After Holy Thursday Mass, I have a wonderful feeling.
I was told about a chicken dinner at my most recent parish– the one I left for a smaller, closer one.
I was glad to go back. I never thought anyone would notice I was gone.
Happily, I was wrong.
During Peace, this parish gives a few minutes to walk around and talk– there are a lot of huggers. It’s not just a quick handshake and a stoic nod like in most Catholic parishes.
One woman came up to me with a smile and a hug and said, “I haven’t seen you in awhile.”
Another introduced herself to me and I said I’d been gone for a bit.
“Come home,” she said.
I found myself wanting to cry.
“I will,” I said.
One of my oldest friends’ father was there, as always– he beamed and gave me a hug. He’s always treated me like his own daughter.
The best part of Mass tonight was the foot washing. I haven’t seen that done in many years. The last time I experienced that was at a conference for young Catholics in our diocese. Roughly a decade ago, I’m guessing.
I lined up to have my feet washed. There was a small pitcher of water, a bowl, and someone with a towel. It symbolizes forgiveness– having your sins washed away.
Some of us lined up to have our feet washed, others stayed seated. In preparation we removed our socks and shoes. It was more difficult for me to volunteer to be washed than I expected. I was more comfortable with the idea of washing others’ feet. But I wanted to participate, so I took the role available. I had to put my ego away.
Foot washing is such an intimate act– it embodies humility and trust. The person doing the washing humbles themselves and those volunteering to be washed are also humbled– by making themselves vulnerable. Your feet are usually always covered and protected. Usually the only people who see us barefoot are are our families and those in our inner circle.
Another woman asked how work was doing for me– am I in the same place? I had asked her how I could volunteer to wash feet– “Next year,” she said with a smile.
Next year sounds wonderful.
During Holy Communion, I found myself weeping openly. I hadn’t realized how much I would miss this little parish– and especially not that anyone would miss me. I had gone to others that were more convenient– closer, with more Masses from which to choose. More activities, more people my age. I could hear better.
I even signed up officially at a different parish and took a picture to be included in their directory.
But I hadn’t felt anything. I kept going, hoping eventually it would grow on me.
Yet tonight, I felt something immediately in this parish. I felt welcomed. I felt MISSED.
No one asked WHY I had been gone– but only welcomed me back with love.
I felt gratitude. I felt sad that I had ever left. Like one of the lost sheep in the flock.
I had been searching for my spiritual home. Tonight, I returned.
I lit a candle afterwards, praying for this parish which captivates my heart. It’s struggling for attendance.
My attendance would help.
As I left Mass, I glanced up at the large Jesus on the back wall– a big cloth outline in which the names of all the parishioners were written on small pieces of felt and stuck on to symbolize that we all live in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
My name was still there, right where I left it.