Sunday, August 9, 2009

Come, Peter.

‘Lord, bid me to come to you on the waters.’ Jesus reached out his hand and took hold of Peter. He said, “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?’
With a few odd exceptions, my first experience of a Catholic mass was in Ireland last summer, at the local Augustinian Church whose mass card office I mentioned in a previous post. I cried for an hour afterwards.

There I was, someone who was accustomed to going in and out of different cultures, a Christian who had spent enough of her life going between Pentecostal and Presbyterian and non-denominational and Baptist and Anglican circles to be pretty familiar with rethinking her approach to the faith, who had been pondering an exploration of the Catholic church for the past four years and who in some ways was closer to the Church theologically than most Catholics she knew, and my experience of mass felt so jarringly foreign. Combined with the fact that Irish Catholicism is, I learned only months later to my great relief, particularly quirky, and that I spent time going back and forth between my passionate seminarian friends and a delightfully loving Protestant family who took me in that summer, my crash course in Latin merged with quite a crash course in the Catholic church and the need for reconciliation.

If mass felt that foreign to me, I pondered as I wept in the Augustinian church, Church unity was nowhere on the trajectory.

Last night I went to another mass at the same Augustinian church, my first time back this summer. My classmate Hector was singing, so I had wanted to come support him and possibly redeem my time there. My classmates and I had taken a trip to the coast to celebrate our last grammar exam that morning, and made sure to be back in time. Though we had come at different times and were in various corners of the sanctuary, we congregated afterwards to congratulate Hector who was beaming to see his friends at his church.

It’s hard to describe what I felt as the group slowly converged and I realized how many people had come in that room that had felt so foreign and distant last summer. There were seminarians, friars, Evangelicals, atheists, agnostics, and whatever places in-between people might have been. There were eleven people from our class of seventeen, plus one of my friends from the Protestant family I’m staying with. I was shocked by the crowd.

Hector invited us up to the priory for tea afterwards, and we stayed much later than our sleep-deprived bodies wanted after a day of climbing over rocks along the coast. As we lingered in the priory of the first Catholic church I ever attended enjoying one another’s presence, a group who delighted in each other enough to spend Saturday night in a church where most of us could not participate, I realized something smelled of the kind of story that ends in the Church unity which had seemed an impossibility to me in that very building one year earlier.

After we finally left to allow Hector to clean up and we all began our weary pilgrimages to our various corners of Cork, I crawled into bed to do my evening prayers. The Magnificat Antiphon (bookends around a regular prayer said every evening) for that particular Sunday happened to say,
‘Lord, bid me to come to you on the waters.’ Jesus reached out his hand and took hold of Peter. He said, “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?’

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