Thursday, July 26, 2007

You Never Know...

Last night ended the series I was invited to offer at my 'ole home parish in Browns Mills, New Jersey. That.... was... fun.

And it was so humbling to come home; to see so many of the faces I knew growing up, some never knowing by name, but by their faithful presence in the pew beside me. And here was this skinny, nerdy kid, now all "growed up" and not so skinny .... sharing faith and reflecting on living the Catholic life. You never know where life will take you! So humbling.... and I'm so grateful for that invitation.

Much has changed from the old L-shaped church with the rickety old pews and creaky wood floors that I grew up in before high school. I remember the smell of the Murphy's Oil and the old missalettes stacked up in the back. I think it was built in the 1920's? Or was it the 1930's? Affectionately known as "St. Ann's in the Pines," it was where I used to kneel and pray and daydream and drift at countless masses as a child. That's where I'd steal furtive glances over to the "blond haired girl" (and she'd glance back!) as she'd walk her little sister to the back of church when I was 12. Yeah, my first crush.

And in the quiet pauses in the liturgy, when soft light streamed through weathered stained glass, in the middle of my daydreaming about a galaxy far far away, or imagining myself on an adventure like Indiana Jones, I'd get that little tug at the heart. I'd sense a Presence just close enough to notice, but waiting for me to discover, to recognize when I was ready. I'd smell the warm wax from the votive candles and hear the bells chime up in the front of church... and through a crowded sea of shoulders and heads now gone silver, I'd see Something happening, some distant and mystical action that I knew was different. Special. Holy...

God bless the parish churches that daily sound those bells and the priests that lift their hands to bless us, Sunday after Sunday and day after day. And to the old men and their meetings, their running of the Bingo and their stories of the War. To the women who are the heart of the Church, whispering their rosaries and thumbing through their yellowed prayer cards and devotional books, bound up and held by rubberbands.

All have sown seeds. All have tilled the fields and worked in some way, though they may know it not, and their ordinary lives are bringing up extraordinary life in the garden of the world. We see you and we know you believe, even in the midst of this culture that is stripping us of the Sacred and Sublime.

On this feast day of the grandparents of Jesus, St. Joachim and St. Anne.... I thank you for guiding me and my generation in unseen ways and inspiring us with unspoken words.

"For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it."

- Isaiah 55:10-11

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