By Deacon John Degano
‘Always be prepared to give an accounting of the reason for your faith.’’
That’s one of my mantras.
St. Peter actually wrote that in one of his letters to the Church.
I have the luxury of living it in the world.
For example, last month Cheryl and I attended a Halloween production of Late Night Catechism at the Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach. For those who don’t know, it is a comedic look at our faith and Catholic culture, presented by a ‘sister’ from St. Bruno’s parish.
It was a spur of the moment decision to go and so we had no expectations of encountering anyone we knew in the rather cozy theater setting. We were pleasantly surprised to discover how wrong we were.
Before the curtain rose, we spotted three rows in front of us a couple who had been our parish’s citizenship class instructors until last June when they moved to Orange County to be closer to their grandchildren.
We planned on talking with them at the intermission.
The show began and ‘sister’ took us through our paces, calling us to attention, having us spitting out our gum into a proffered tissue or modestly covering up...! Those she encountered she later called up onto the stage, had them don costumes representing certain Saints and emceed a dance off!
It was at the beginning of the costuming portion of the show when she introduced St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr. As she said the word “deacon,” Cheryl and I cheered! She stopped, looked at us and asked, “Are there deacons in the house?”
I couldn’t lie to sister, so I admitted, “I am.”
Immediately three or four heads turned and hands shot up and started waving at me… in affirmation of my vocation? No. More parishioners from Riverside. Cheryl and I waved back.
Sister stepped back and took in the scene. Turning to the audience she asked nervously, “Are there any other clergy in the room?
The couple who waved, said ‘Priest.” And pointed to the person next to them. And in the row behind them a man yelled out, “Monsignor.”
“You’re supposed to extend to me the professional courtesy!” she scolded (meaning to identify their presence beforehand). “I might have just lost my job...!” she told the audience.
And that was how I and the monsignor ended up on stage dressed as saints and competing alongside four lay people (including two non-Catholics) for our faith.
Literally, as Jesus’ followers, we are all “on stage.” It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is (a Monday); What diocese you are in (neither of us were from the Diocese of Orange); Or that our inquisitor was a religious sister (she wasn’t), a Catholic (she is) or someone we would never meet again (they have nine different shows touring throughout the year).
All that matters is that we love Jesus and aren’t embarrassed to be seen with him or to call him Lord and God.
And to embrace all things with great joy!
Even if that means dressing up like St. Lawrence (wearing grill with flames) for Halloween, and announcing boldly (as the deacon and part-time comedian) did, “Turn me over. I’m done on this side!”
St. Lawrence’s trust in God proves that, even in death, there are still opportunities for each of us to give a reason for our faith.
John Degano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria parish in Riverside.