Two nuns occupy a corner of the waiting room. I take a seat near the door. To my right, an elderly woman pages through a copy of People magazine.

On the sidewalk outside the window, a mother is giving instructions to three children.  The oldest one, a boy, frowns and stomps his foot. Soon, they enter the door and the sisters beckon the family to their part of the room.

I lean my head against the wall, hoping for a quick snooze. The door opens again and I catch a glimpse of a black hat. A cowboy with manure-crusted boots plops down in a chair across from mine.

He is young and staring at his phone. When he slips it in his pocket, he looks up and gives me a nod.

I return the gesture. “Where you work?”

He holds up a swollen wrist. “Randall Feedlot. My horse slipped in the soup.”

“Thought I smelled something.”

His grins and extends his other hand. “Name’s Clay.”

“Good to meet you.”

As we wait to see the chiropractor, I learn that he attends Clarendon College and bull-dogs on its rodeo team.

“I take on-line classes,” he says. “You need a flexible schedule when you feed cattle at 2 AM.”

“So, you like to work?”

He eyes my Roman collar. “That’s why God made me.”

I give him another nod and he flashes another grin.

An attendant appears at the registration desk. “Mr. Ortiz?”

Clay stands up. “Good talkin’ with you, Padre.”

The attendant glances at her clipboard, then motions for me to follow.  As we make our way to the examination rooms, I glance at the nuns. Suddenly, I feel as though I am in a procession. The elderly woman on my right and the mother with wiggly kids on my left only reinforce the notion. All that’s missing are a cross and two candles.

The words of St. John Paul II come to mind: “Ordinary men and women labor in the Lord’s vineyard every day. They are the humble yet great builders of God’s Kingdom.”

Maybe chiropractors should call their offices chapels.

Later, on my drive home, I recall a reflection written by Fr. Pierre Theihard de Chardin, “Mass on the World.” Prior to becoming a famous theologian, this Jesuit priest served as a chaplain in the French army during World War I. One morning, lacking the bread and wine necessary for Mass, he climbed a hill outside the camp where, in place of the Eucharist, he offered to God the labor of the farmers, merchants and factory workers in the valley below. On his way back to camp, he was confident that God received the worthy offering with deep joy.

                      Blessed are those servants whom the Master
finds at work when he returns. Truly I tell you,
He will seat them at table and serve them
(Luke 12:37)


I doubt that I’ll ever run into Clay again but, if I do, I just might ask for his blessing.

02 / 05 / 2024
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