Category: seeking


The church seemed all but empty. Lined up like sentries, the pulpit and candlesticks kept silent watch. I knelt at the wooden altar rail before the tabernacle, my nostrils took in lingering, sweet incense and my eyes fell upon the wooden high-altar, where our sacrifice was just offered. Jesus truly was in this place. I felt in my very bones. He gazed upon me as I gazed at Him. No, this was not my parish church but oddly enough, it seemed more like home than the parish church. So different, yet oddly familiar. Here amidst silence, the carved wood, the tall candlesticks and lace, remembering a simple, beautiful liturgy marked with chanting, bowing and many signs of the cross, I felt I finally belonged. Moreso, I felt fed, heavy with the fat things of the earth, lavished by the gifts of heaven.


Something moved from behind me and I caught sight of a figure in a sweeping, black cassock.

“Father,” I called out, “When you have a chance, may you please bless my scapulars?”

Wasting no time, he took the three, blue scapulars from me, strode to the altar and set them down. He faced the crucifix, speaking prayers under his breath. Immediately, the memory of him, up there in flashing, red vestments, burned through my mind. He who offered the greatest sacrifice for me, now said this small blessing. He who entered the heavenly courts now did what seemed, a very earthly thing, tracing a cross in the air and sprinkling holy water.


Returning to me, he set the scapulars down on the altar rail, put an arm on my shoulder and said, “Try to imagine that you are like the Israelites in exile. I know that it’s hard being where you are, where your soul doesn’t feel fed, where at times it’s debilitating, but He will pull you through this.”
This priest and I weren’t strangers. Every time my friend Leo brought me to this church in Orlando, a good hour away, I’d told him about my parish. I mentioned how barren and dead it indeed seemed compared to this lively place of wood, candle-wax, reverent song, of silk, linen, lace and black. Yet I didn’t need to say anything today. The tears in my eyes during the Mass said enough. My trembling as I approached the altar showed the pining of my heart.


“Thank you, Father,” I replied, looking directly at him.
A twinkle showed in his eye. Here was a man who knew what he was talking about, who perhaps tasted bitter exile himself. On his way from the sanctuary he passed the crucifix. I stared at the heavy beams, carrying their sweetest burden, suspended between heaven and earth.

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She was the perfect image of a quaint old church lady, with brown curly hair, gentle winkles on her face, round cheeks and bright blue eyes, bending over a prayer book. Coming into the chapel, I immediately spotted her and drawn like a moth to light, sat next to her. I set my leather-bound Christian prayer book on the seat between us, where her well-used Magnificat rested. Curiously peering, I realized she was praying the Breviary. She prayed the prayer that I had just prayed, said the very same words I said less than five minutes ago. The beauty and timelessness of such united prayers made my heart soar!

Staring forward at the clean, barren altar, I tried minding my own business but another book on the seat between us caught my eye. On the cover, against a sky blue background, was a picture of Pope John Paul II leaning against his silver staff, eyes closed in a meditative gesture. The title read “Saint John Paul the Great” Instantly, I picked it up. The old lady finally noticed me, holding the book in my hand. I felt a tinge of fear yet did not stop smiling at the beautiful cover. She leaned over and whispered, “You may have it.” “Thank you!” I whispered back.

What seemed to be a random act of kindness however, ran deeper. I remembered earlier that night, at work, starting into the blackness of the night sky that so aptly described my life at this point and asking if anyone heard my prayers. Heaven felt very empty that night. Running down the list, I asked Jesus, Mary, Joseph, then lastly I said “John Paul II, please help me! I don’t feel like anyone is there so if you hear this, please help me.”
After Mass, I introduced myself to the lady, thanked her again and told her that I had just been asking John Paul II to intercede for me. “He must be your special protector,” she replied. Indeed those words were so truthful for throughout this week, I had noticed a protective presence watching over me. Now I know who it was. And now I know who, when I called out last night, heard and answered.

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.

This morning, before Mass, I went into the main church to chant lauds. There was older gentleman in black, up by the tabernacle and I hoped it didn’t bother him. Anyway, after I finished I went up to the tabernacle and discovered it was a priest! I felt so bad for subjecting him to my horrible Latin. But I felt even more glad to see him there, praying by himself before Our Eucharistic Lord. In his clericals too! The Eucharist is sadly, not a big deal at our parish. Jesus is shoved into a corner and mostly ignored.

But here was a priest, silently adoring Him. On the chair in front of him, lay a beaten-up, well-loved breviary, while the Christian prayer books in our church are brand new, barely used. Seeing this intensity of devotion, which is so rare, moved me so greatly, I could barely keep it together during Mass. He was a visiting priest. He didn’t say the morning Mass but rather, I heard, he was going to say his own private Mass later in the day. Again, I was moved beyond belief. I suddenly longed to find this man, this perfect image of the priesthood, hug him and tell him what a badly-needed exemplar he was. Yet, after Mass, he disappeared.
Our parish priest bolted out the door. Catching his attention for one moment, I said “Father, I care a lot about you.” Thanking me with a quick gesture, he continued his flight from the church. The one I sought was nowhere to be found. I remained in the church, speaking with Our Lord, beseeching him on behalf of these two souls, my gaze constant upon the red, sanctuary lamp’s lonely flicker.

Drawn after the Lord, I went to Mass again this morning. I prayed in front of the tabernacle, remembering the mysterious, visiting priest who’d been there the morning before. I chanted lauds quietly, wondering in the back of my mind if I would ever meet him again.
Time for Mass drew closer and I whisked away into the chapel, where lo and behold, preparing the altar, was the visiting priest! From his movements around the sacred altar, bowing here and there, I could tell what sort a priest this was. This was a priest who took great care with the liturgy, who would give me something new. For the Mass, we celebrated the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. My heart sang and rejoiced! He chanted the Kyrie in Greek and several other of the prayers were chanted as well. He handled the consecrated Eucharist: the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord, with such care and love- as one would handle a tiny, newborn babe.

I walked up to receive communion as the priest softly said “Corpus Christi”. I couldn’t believe it. My ears rejoiced at hearing Latin, what seemed my native language! He placed the Lord Jesus gently on my tongue then continued to softly speak the Latin words to others who approached. Beneath this living image of Jesus, who diligently feeds his flock, a feeling of safety, joy and peace filled the room. Everything seemed frozen, wrapped in bright light, white and fresh. My head sunk into my hands, I closed my eyes, and rested in God.

“Thus saith the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will send spirit into you, and you shall live.” – Ezekiel 37:5