moment and everything in its place” mentality, it was very distracting. But no one else seemed to be distracted at all. The preacher just kept moving along. ( 8) At the end of the First Holy Mass Abuna Sleman went to the ambo and spoke at length. I heard, “Shukran, shukran, shukran,” as he went through his mentions of thanks. The Austrian, the British Father Kevin and I perked up when we heard, “A warm welcome to my dear friends.” (9) And lastly, a couple times during Mass, it crossed my mind, as it probably crossed no one else’s mind who was present, or probably never crosses anyone else’s mind at all, but it came to my mind that a good caption for a photo of this man in this moment, a very handsome man, with a perfectly pretty face and a killer smile, smart and accomplished, with a lovely singing voice, with a sense of reverence and awe for life, with an obvious soul for God and a heart for family and service , “And the young, single women of the village wept.” Wept for joy, of course.
With the first word and first note from his mouth at his First Mass, I turned to Father Faysal, sitting next to me in the sanctuary, “He has a wonderful singing voice.” Faysal smiled and nodded. God’s ears will be delighted to receive back in praise what He has given to Sleman to help him lift up the praise and prayer of the people.
It is the traditional practice of the people of Fuheis, Jordan, to celebrate a new priest from town. We might say that they got carried away. All they were doing was carrying the priest to the church. We get carried say, lifting up a quarterback or a coach, after a win. So why not they? The village of Fuheis won a big one for the Church! It is no wonder they – and Sleman – got carried away.