Two Sundays ago I attended mass at the large stone-and-marble Shrine across the city from my house.
I went there because I honestly thought the Year of Faith ended this week instead of a few days later still, and I needed to fit in my favorite indulgence-option of the entire Year-of-Faith deal: renewing of your baptismal vows at the place you were baptized.
(Protestant-readers, hang in there. I get that indulgences are not a part of your faith-experience, but, seriously, how cool is returning to the place where you were baptized to renew your faith once again? I won’t even be mad if you steal the idea and do something similar).
It should be noted that I was not baptized at that church location. I was baptized in a hippy-house-backyard somehow associated with the church in a weird post-Vatican II, hippy-community-space kind of way. Only, that place (it used to be called “His House,” I’m not making this up) has been sold and is now an assisted living facility for the elderly, bless their hearts. My parents were semi- hippies.
Small matters, truthfully.
Gigantic matters: baby Nell was claimed for the light by a caring community and set apart as a child of God.
Eat that, Satan.
Anyway, “His House” was associated with the church I visited last Sunday. Last Sunday I celebrated mass wedged in a pew kind of in the back and to the side because I waltzed in a little too late (wedding the night before! Don’t be too hard on me!) to snatch a seat towards the front.
From my obstructed view I inwardly pouted a little until I remembered: this is where my grandmother always used to sit when she was alive. My grandmother who dressed in layers…like me, who chewed gum, as I’m chewing now…who marked rosaries prayed in tally marks on notecards distributed about her house. 🙂 And that brightened my perspective.
My grandmother would always sit in the shadows by the Jesus statue. It was a warm memory though, and one of my first memories of someone besides my parents going to church.
After mass I made my way to the side-chapel and I knelt in front of a large relief of the Blessed Mother holding baby Jesus and smiling at St. Therese and I remembered all the times I’ve been to this church: as a little, little girl temporarily misplaced and circling the church looking for my parents; as an older-but-still-little girl, trying to read the murals when my mind wandered; in college attending daily mass after rolling out of bed in the summer. Many memories; much grace.
I knelt and began the Baptismal renewal prayers in my mind.
“Do you reject Satan?”
And all His works?
And all His empty promises?…
Do you know what it’s like to be given too much?
There has never, ever, ever been a day in my life where I have deserved anything God has given me.
I think I’ve told everyone time and time again about my Year of Faith reflection. I thought this was going to be this year of me-and-God getting all buddy-buddy and contemplative but, rather, the lesson which has been highlighted over and over is that: God brings the faithful together. God desires connected friendships. God wants us there for each other, together.
This is what I celebrate today and this month, the Feast of All Saints and All Souls and Everyone Else. 🙂
In heaven my friends are all partying and praying for me/ encouraging me/ loving me into heaven.
I thought about the last year alone: St. James walked with me on the Camino, St. Benedict smiled when we arrived in Spain on his feast day, St. Aloysius prayed with me when I went to mass, St. Therese spoke to me through her writings, St. Maximilian never-endingly had my back, St. Francis cared for me, and Mary pushed and pushed and pushed me to Jesus.
It’s a fine life.
I deserve zero of this, but God gives it to me anyway.
Today I went to confession to complete the indulgence-requirements.
I knelt down and, halfway through, the deep and heavy realization hit me. I was kneeling and telling someone I didn’t know all the worst parts about myself.
And, what’s more, I’d like this man, this priest, to know the best things, you know? I’d like him to be like, “Man, you’re an upstanding member of the community, Nell!”
But, instead I was like, “Here is where I fail. And here. And this place. And these places are the deepest wounds I carry with me, friend.”
So I get to the end and I pause and think about, “Hey, this is kind of embarrassing. What’s he going to say?”
And the priest (who, from the voice, I can tell is older) says to me, me who has just confessed it all, “You should take at least fifteen minutes every day of prayer…so that Jesus can remind you how much He loves you.”
So I started crying. And I’m crying now. I wanted to hug him, but I didn’t. I just listened to him talk more about how much Jesus loved me.
Have I written about confession before?
Yes. And again and again and again.
But EVERY TIME is a beautiful time. Every time I kneel down and tell Jesus, “Well, screwed this up again. You gave me love and I refused. You gave me gifts and I hoarded them selfishly. You gave me grace and I choose impatience. You called me forward and I shook my head in fear.”
And EVERY TIME is the warmest, most loving welcome back.
“Nell!” Jesus says, “I’m so glad you’re back! I wanted you happy from the start!”
This is the farthest thing from fair that I’ve ever heard in my life.
It’s disgustingly unfair…in my favor.
Sacraments. Communion of the Saints. Solid, holy friendships. Blessed community.
Too much, God, too much.
Happy November, party people.