I was running late this morning, and wondered if I should even try to make it to the 9am Mass. Since it’s Tuesday during Lent (the last Tuesday in fact) there is another mass in the evening. I thought a moment more or two about which one to choose, and then decided to go to the first one.
I was glad I chose that one. Today is my Massiversary, so it was really important for me to be in attendance then.
When I first started showing up at this church, it was random. If I got the urge that I should stop in, I did. I’d find a pew, also randomly, and read that day’s readings from the Missal. Often, they were right on target for what I was feeling or what I needed to hear at that moment. I was going through a lot at that time, and all I wanted was a quiet place where no one would bother me and I could sit quietly. Somewhere I could be anonymous.
I wouldn’t describe it as a perfect solution to what I was feeling, but it was peaceful and what I wanted; what I needed when I needed it. I did this for a couple of weeks, probably closer to almost four. It wasn’t everyday; It was perhaps ten times in total but they were important to me. They centered me and got me ready for my recovery. I hadn’t realized what else I had to look forward to, but all that was on my mind in these first few moments was evening out my mental health. I still call it recovery.
I had been talking about my depression on Facebook and talking about my church visits and receiving encouragement from a small group of close friends who knew what was going on as I started my medication and therapy. One of these friends, T was a college student in Nebraska. He talked about going to the seminary, but was in college for a different major. He was an incredible friend during this time, posting encouragement on his own page that really resonated with me. Scriptures, Antiphons, quotations from saints and holy people. He sent me a very nice, personal note that I still look at on occasion and it gives me abundant feels. Another friend, B, loves choir music and he would also post a variety of encouraging things unbeknownst to him until I mentioned that I found the posts and the music encouraging.
On one of these days, T suggested that I attend an actual Mass, telling me that the Easter week masses were really quite beautiful and he thought I would enjoy them.
I took his suggestion to heart, and showed up on the Tuesday of Holy. Week. A woman was sitting at the end of a middle pew in the church. I noticed her because of her jacket. It was black with multi-colored flowers and stems and leaves embroidered on it. She was also wearing a light colored straw pill box hat. She would wear a hat every day. I loved the embroidery, so I sat two seats behind her. I stood when she stood, and sat when she sat. I didn’t kneel or cross myself, but I followed along as best I could.
The service really affected me, the priest’s homily hit on things that I, again, needed to hear, and I went back the next day and the day after that. The day after was not a Mass, but a prayer service. At the end of Holy Week the masses are in the evening. We went to visit my mother in law and I borrowed one of the missals for the weekend. I read it every day that we were away.
That was the start. Over the course of that first year, I’d either sit directly behind that woman or two rows back, depending on when the other women arrived. We’d switch back and forth until one of the women sat right next to me. We still sit together.
Today when I arrived, an elderly man was in my usual seat. I sat behind him and about halfway through I realized that this was my original seat that first day, two rows behind my first church friend with the embroidered jacket who’s not here anymore.
I hadn’t intended to make such a memorable statement on this morning, but it was nice that it randomly happened that way.
It was nice remembering that first time. Every day, it’s like the first mass. Except I know what I’m doing. I pray, I cross myself; it all came in its own time, and each different ritual when I was ready. I hadn’t told myself that I was ready; I just did something and realized after that fact that I’d participated in some aspect of the mass.
The rebirth and renewal of Easter is the perfect time to remind me of my beginning with the church. I was baptized two Easters ago even though I’ve attended since 2012. This week is full of those anniversaries, but that first Tuesday will always be a special one for me.