(The following piece was originally published Jan. 5 on Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s blog, “Standing on my Head,” www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead. It is reprinted with his permission.)

Fr. Dwight LongeneckerToday on the way home from Mass I stopped at Krispy Kreme for a dozen donuts. I’m wearing my cassock and

Benedictine scapular. Here’s what happened.

First guy I see is about 30. Hospital scrubs. He says, “What church are you?”

“Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church.”

“I’m the son of two Lutheran pastors.”

“I can help you with that if you like…”

Laughs. “I really like the new pope.”

“Me too. What do you do? Doctor, Nurse?”

“Nurse. In the cardiac unit at St Francis.”

“I was just there last week to anoint an old fellow. After the anointing he said, ‘Father, it’s so beautiful!’ I asked what he was seeing. He said, ‘Christ the King!’ Then closed his eyes.”

Thinks it through. Orders his coffee. “Thanks for sharing that!”

I start to order my donuts. The girl says the Lutheran paid for them. Nice.

Another guy comes through the door. “What religion are you?”

“Catholic. Catholic priest.”

“You look real sharp in that outfit.”

“Thanks. Where do you go to church?”

“Greenville Christian Fellowship. I used to be Catholic.”

“That means you’re still Catholic. You should come to Our Lady of the Rosary sometime.”

“Maybe I’ll do that.”

Older woman about 60 comes through the door. She looks like an Italian grandma. I’m still picking out my donuts.

“I can’t think the last time I saw a priest in public.”

“Most of them don’t wear the cassock anymore.”

“That’s a shame. I was brought up Catholic. What parish are you, Father?”

“Our Lady of the Rosary.”

“Where’s that?”

“At the junction of I-85 and Augusta Road, but you can’t tell it’s a Catholic parish because we don’t have a church that looks Catholic. It’s just a warehouse.”

“What a shame.”

“But we’re doing something about that. We’re building a beautiful new church that will look like a Catholic Church!”

“Wonderful! I’ve come back to the church because of the new pope. That other church (names one in town) what were they thinking when they built that? It looks terrible.”

“I can’t disagree with you. But we’re building a beautiful church. Do you have a million dollars? We need more money.”

“I can hardly afford the donuts, Father!”

“OK. You come see us sometime.”

I love being a priest, and wearing the cassock always sparks good conversations. So many people want to love the church. They want to love Christ. They want a priest to be a priest and set a good example. We need to work with all the good spirit that is out there, and forget about the negativities.

My choice was a cup of coffee, a sour cream donut and a Boston cream donut and I’ll start my diet tomorrow. I mean, if you can’t celebrate Epiphany with a visit to Krispy Kreme what’s the world coming to? Next thing you know they’ll be abolishing Monsignors….

(Fr. Longenecker, parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Greenville, South Carolina, was raised in an evangelical home in Pennsylvania. He was ordained an Anglican priest, but in 1995, was received into the Catholic faith.  An author and regular contributor to several Catholic websites and publications, he is married and the father of four children. Fr. Longenecker’s latest book is “The Romance of Religion.” Visit his blog, browse his books and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com)