Church is a new phase. I went every Sunday morning as a child. We took up the gifts. We were regulars. I abandoned it for the second half of my life. Finally and with a heartache that continues still, I quit the Catholics and recently started to attend an Episcopal Church. I went on a church search for a few months and visited Episcopal and Presbyterian churches. The Episcopal service rang my Catholic bell, and I started sporadically attending mass- they don’t call it mass, but I can’t stop- at a local church. It’s beautiful, maybe the prettiest church I’ve ever been in. My mom tells me this shouldn’t matter. Maybe it doesn’t, but I think God understands and appreciates beauty. I hope He does. I don’t even know if He’s real anymore but if He is and if He’s the kind of God I want to get up early on a Sunday to hang out with, He gets it if I want to sit in a pretty place. The church is small and cavernous at the same time. The walls are all gray stone, real stone. Heavy bricks of stone piled on one another. The ceiling looks like the interior of an upside down Viking ship, curved planes of dark wood reaching to the apex. There have to be twenty-five stained glass windows. Shafts of colored light slide into the pews. The light falls perfectly on my pew, and I kneel and cross my hands and pile my face against my locked fingers. Light warms the top of my head. In that pose, I feel like a prayer. I don’t need to pray for my mom or Katie or the students at school or the end of wars and famine. I tilt my face, and God presses the rubber bulb of a medicine dropper and draws prayers from me. The pews are hard, the pillowed kneelers awkward. It’s usually a little cold or a little warm. Sometimes the elderly man in the pew in front of mine has a coughing tic and I think I’ll go crazy for three minutes before I stop noticing it. Nothing the priest says is particularly moving. The songs are pretty but not special. I am so grateful that I can follow the mass. I love that I know what to say and when to say it. It makes me feel holy. I particularly like that I can follow the mass because I grew up devoted to the Catholics before I realized there wasn’t a place for me there, and that was a long heartbreak that still aches.
One Sunday they had a healing of the sick. About fifteen of the hundred people present circled the altar, men and women in their eighties and nineties. After the priest blessed one, that one placed his hands on the next in line during their blessing. By the last person, the whole group was crowded around during the priest’s blessing. All of the gray curls and silver ponytails and curved backs and heavy orthopedic shoes. I tried to think about what they could be praying for. What could you really need at 94? What worries could wake you at night. It occurred to me that they may not be passing prayers through their touch. Maybe they were only passing love back and forth to one another. The truest prayer of all.
What I’m listening to: Zee Avi, The Story