Mass ended. Joy still flooded over me. I had been smiling so much, my face almost hurt. Feeling well-fed and recharged, I finally met the one who I’d been longing to meet.
“Father, you said Mass so beautifully”
He thanked me and shook my hand as I kept talking,
“The chanting was beautiful. This was a breath of fresh air.”
Finally I shrank away, worried I’d talked too much. A young man approached, shook his hand and asked to have his rosary blessed. I suddenly remembered a rosary in my purse, which my non-Catholic brother gave me, and quickly had this blessed as well. Watching him sprinkle holy water on the rosaries, the smiles started up again. Joy bursted from within me. I headed for the main church to say my thanksgiving and yet, found the priest there again, preparing to hear someone’s confession, removing his chasuble.
“Father let me take that,” I said.
“Here, take the stole too,” he replied, handing the precious vestments to me.
A most awkward march to the sacristy ensued. In my joyful stupor, overwhelmed by what seemed to be Christ’s garments wrapped around my arms, I had no clue what to do. The sacristans darted in and out, shooting odd glances, wanting me out of their territory. I folded the stole nearly perfect, as I’ve seen them done before. With the chasuble, I had notably less luck. It was like folding a fitted sheet. No matter what I did, it wadded up, so I wadded it the best I could.
Seeing the note I’d left for him yesterday morning, I swiftly grabbed it, put it on top of the folded vestments and retreated out of there. The sacristy is unpleasant. It’s an overwhelming place of sweat and tears, altogether like the garden of Gethsemane.
Emerging into the church’s vestibule, I crossed paths with the priest. I informed him that I folded his vestments the best I could. He said it was fine. Inadvertently, I followed him, wanting to hear a critique of the folding, hoping to see how it was correctly done. I halted at the sacristy door.
“Father, I left you a letter, thank you for everything.”
I couldn’t leave the church yet for there was one last thing to do. Alone, at last with my Lord, I knelt down before the tabernacle and out-poured thanksgiving. My praises mixed with a most-foolish joy, with tiredness and awkwardness, the entire placed in Jesus’s loving hands. Images of the Mass flickered in my mind, of the host held so peacefully in the priest’s hands. The voice of his chant still rang in my ears. My gaze turned to the sanctuary lamp, burning bright red, a pillar of fire in the darkness.
I thanked Jesus for the gift of Himself, and for his other self back in the sacristy, probably reading the letter and scratching his head…and for his other, other self, who was getting some much-deserved rest. It was after all, the parish priest’s suggestion that the visiting priest said Mass this morning and at this moment, I believed he did it just for me. Everything seemed like love- for I was intoxicated with love.
After five minutes, I stood up and made ways towards the church’s front exit. I glanced around and straitened anything that needed straitening, closing doors, shutting off lights. The priest emerged. He said, “Thank you for the note.” Eyeing him a last time, the white flash of his collar and the glow in his face, I replied, “You are welcome Father, have a great morning.”
Then, I closed the heavy church door, saying a silent farewell to both of my Christs. How fortunate indeed am I, who is relentlessly pursued by God.