But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
I spent an awesome July fourth weekend on the Jersey shore, which Alceste has dubbed “Not stronger than the storm.”
I have deftly hidden a bottle of fake syrup in Mary’s fridge, which like the flag planted in the moon made it America’s, now means I own a beach house (sans any of the financial or legal obligations.)
So, now that I own a place, I figured I should explore the house of worship on the island.
My plan was to wake up at 4 AM, go out to the beach, watch the sunrise and then head to 7 AM mass. Of course, that was my plan before the 1 am scotch drinking and sharknado watching. (Sharknados. I’m not kidding.)
Instead, I ended up barely making it to the 8 AM mass. (Bewildering Alceste and Mary with my disappearance. “Church??! We didn’t even THINK of Church!” LOL. Heathens.)
Now, usually when I go to church *AT 8 AM* parking is ample, the pews are empty and I’ve got mad crazy elbow room.
Not this day.
I guess there’s only one Catholic church for miles and miles, because the line of cars heading into the parking lot wrapped around the block. And there were young kids wearing yellow “event” vests directing the cars into rows — like at Disneyworld.
I squeezed into a pew in the back and grabbed the last Missal in the pocket. There were *at least* 300 people already there. AT EIGHT AM! ON AN ISLAND!
Do I need to say I was also the only black person? No? Okay.
Later, I told Mary that I was mortified because I was also the only person wearing sandals, shorts and a t-shirt! “Why am I walking around reinforcing stereotypes and stuff? At least I pulled up in a Beamer!”
“Hmm,” she said “they probably just figured the people you work for were nice enough to let you borrow their car.”
Mary is the second worst person in America.
The church was nice, less ornate than either of my Brooklyn parishes, but it was huge and the windows were stained glass. They had both an altar boy and an altar girl. The celebrant was a Monsignor and he had a thick Irish brogue, I mostly understood his homily about his sister-in-law who packs two months in advance…sorta maybe? I dunno. They had a full choir that rocked the hymns, including one of my favorites (How Great Thou Art) AND THEN, to close mass on Fourth of July weekend they sang God Bless America! Oh, yeah, I think the Irish Monsignor said some stuff about the Founding Fathers too…like they were risk takers…maybe…sorta…kinda? I dunno.
But the reading that day really struck a chord with me because it touched on some things I had been puzzling over for the past couple of months.
Jesus is getting ready to go to Jerusalem and he sends his disciples ahead of him to get the locals ready to receive him. And basically, he tells them don’t be jerkwads, eat whatever you’re given, find one house and stay there, but most importantly:
Into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house.
And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.
Sometimes I drive myself batty trying to figure out why people have been mean to me, not playful ribbing, but genuine unkindness. And beyond the why, deciding how to respond. Invariably, I know that my Chicago-style instinct prompts me to go too far (send one of ours to the hospital, we send one of yours to the morgue.) So, I tend to just quietly withdraw and seethe in private till I forget about it, which in my old age happens a lot faster than it used to.
But perhaps my charge as a Christian is simply to bring my peace and caring and generosity and hope to find the same. But if I’m met with unkindness, not to worry about it, my own peace will be returned to me and it’s on to the next one.
On that clear Sunday morning, on the eve of my birthday, the sentiment resonated in a meaningful way. It’s one of the reasons I love participating in Catholic services. I’ve attended masses from Cz?stochowa to New Orleans and while there’s always a moment of trepidation before I take my seat (I don’t understand the language, no one knows me) within moments I find that I am in a house of God surrounded by sons of peace.
Safe and welcomed.