It was an innocent enough question.
“I don’t go to Mass”
“Oh… You wanna come with us?” Two of my neighbours went together each week. They walked down and back when the weather was nice. “If we go to the 10:15, there’s donuts after.”
“Sure. Let me check with my mom and see if it’s OK.”
I checked. It was OK.
Mom wasn’t the church-going type but she believed in letting me explore things. I knew about God, I knew about Jesus, we had even read little bits out of her King James Version Bible. I had been around people of all faiths – Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Jews, and Protestants of all kinds. And Catholics. I liked it all. I liked that there were people who believed so much in something that it governed how they behaved. I liked that they had neat holidays and traditions to celebrate who they were and what they believed.
I only remembered going to church once before. I was probably about three, which means that we were living in North Carolina at the time. My mother’s friend was supposed to be singing there. My impression was of something that looked like a scene out of the book “Because of Winn Dixie”. There were folding chairs on an institutional-style tile floor, like the kind in a grocery store or school. There were tons of people there, crammed in close. I don’t remember a sermon, or readings, or any form or structure to the worship. I DO remember loud music; and people sweating, jumping up and shouting, moving around with their hands in the air. It was terrifying.
It’s a wonder I was game to try again.
But Sunday came, and I got dressed in my nice clothes and shoes. I had heard stories about how my mother wore gloves and a hat to church when she was a girl. I didn’t have either, but I made an effort to be as pretty as possible.
We got to the Church and there were people coming from different directions, filing up the steep steps and in through the heavy wooden doors. A nice man handed me a bulletin and gestured for me to enter the church. My friends stopped to dip their hands into a font of water and bless themselves. I did the same. And then I looked up.
The amiable chatter and bustle fell away. I heard only the soft strains of the organ playing a hymn I didn’t know, smelled only the deep perfume of generations-old incense which had since become part of the very walls and furnishings, my eyes were filled with the majestic beauty of the old altar, and my heart and mind would soon be captured by courtliness and antiquity of the liturgy.
And I was at home. I knew that I was right where I was supposed to be. I had been claimed by a faith, by a people, by God.
I was ten years old.
On that day, I received a gift. It was given to me, as it is to each of us, in response to accepting an invitation. We have no idea of the infinite treasure contained in that gift until we begin to unpack it and respond to each cherished piece. With each new discovery, another is revealed. Comprised of the Scriptures, the teachings of the Church, her traditions, her sacraments, her Saints, it is precious and inexhaustible. It all points to a loving God, who pursues us with all of the ardor of a young lover, all of the romance of a faithful mate, with all of the steadfast tenderness of a lifelong companion.
I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. (Songs 6:3) Now and forever.
I’m sure that my young friends had no notion of the Holy Spirit working through them, nor that they were introducing me to the Love of my life. But I am eternally grateful.
Copyright 2012 Brian and Nissa Gadbois