I go to two Masses every Sunday. At the first Mass I am only a visitor. I take my father there every week. He is ninety-two years old and I am his only child.
Today I go to Mass with the hope of being buoyed up, sustained with words that could help heal a broken heart. This is the Sunday following the horrific murders in Newtown, Connecticut.
There is solace to be found in a church, in a Mass, surrounded by others who are also in pain. I am also from Aurora, Colorado where a young man from this very congregation and celebrating his first wedding anniversary was murdered this past summer in a shooting at a movie theatre.
I was hoping for a bit of peace. These are the ideas that the Roman Catholic priest offered to me to help ease my pain.
I need to be aware that there are more than three thousand children aborted and killed everyday and no one offers them tears on the television. He wondered why politicians shallowly mourn for twenty-two when thousands are murdered each day in this country. He said the politicians are just furthering their own agenda.
This priest offered the observation that the President, to whom he only referred to as Obama, has made it his mission to disassemble the sacrament of marriage. Thus creating more dysfunctional families and children. Which will lead to more heinous acts.
He called us morons, those of us who believe that guns are a major part of the problem. He actually used the word moron in his sermon. He implored us to bring Jesus to the people. Then, he promised, these awful things won’t happen.
This is the Roman Catholic Church that I grew up in. The church in which I gave fifty-six years of my life hoping there would be change. There was some hope after Vatican II. But the pendulum swung back and the door locked. I am on the other side of that door.
I am no longer a Roman Catholic. I can no longer stand by and search for excuses to support the pain and alienation this church causes, the blindness that it maintains, and the avaricious wealth it hoards.
All are welcome in this church. My new church is a member of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion.
This morning before Mass a woman and her wife settled next to me in the sanctuary. A priest and his wife were celebrating his anniversary of ordination. A Christmas cookie exchange was set up in the lobby of my storefront church. A hayride was being planned by one of the families with everyone from the parish invited. A Jesse tree stood in the lobby almost empty of ornaments waiting for the gifts to be returned and then given away to those in need.
Hugs and kisses fly around the room in abundance. This is a wealth we are all endowed with and can share freely. Everyone is welcome to the Eucharistic table.
The children, at times, run amuck with joy and laughter. We are blessed to hear those sounds when others have lost this precious gift.
When it came time during the mass for the children to leave for religious instruction, our pastor gathered them in front of the altar. They range in age from about three to around twelve years of age.
Our pastor asked them how they were feeling or if something was bothering them. He is good at wait time. Wait time is something teachers develop after many years in the classroom. It is a vital skill that allows for a pause in questioning giving time for sharing by those who may be a bit reluctant.
No one said anything.
He then asked if they wanted to share anything or talk about anything. Again, he waited.
We waited not knowing what would come out of those innocent mouths or how he would handle it. But we have faith in him. He is remarkable and inspirational. He is a true gentle soul with a fierce love of God and high expectations of his congregation. He strives to open our eyes letting us know we are loved and must love with the same passion.
After another long pause, out of the silence came the tiniest voice with talk about Santa. A few sweet comments were shared in the circle and our pastor asked the children to turn around and face us. We knew what he wanted from us.
He wanted us to see how much we are blessed. He wanted us to be thankful for the bright faces and smiles. He wanted the children to see our love for them in our eyes. He told them that all of the adults love them. He reminded us that we must continue to care for the children in everyway possible.
Our pastor then gathered the children close to him and only they were privy to his wisdom as we sang. This happens each week. The children then retreated to their own space to learn more about the love God has for them.
Finally, it was our turn. One of the laity, a woman, gave the homily. In this church, women have a voice and are taken seriously.
We were all given a prayer card with a suggestion of a simple daily exercise to do for the next thirty days. If we follow through, she promises a change. This change will be the repentance, the turning around, that John the Baptist challenged people with thousands of years ago and one that we are still in need of today.
We were given hope today. Solace in knowing that we can make ourselves better and stronger, and therefore, make the world a better place.
It is in our hands to make the change. But we are not alone.
We are loved and loving beings who can do this. If we each take that little step to turn around, away from what hurts us, we will not only change ourselves, but others, too.
But it starts with us, the us that God made. It starts by being inclusive, accepting each other no matter how we appear, because He made us.
God is the good inside of each one of us. All of us. We need to remember He is there, a perpetual light that will never go out. We just need to find it within ourselves and fuel it. Then remember to find it in others, because it is in everyone. Even in the tortured soul of a young man with a gun, the light of God is there. We need to help each other find it.