I was invited to speak for Catholic Young Adults at Monks in Sioux Falls. At first glance Monks sounds like just the place for a priest! However, Monk’s House of Ale Repute brings this guy back to by-gone days: a location where life’s desperate anxieties and the heart’s endless longings were quieted by bourbon and beer. This night, I was there early and alone, which historically didn’t help matters much. However, I felt oddly at home and surprisingly at peace among those hanging at the bar. Waiting endlessly for something—for Someone to arrive.
The group arrived quickly and filled tables in the back room to listen to me teach. A well-dressed man entered at the last moment and sat in a chair among the crowd. I talked and taught about Christian faith. In the middle of my talk he offered his own commentary and to my amazement he knew something of what I was speaking about. He had comments and questions and perceptions, which were striking to me. Most striking was that he didn’t know anyone in the room.
From his bar stool, he had watched us gather and accepted the invitation from our companion who had recognized his curious disposition. I only discovered his status following the presentation, when my own curiosity went to work. I spoke with him about his life and about his faith. He said his relationship with Jesus was personal and he found God in nature: he’s from Montana. With certainty he stated, “Big Mountains and Big Rivers!” is where he finds God. He had been looking for the experience of living among the mountains and rivers. His heart was open but the plains of South Dakota were leaving him desolate and dry. He acknowledged his search for the spiritual life.
We were the last two to walk from the back room. While he was returning to his barstool, and I to the dark of night, he looked in the direction of the back room and said, “those people tonight were good people.” He paused, smiled and proclaimed, “Big Mountains and Big Rivers!”
I spent much of my life in drinking establishments unaware of what my heart was made for: unaware of the Real Presence I was waiting for. As I walked past the corner of the bar that night, I alone again but certain Someone had arrived!
Someone arrived! —Fr. John Rutten
P.s. this is not a picture of the man. This is Alex from CYA teaching me how to take a picture with his iWatch! (Big Mountains, Big Rivers!)