My mom and dad love the Catholic church. They honor holy days and confession. They pray the Rosary and watch mass on t.v. when they’re not at the live show. They honor the Church as a Living Thing, almost, a notion I can’t quite get behind.
I find God outside. Technicolor flowers. Three-tiered leaves. Trees whose bodies tell stories. I enjoy a good sermon, honestly — I’d just rather hear mine direct, out of doors.
Friday, before we left to visit them, I was out in our front yard, when the backyard neighbor came round front. He asked if my ‘old man’ had let me know he’d asked permission to weed for us. I said he had. We thanked each other, both getting something from the deal — we have weeds and he has some time on his hands. He enjoys getting in the dirt, cleaning things up, and it keeps him busy, he says. After I mentioned how I find the act of weeding meditative, he grabbed the top of our gate, then paused. “Not to sound too….[he couldn’t even come up with a word, just let his voice trail off…] He looked up at the sky. “Well, it’s a time when it’s just me & Him,” he said.
This morning, I intended to attend mass with my mom & dad. And Oliver. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t give them much. I’m not around to help out, day to day. I came to visit, but with the same sharp tongue I always seem to have. So I wanted to do this one thing. Get up this morning, Kel, and get thee to church. For them. For them.
Well, we ran out as the church bells rang, and I hopped in my car with the carseat, while they made off in their van.
When I sauntered in to the Cathedral, the crowd looked sparse. I advanced, scanning for the backs of their heads. Gray-black, and half-bald. I saw them no where.
As I approached the center of the aisle, I saw a small one being dipped. I turned to a woman and asked, “Is this a regular church service?”
“No,” she replied. “It’s a baptism.”
I almost ran up and threw a little water on Oliver’s head, just for good measure, but instead, I turned and walked down the steps, realizing I never asked at which church the 11:30am mass was.
Oliver and I veered off the front path and headed towards the back. Between the church and a church-house, there is a small tiny pond and some green green grass. I sat Oliver down on the marble stones surrounding the water while he eyed the living and non-living creatures floating within.
They must have gone to St. Agnes, I said aloud, and looked out across the parking lot, to where I had parked.
I could make it. I’d be late; I’d miss the boring part at the beginning, but I’d make the sermon and maybe they’d have one hell of a priest at the pulpit today. I’d pass Ollie to my dad, who would hold him to his chest as he belted out every song, whether or not they requested audience participation. I’d watch my mom cry, just seeing me stand there, with a child of my own in my arms.
I wanted to go. I wanted to go for them.
But. Something in me said ‘stay.’ Stay here, in this grass, by this water, on these sunny steps, a stone’s throw from the place where people say God stays. He’s here too. He’s here for you.