I don’t know if you have encountered the ‘flat white?’ It’s the latest in the world of coffee. I have been opting for it over the latte or cappuccino. I think I have been telling myself that it’s more healthy. Less cream, less sugar, less froth, less frills. Though of course in the commercial world things do not remain plain for long. Before I could settle in with the flat white it became the flat white with coconut. This now is a fairly regular treat of mine. The coconut flat white and the two pack of spicy ginger cookies. It’s part of my chill out, keep – sane routine. It’s almost like a little ceremony. I was just starting this little ritual a few days ago when Beano, wrestling his cheeseburger, shouted over from across the Cafe, ‘Tell us this Father, what’s the crack with the Pope’s visit? Are you going?’

‘Yea that’s the plan I hope to be there, I am looking forward to it’ I said stirring the hot welcoming coffee, enjoying the waft of coconut climbing towards me.

‘Shut up you, the priest is in here for a break. He doesn’t want to be talking about religion all the time!’

‘I’m not talking about religion Anto. I’m talking about the Pope. Anyway I know Father Joe doesn’t mind. I like the Pope. He seems a sound lad. Do you think we could get in to the Pope’s bash in August Fr. Joe?’

At this Anto started to laugh. ‘Ah Beano don’t be daft! Look at the state of us. Can you imagine? I’d love to see their faces….they wouldn’t let us anywhere near it. Anyway it’s only for families, isn’t that right Father?

Before I could open my mouth Beano protested ‘but sure we are all a part of some family, you are in a family, I’m in a family. Ok I admit I haven’t seen my family for a while and I know you don’t see your ones very often, but they are still your ones. My crowd of yobbos are still my crowd. We have been through a lot and I know I caused them a lot of grief over the past few years, but it wasn’t always like this’.

‘Funny listening to you Beano, I know I have their hearts broken but I know they still love me,’ said Anto playing with a few chips left on his plate.

Anto is not a talker but he kept going, ‘there’s no way they would want the like of us in meeting the Pope. I suppose you couldn’t blame them. It’s for families but not families like ours. At least not like mine, your family isn’t that bad Beano. My gang are seriously screwed up. I’d feel sorry for the poor Pope if he saw my lot coming!’

Beano laughed, ‘I dunno, each one of your family is dead on, on their own, but it’s when you put the crowd of you together that’s when the fun starts. It’s your poor Ma I feel sorry for. She definitely deserves to meet the Pope. I suppose Father it’s for families that don’t have any serious issues, or at least if they had, they’ve got them sorted. Would that be it?’

Again I was beaten to it, Anto answered the question that bounced round the Cafe, ‘ well if it’s only for families that have no issues or have them sorted, they certainly won’t need Croker!’

I laughed with them. Later I cried.

These are the precious crumbs of conversation, the gems of ministry.

Whatever happened to the beautiful Scriptural value of welcoming the stranger, the estranged, the troubled and the perplexed?


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