Tonight at mass the priest gave a very thoughtful homily about the readings for the fifth Sunday in ordinary time and World Marriage Day. He even managed to tie them together. And I didn't even cry. I didn't even want to walk out. And that, my friends, is progress for me.
It was on Valentine's Day in 1998 that I went to mass to get away from the media Love Extravaganza that is Valentine's Day. I didn't realize I was likely to hear more of the same at mass. The homily that day was given by the deacon. He started by saying he was a "married deacon," that marriage came first, and that the family was the foundation of the Catholic Church. He went on and on and I looked around and noticed, as if for the first time, that I was surrounded by young families. Men, women, and children. That night I saw no other single people. I started crying because I became convinced that I was being foolish by trying to convince myself that I actually belonged in the Church. I became convinced that there was no place for me as a divorced woman. Never mind that I actually live a life of chastity (which is not exactly fun) - no one knows that, they just know I am divorced.
I walked out of the church in tears and didn't come back for over a year. Maybe 2 or 3 years, I really don't remember.
On my lunch break on April 20, 1999, I sat down to write an e-mail to the pastor of that church. I wanted to ask for his help with this crisis that was keeping me away from the church. I was sitting at my desk and quickly checked the news before I wrote the letter. And saw that there was a shooting at a high school only a few miles away. I was faced with the fact that one of my employees had two children at that school. I said a quick prayer and called her over and told her there was a shooting at Columbine High School. She took off like a bolt of lightening - as did many others throughout the hospital who had children there.
I sat transfixed at my computer, trying to comprehend what was going on. The director of the accounting department had a television in his office, we gathered around it. He wasn't there, he left when he heard what was going on because he had a daughter who attended school there.
As you might imagine, I totally forgot about the letter to my pastor.
The president and the first lady attended the funeral of one of the victims. At my church. With my pastor.
It was a nightmarish time to live here. Everything took on the feel of another world. One of my friends' niece died that day. Another friend had two daughters who were on field trips that day and were safe. She uses that as another excuse to be an atheist... I have no idea what kind of logic that is.
Actually, now that I think of it, I do know when I came back to the church. It was after 9/11. I knew I had to go. And I knew that I belonged to the Catholic Church. And that I was letting the evil one work at me. So, I came back - again.
And sometimes I do need to remind myself that if it weren't for little old ladies at mass every single day and at their rosaries praying reverently, the world would be a much worse place, if it even existed. They are not the young families who are the "foundation" of the church - but I would say they play a pretty big role. And that is what I aspire to.
I have made my mistakes, but I have repented and I can only work with what I have in reality today. I desire with all my heart to be pleasing to the Lord. I think that is worth something - even if I am not "married with children."
Oh, and Happy St. Valentine's Day to all of those who have managed to have happy marriages.