New Area, New Church, First Time For Everything

As I finally woke up in time for the 8:30 am Mass; I was elated. My prayers had been answered. I asked God at midnight “ Please God, I  beg of you, I plead with you. I am not just begging, I am pleading you. Please help me get up at 7 am this morning to worship. Please, God, I beg of you ”.

I had never spoken to the Holy Father in this way before. Never had I been so desperate for Him to help me. For Him to answer my prayers.

It was not for something I wanted, or for something I needed, it was for help to wake up in time to worship Him.

When I was all set to go. I waited behind the inside of the main doors to my residence hall. I did not wait all that long. I read a funny story on the wall that I believe residences of the same building must have made while I waited.

Not too long after, a gracious and kind Catholic woman came to pick me up and go to Church with me. She had a New York license plate on the front of her navy blue JEEP. The plate was black at the top and a dark yellow throughout the rest of the license plate. At the top, it read “ Empire State ”. Then, below that it listed the license plate number in skinny, black, block letters.

Once I got in the car, I sat in the backseat. It was then, I formally met the passenger in the car besides myself. A kind yet shy Christian young woman, who too ,was coming with us as well.

As we all left the university, we started to talk about life and learn a bit more about one another. Before long, we had made it to the church.

I left my bright blue 40 ounces, stainless steel, “ Klean Kanteen ” in the car on the seat next to me. That “ Kanteen ” is a story in of itself. However, that is for another time.

Once I stepped foot into the local church I was amazed at the beautiful architecture. All wood, beautiful polished wood. Stained just the right amount. To my far left was an elder woman selling “ K-Cups”, other types of coffee and accessories to coffee such as sugar, milk, half and half, etc.

She had her display atop a table covered with a white tablecloth. No wrinkles to be found.

The table was high up off the ground. Higher than I expected.  

The ceiling was very high as well. The entire building was constructed in a teepee shape. All points of the structure connected at one central point at the peak of the local church.

When I walked into the part of the church where masses were held, the first thing I noticed was a gorgeous, what can only be described as the largest bird bath I have ever seen. I apologize that I do not know the correct term for it. It was filled with water. The basin must have been about two feet in diameter. It was carved out of stone and had a relatively narrow base held up the gigantic basin.

Water was flying out of the middle of the basin and by the forces of gravity came down; thus created a seemly endless stream of water.

I thought to myself “ That must be where they do the Baptisms ”. I did not see anywhere else that they could have done it.

When I turned to my left, the gracious, and kind Catholic woman who drove the shy Christian woman and me to mass were letting a family of about four walked past her and so they could sit down.

When we started moving again, I looked to the part of the gracious and kind Catholic woman who I was standing in front of. I thought and wondered if there would a container protruding from the wall that contained a volume of holy water. I did not see one there when walked passed that spot on the wall.

As we came out of the doorway, I realized the local church had individual kneelers. Ones that were separate and put on the backs of the wooden chairs; attached by hinges.

The room was the shape of a circle. Where there was gorgeous wood, stained a darker color than the narthex of the church, which all led up to one point at the church’s peak.

Then on of the wall, there were religious relics hanging on the wall. They were stained a shade darker than the wall itself so that they could be visible. They hung on the wall by a piece of string, the color of twine. Although the string looked a lot stronger and thicker than twine. The string sat on a robust needle of some kind. Each relic was placed far enough from on other than they did not seem to overlap one another’s space.

Further down the left side of the church, I saw a long row of chairs that were taking the place of pews. They were the light shade of wood I have seen in the entire church. Perhaps they were not stained or not stained as much as the other pieces of wood.

Once we sat down in the middle of the far left side row of chairs in the church, we all began to pray for our own individual needs and intentions.

After this, I looked through the materials I received from the wicker baskets in the center of the back of the church. The music for the mass, the Missal in a paperback form, an additional piece of material to follow along with, what was happening at the mass and the bulletin.

The bulletin was not just for the Church, it was for the entire diocese of the area. It had the churches from the surrounding areas join together to form the diocese of the area. At least to the best of my understanding.

The local church was not the main church in the diocese, St. Paul The Apostle Parish was.

I noticed that certain parts of “ The Order of Mass ” were missing compared to the catholic church that I went to back home. Then I realized that to save paper they only print the essential parts of the order of Mass. Much later I found out the local has a missal which is day by day and only includes certain parts of the “ Order of Mass ” such as the prays. And the one from the catholic church I used to go to back home had a missalette. Which everything you could possibly need for “ Order of Mass ” throughout the fiscal year.

After about five minutes of reading and observing, I talked to the gracious and kind Catholic woman sitting to my right. We talked about toddlers in church and the faces they would make. I then told her how my family is made up of mostly women, therefore it became customary for me being around friendly, religious women.

There were only about five men in my family not including myself.

I told her how I said to my mother, “ Ma, I am becoming friends with all they women here and not a lot of guys ”.

The gracious and kind Catholic woman said that she felt empathetic towards me. Not extremely because she was a woman, empathetic nonetheless.

Once the mass began, and we all stood up as one community, I put my materials I received earlier on the chair next to me. I did not think anything of it until a family lead by the father came and asked me in a whispered voice, “ Is that seat taken ”?

I processed the question and said no, not at all. Then the family of five moved into use the four seats next to me.The toddler sat on the mother’s lap. The family’s father sat next to me.

Once the choir finished playing the entry hymn and the priest had arrived at the altar along with his apostles with crosses around their necks. He waited a moment, then began to speak. Shortly after him followed the choir with another hymn.

It was a delight to hear and see a choir. In all the churches I have been to, only one has had a full choir. That church was the one I regularly attended back home.

After the hymn, the first reader came up to the altar. The lead singer of the choir for that day came up to the altar from the alternative side. The both respectfully bowed before the altar.

After the first reading, which I began to ponder. The next hymn was beginning. I knew it instantly.

“ If today you hear His voice, harden not your heart ” was the title of the song. It was a hymn that was played at the church I went to back home. I have never once in my life heard anything remotely similar to any of the hymns I heard back home. Let alone the exact same one. It’s as if it spoke to me, God spoke to me, saying that this was like a second home.

When the woman who read the first reading and the leader of the choir for the day returned to their seats, up came the second reader to read aloud the second reading.

He was clad in a gray suit with a white dress shirt and red tie. He was an elder gentleman that had some white hair atop his head. It was a white as crisp, clean snow.

When he read the second reading aloud. It startled me. It was so loud, deep and commanding. It had a hint of sincerity in it amidst its cavernous tone. Although deep, his voice was remarkably clear. The words he read aloud sounded commanding.

Then, after the shock of this gentleman’s voice wore off, I began to realize, that this is the very voice I picture  of the Holy Father, the Lord himself would have. That exact same voice with all its qualities was the one I heard when I have been blessed to speak to God. It was the most astonishing thing I had every heard. Definity one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard.

When he was finished, the choir began to sing as the priest was about to say the gospel. After they finished the hymn, the priest began to read the gospel at the altar.

He had on the traditional robe that a priest would wear during Ordinary Time. However, It has a significant amount of gold lining on it. More than the one the priests would wear at the church I attended back home.

After reading the gospel of the Lord, he went on to talk about Respect Life Day. That from womb to tomb, all life should be valued and not ended. That we, as Catholics and Christians, mostly think this way. Pro-Life. Then, he did something I had never seen anyone before him do in the priesthood.

He seriously acknowledged and explained why some Christians believe in a different variation of Pro-Life. That they might believe something a hair different from the job he referred to previously. He did this with little biased to either group. He did learn towards one side, however, it did not affect the way he explained the belief of other Christians at all.

This I found very interesting. That a priest would openly talk about the other, less agreeable, less popular opinion in a serious manner. Most of the Priests would refer to another side, They would not address it seriously, though. They would instead address it with a kind – hearted joke.

One of the main messages in his sermon was that those of faith will live, that those that have patience in their faith will live.

He then recognized, the two simple words, “ have faith ” seemed really simple. In times of crisis, i.e. the loss of a loved one, social turmoil, war, financial loss, job loss, high school, middle school especially and or college. Those two simple yet powerful words become much much harder to believe in. That you do not know what to do. You do not know how to respond. It is much much harder to heed God’s word. However, those who do follow his word, those who have faith; even in times of crisis shall live.

Then came the ” Profession of Faith “. The profession that all Catholics take during Mass.

Normally, in the church I go to back home, not many people bow after the part about Mary except me. At least I think so. I know not a lot of people do.

When we got to the part about Mary at this church, nearly everyone bowed. There was a delay in the way the community said the verse because everyone was bowing. It was strange and breathtaking to me at the same time. I have never experienced anything like that before in my lifetime.

In this paperback missal, it tells you to bow at the certain time. However, not a lot of people do. Until my experience today.

Then came the next part of the mass, the Preparation of the Gifts. As the Priest read the scripture and prepared the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ, there is a section in that reading that I have always not heard. It had been skipped over. I am not sure why the names of some of the Saints were skipped over. They always were.

When the priest started to read the names of the Saints in the reading I had heard some many times before, I was pleasantly surprised. “ He is actually read the names of the saints listed in the reading, ” I thought to myself.

When he read the second set I was surprised that he did that as well. Name after name after name he read them all. All those that were listed he read.

When it became time to pass around the collection baskets, there were not men with yellow wicker baskets on poles. They were simply weaved wooden baskets, almost bowls, that were stained to match the darker wood in the church. It had black cloth attached to the inside where the money was. I saw a lot more checks and the parish’s own program to collect money than ever before.

There were a lot of people there. It was nearly a packed house. Most everyone to my observation contributed money to the local church and the diocese of the area.

After a few more words of scripture from the Priest, it was time to wish peace to the Priest, and the people around us.Thanks to the Lord, our God.

I initially turned to the gracious and kind Catholic woman to wish her peace and shake her hand. However, she was wishing peace to the other person that came to church with us. The shy Christian woman. So I turn to the man who was sitting next to me. His family left long before this part of the Mass. Their toddler was making to much noise. However, he stayed entirely through the Mass. I wished him peace and shook his hand. It was warm and a little rough. Then I wished peace to everyone around me and in the church. The same way everyone did.

After, the choir began to sing the hymn, “ We Remember ” as people went up to have communion and the blood of Christ. Before going up, the gracious and kind Catholic woman reminded both the shy Christian woman and myself that we have to leave right after communion. The gracious and kind Catholic woman explained that in order for her to pick up four others from Husson and take them to another mass, we have to leave after communion so that they could make it on time. I completely understood and agreed.

I always thought that the people who left mass early, especially after communion, were being rude. The mass was not over yet. The priest had not dismissed us. The only exception,  I believe there was if some had a baby and it was crying, screaming, making too much noise, a combination of all three, or something else.

Today, I saw that situation from a different light. I saw the situation from the perspective of the person leaving. I did not want to leave, however, I realized that we needed to so the gracious and kind Catholic woman could get to the next mass if she was going to be on time. She still had to pick up the four people.

I gained more respect for the people that leave mass earlier. I no longer view it as rude. They could have someplace important to be or something important to do for someone. I feel that in this first experience, I will gain in future situations similar to this one. They will bring me more of an understanding and respect for why people do it.

When I went for communion, I accepted and ate it. Then as I do at the church I go to back home, I drink the blood of Christ. Which is suppose to be red wine, However, at the only church that I have been to that offers it to parishioners; It has been cranberry juice.

When I drank the blood of Christ, I expected it to be cranberry juice, because of all the laws against underage people drinking. What I tasted was not cranberry juice. I could not quite figure out what it was. I had never had it before. Then after about five seconds later, I figured it out. It must have been real, red wine.

Once we were getting ready to leave, I came across the family that was sitting next to me. They had all come back. I surely hope that they all received communion. They offered me to let me into the row of chairs first. I had to politely decline because the people I came to Mass with were leaving.

As we walked back to the narthex of the church. I noticed the beautiful crucifix hanging above the altar. It was massive. It also looked as if it had been hand – carved out of wood. It was made out of a perfect piece of wood for a perfect man. With a stain color slightly darker than the one of the chairs, it looked perfect right where it was.

Then, I noticed some people were staring at us as we left; I later understood why. I also found out the large basin was used to hold holy water. I am not sure about baptisms in it at this point in time. Each one of us took a small amount and blessed ourselves with it.

As we entered the narthex of the church, I saw that the only thing left where the coffee and accessories were being sold was the sign displaying what items were being sold.

The table was barren except for the white tablecloth and sign.

I turned to my left and I saw something that I thought was pretty cool. There was a coat rack that took up the majority of the left wall. I had never seen a church do that before. I thought was very awesome.

On the way back to the car, we talked about what we thought about the mass and resonated with us.The gracious and kind Catholic woman started the conversation. She talked about what spoke to her. Then I went, I talked about what part of the mass spoke to me and what I felt when I went in and during the mass. Then talked about the hymns and how it was the first time I had a hymn that was played in the church I went to back home regularly, in another church. The differences I saw in the local church that I had not previously seen. Among other things.

Next, the gracious and kind Catholic woman asked me if I wanted to come back to this church. If I felt it was a good fit. She said there was no pressure to come if I did not want to.

I replied, “ Yes, I would like to continue to come, absolutely ”! I started to think for a second, this was the quintessential catholic church in Maine. It felt like a log cabin only it was a church. It was a place I knew I could grow and learn. I enjoyed going with the people I went with as well.

After my reply, the gracious and kind Catholic woman said something along the lines of okay.

Everyone got something out of the mass. Whether it was learning, something that spoke to them or just being in the presence of God and worshipping him.

The conversations continued on the car ride back to campus. Reflecting and pondering about what we all witnessed moments ago.

When we got back to campus, I made sure that I thanked the gracious and kind Catholic woman for allowing to come to Catholic mass with her and her friend. She expressed how much she enjoyed  taking me. Bringing the faith closer together.

I said goodbye to the shy Christian woman as well. With one final thank you and a wave goodbye. I have finally gone to mass during this new stage in my life.

 

Published by Random Writer on October 15, 2016, at 6:41pm

 

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