I felt particulary lonely last Sunday.
Lonely in my life,lonely in my faith,lonely in my spirit.Mass had seemed even more noisy than usual,which seemed to add to the humidity in the air.Before Mass I tried to bury my head in The little Office of Our Lady,which seems to put people off from trying to engage me in any conversation.I know that I must seem unapproachable to the people there.Not least because I refuse to take the magazine that is handed to me every month(I have a good reason for that)and refuse to wear a name tag.I am embarrassed by my refusals.I inwardly cringe as I run the gauntlet of the welcomers in the narthex knowing that they perceive me as unfriendly.That morning as I once again refused the magazine,I was told to take it and leave it on the bench if I didnt want to read it.What is the point in that!.
My solitary life is not by my design.Circumstances have made it so.I guess that it is God's will.If that is so,then my heart and mind says that I must embrace it, and bring forth with His grace, something beautiful from the desert. I make no secret of my traditionalist leanings.......I have been ridiculed because of them.......it matters not.It does not stop me loving those who do not agree.All of my life I have lived with people who did not agree.My own family, all non catholics at the time of my first conversion, were either seemingly indifferent to my new found faith,or, as in the case of my Father,rather hostile towards it, to put it mildly.That hostility he felt back then, did not stop him loving me,nor did I stop loving him.It was never a barrier to love,and that is how I feel about my fellow catholics now.The fact that I would wish to cover my head,to kneel to receive Him,to pray using the ancient beautiful language of the church is not a condemnation of them who do none of these things...far far from it,for most of the people at that little church have been more faithful than I.Rather, I think it is a case of honouring God , of recognising my own littleness before Him,of being concious of the holy ground that is The Mass.But these beliefs set me apart from my fellows,there is no traditionalist group in the area that I live......no Sunday Latin Mass whereby I might fulfill the obligation ,no chance to worship in the way that my heart, mind, and conscience tells me.There is great loneliness in that ,and great sorrow.
These thoughts consumed me as I stood at the bus stop after Mass, my lower self(who is my constant companion)told me that there was no point in going to Mass,where He whom the priest confects is not honoured.My higher self (who visits me now and again)told me that as long as Christ is present upon the altar there is no possibility of not going.My lower self, so persistent,,..you do not belong there,you are a pre-vatican 2 relic,remember what the priest says....we must move with the times,and so must the church.My higher self replies.......it does not matter that you are alone in your beliefs,it does not matter if you are rejected or laughed at...it really does not matter.
It is a very remote bus stop.I have never, ever, been joined by anyone else in waiting for the bus.Most people I would guess are still in bed at that time on a sunday morning.The congregation usually stop for coffee after Mass,or jump in their cars and drive off into the distance.To my surprise,this morning was to be different.What appeared to be an elderly lady was crossing the road and walking towards me,intent it seemed on reaching the stop.She showed me her bus pass and asked me if it was valid for that particular route and as I answered her and looked at her face ,I realised that it was quite beautiful.Now I am not a fanciful, person,nor am I prone to holy imaginings,but there was something unearthly in her beauty, some goodness which radiated from her gaze and my loneliness so oppressive ,seemed to vanish as I looked into her eyes.She asked me if I had been to Mass and what were those labels that everyone wore.I answered that they were name tags worn to show everyone your name..............She was silent, waiting for me to continue,and I couldnt help it but the words fell out of my mouth.It was all about community I said,about being inclusive,you know, not leaving anybody out.....but.......,go on, she said, go on.Sometimes I said, I think that they have forgotten about the great God,that they praise and love themselves before God,that community means more to them than worship,and reverence,and consciousness of holiness.That if it is God's house,then it must be treated as such,not as a social meeting place,but a quiet sanctified place, where the Creator meets the created, and where the Son is sacrificed for the sinner.
I expected reproof.Or a polite disagreement.It did not come.Instead it was seven words,Seven words that lifted my spirit ,and which remain with me."I am so glad you said that".With that, the bus arrived.She only travelled for one stop.Hardly worth it I thought.Was it possible that she agreed with me?Am I not so alone in my views,did she understand that I meant that if you love God first and honour Him,the love of your neighbour would follow?
I have never seen her before.I dont know if I will see her again.As I sit here and remember that encounter,I wonder if she was a figment of my imagination.Conjoured up from my loneliness and dejection.A kind of self-justification.I am not a fanciful person.I do not have holy imaginings.I am sane,sensible,and normal ,no I do not have holy imaginings...................