Michael and I went to the Newman Center for Mass last night. That wasn’t how the day was supposed to be. I was supposed to be at 10:00 Mass across town, with the choir and my husband. I was supposed to conduct an a cappella piece and sing harmony on the psalm. But Nicholas’ illness peaked in the night, capping off three days of whining and bloody noses with a night of fever and four hours’ solid dry hacking. At three a.m. I said blearily, “He can’t go to church tomorrow. I’ll have to go later, before my meeting.”
So there I sat at five p.m., in the section beside the choir, at my old stomping grounds. As accustomed as I am to the constant jostling for position, it was disorienting to sit alone (well, alone until the baby woke up). But restful, too.
Although this was the Sunday evening liturgy I directed for one short year as a newlywed, the parish repertoire has moved on. I knew very little of it, but I learned, enjoying the sound of a contemporary ensemble that is most of what I would like ours to be, leading a willing assembly actively engaged. (Can I just say…wow.)
There’s something special about that church, and although I love my parish and the community to which I have dedicated the last twelve years, somehow whenever I walk into the building where I met my husband and where I married him, it feels like coming home. So much of my growing-up-in-faith happened within those walls, and sitting there, the memories seemed to leap up in greeting.
There were evening choir practices and prayer circle in the cry room, and the heartfelt hug and prayer of a wonderful woman who could see that something was troubling me in those early months of my anxiety, even though I didn’t have the courage to tell her what it was. There were Sunday morning prayers before Mass, twenty people crowded into a music storage room not wide enough for two to pass each other. There was the day after our wedding, when I stood up to ask for volunteers for my Life Teen music ensemble. It was the first time I ever referred to myself as “Kate Basi,” and the whole assembly, which had seen us grow together for four years, applauded.
There were earlier memories than that, even. I remember sitting with my parents on a Saturday evening in the days when the church was arranged “in the round,” and the slanting rays of the evening sun blinded, the light searing my soul, flaying it open. It flayed open again last night as I watched my fourth baby stare, mesmerized, at the warmth glowing on polished wood.
I was awake to the holy last night in a way I haven’t been for a long time. And it was beautiful.