Last Sunday, Father Andrew gave a homily comparing our approach to the Eucharist with barbecue ribs, since he had just recently judged a contest at a local parish. The three categories in which the ribs were judged on were presentation, taste, and tenderness. We too, he said, should examine how we present ourselves before Christ, whether we have the flavour of Christ in our daily actions, and if we have tenderness of heart before Him. I’m painfully aware of how much I fall short on all these counts.
I know that the Real Presence of Christ is in the Eucharist, but I seem to have a disconnect with that knowledge. It’s not that I don’t believe it. I do. But the thing itself is so far beyond me. As I prepare myself in mass to receive Our Lord, the only thing I can grasp is how little of the awesome reality I actually am grasping. My favorite prayer in mass is “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.” Thank God for that, because if it was up to me, even on my best and most focused days, I’m more like a kid who’s spilled all the milk trying to bring his mommy a drink, creating a bigger mess by trying to please her, than a composed and righteous worthy child of God. But in this I realize that the important thing, the thing that God values in me, is that I tried and I came to Him. When my children try to please me but screw up, I’m happy that their hearts are in the right place, even though there are occasions when the mess frustrates me to the point of reacting badly. Thankfully, God doesn’t have that same weakness. He’s never “had enough” cleaning up after us. It’s our hearts He’s after, and as long as I keep coming to Him, He won’t give up on shaping my heart.
That persistence has become the central focus of my life as a Catholic, now that the time I spent discerning whether the Catholic Church is the true church is over. I’ve made the commitment, and like with all commitments the hard part is follow through. Now I have to live the Catholic life, not just for the past two months, not just for the next wee while until I get tired of it. I have to live out the Catholic life until I go to my reward. And so far, in the whole two months I’ve spent as a Catholic, that persistence has been demonstrated on a deeper level by the Catholics around me.
As many of you know, we belong to a large parish. There are six weekend masses, and for several there’s standing room only. Even with all those parishioners, it’s difficult to find people to serve. Some days there aren’t enough extraordinary ministers. Some days a lector gets grabbed from those in attendance. Until a friend of mine decided to put together a noon choir, there wasn’t even music at all the weekend masses. Currently our noon choir includes, me, her, a third woman (most of the time), and whoever we can harangue into being there any given weekend. We can’t always find an accompanist. This was a little shocking for me at first, that out of the thousands of people who belong to this church, hardly anybody was willing to step forward and “Catholic up”.
Then instead of gawking at the situation, I took notice of those who were serving with me. To an observer, these people may not always bow at the right time. They may wear jeans instead of dress clothes. They may stutter or pronounce Melchizedek wrongly. They might sound tone deaf and you’re wondering what possessed them, making them think they could stand up and sing in front of the whole church. The truth is, they are offering themselves, mistakes and all, because we are in need of servants and they’re the only volunteers.
I’ve found a surprising number of ministers are doubled up. They might be RCIA “red shirts” (the volunteers that organize RCIA all wear red shirts at our church), but they also sing in the choir. I recognize the extraordinary ministers and lectors from my mom’s group. The list goes on. But unlike the social sorority/fraternity popularity contest of the Protestant churches I’ve been in, those that are involved at our parish are motivated by faith. You don’t become a lector because it enables you to sit around and gab about who did what with who. The job isn’t well suited to such a goal. Instead you do it because it’s needed and you have a desire to serve God.
Since becoming Catholic, a few of these people have quietly let me in on their spiritual life. I have several mom friends who invited me to daily mass on Wednesday and Thursday (the only masses where it’s practical to bring young children at our church), but only after I became Catholic. They never flaunted it before. I never knew they went. I never knew another mom spends enormous amounts of time learning, taking classes on theology, Catholic life, and the Bible. I never knew until they invited me to become involved in their devotions, and witnessing the sincerity of it has moved me to persist in my own imperfect devotions.
Though by no means do I have a performance quality voice, and stage fright begins days before Sunday, there are several weeks this summer when you’ll find me cantering at noon mass because no one else can or will do it. I may forget a rule or two of decorum. I never knew to bow when I crossed in front of the tabernacle to change the hymnal numbers on both sides of the church until it occurred to me to ask if that “counted”. Sometimes I fumble the bow, “Amen”, eat/drink, cross self routine and get things out of order. But I keep coming back to Christ and offering all my imperfections in exchange for His perfect Self given to me every Sunday. I keep acknowledging “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you”, and I keep being received and accepted as I am now. All that remains is to keep on living the Catholic life.
P.S. – It’s been ages since I last posted because we moved our laptop into the basement. Since the spring, most of my free time (i.e. time away from the sink, dishwasher, stove, and washer and dryer) has been spent out in the sunshine instead of a dark hole in the ground! We’re all still alive and well 🙂