I had a funny experience today at my weekly hour of adoration. There was a man in the chapel I'd never seen before. Sixty-something, grey-haired and bearded, he was a bit disheveled looking, with the red-rimmed eyes of illness or addiction. He looked at me with an intense, plaintive expression when I arrived. I smiled and said prayers for him, half expecting to be accosted for cash. (It's happened before at this chapel.)
At some points during my hour he and I were the only ones there, and I felt a little apprehensive. I thought he might be mentally ill. But he stayed in his pew, reading a book another woman gave him, watching people come and go, and quietly weeping. I said more prayers for him, asking God to tell me if I should do something.
As I got up to go, he threw me another plaintive look. This time I went over and said, "Do you need something?" He laughed a warm, hearty laugh and said, holding out both hands as if in congratulation, "Just your hands, and a hug." He wrapped his arms around me and held on, whispering in my ear, "I will pray for you forever...oh forever and ever and ever." Then he let go and I left.
I don't know who he was or why he wanted a hug. But I'm glad my personalist convictions let me believe it might have been an important encounter for us both. (I almost felt like I had passed a secret test.) My faith lets me believe it might even have been Jesus.