Then, last night I got an email about the parish book club book being available for pick up. For "convenience," the deacon decided to place the copies in the sacristy:
"That's where we always put materials that we don't want to 'walk.' Lectors' workbooks, altar server schedules. You know, you put something on the table in the back of the church and people help themselves."Convenient for him maybe, but I'm not comfortable waltzing into a sacristy. Call it superstition. When I told Jeff, he reproved me in a debunking tone, "You want me to pick it up for you? How long you been a Catholic?!" Yeah, well, where the Church is concerned, I'm still 12, alright? Like relating to your parents.
So, just in case the books came early, you know, last Saturday evening, after the lightly-attended service, I tried to sneak back into the sacristy for a peek, if only to familiarize myself with the terrain. I knew the pastor was at the rear door greeting people on their way out. And, well, the eucharistic ministers were busy tidying up, purifying the vessels, etc., etc. Psst., don't tell my bishop. The books weren't in sight and I decided I'd rather avoid such a public "going up" in the future. In other words, there were still too many people around for me to feel comfortable.
Getting the email last night, then, left today and tomorrow before the weekend services. And, to be honest, I'd rather get a copy sooner than later just in case there aren't enough. I'm pretty sure if they were one short and I didn't have one, that would be my problem.
Besides, next week is pretty much shot for creeping into church as I expect to be getting back from class around 1:30 and the secretary goes home 'bout 2. In fact, with the parish office closed tomorrow for the holiday, today was the only choice, really. And what made today even more attractive is there is no daily mass on Thursday mornings. So I wasn't likely to bump into anybody except the parish secretary.
We had a couple of errands first that were time-critical and got to St. Joe's a little after 10 this morning. We walked up the back stairs, past the parish office, but Jean never poked her head out. And we didn't peer in. Chris kept remarking to me, in a not-so-quiet voice, well, how quiet everything was. He couldn't believe it. And I'm thinking, yeah, the only ones breaking the silence are Ella counting aloud each step as she goes up2 and you pointing out how quiet it is.
I stood at the back of the empty nave and mustered my concentration, focusing on the little doorway to the left, from my view, of the sanctuary. "Just walk, straight up the left aisle and go in." Afraid that even a pause to genuflect would have got me doubling back. So I did and it's a nice room, not as little as I thought. There's a custom table that the books and sign-out sheet were on, very prominently. I signed my name, took my book, turned to see Chris fiddling with a censer. Even before seeing him, I said, reflexively, "Don't touch anything" because I knew that enough time had elapses ( ~ 5 secs.) since I last spied them and they were, therefore, already into something. It's only logical.
Chris jumped about a mile when I said that. I didn't realize he would be so startled because, well, I didn't realize yet that he was touching something. I don't remember what Ella was into, maybe some empty wicker collection baskets. So, after quickly surveying the room, noting the clothes rack of white surplices for the altar servers3 and the bookcases that acted as china cabinets, we stepped back into the church and took the first pew in front of a statue of the BVM.
The kids were as calm and quiet as the empty church - only Ella asking what happened to the lights - and I spent a few minutes in stillness in front of the statue, thinking about the latest H1N1 death. Then the warmth of the space began to get to me. Seeing the Woman, Chris asked where the daddy was and I pointed out St. Joseph's statue on the other side. He and Ella walked over quietly for a closer look. Then, when they returned to me, I could see that they weren't going to settle down again, so I suggested taking some cold water from the drinking fountain outside the lavs. Chris hypothesized as we walked again along the left aisle, that the left side of the church displayed statues of women and the right side had guys. For Mary, Kateri Tekakwitha and Therese of Lisieux, his theory was spot-on. But then we saw St. Anthony, St. Patrick, St. John the Baptist and his guess fell to pieces.
In front of the Infant of Prague statue, he asked about the ball in his hand. I told him he's king of the world and, after noting the crown on his head, he asked where the queen was. I motioned to the Lady he'd seen at the front but, not seeing a crown on her head, he wasn't buying it. He also wondered about her gesture of prayer, as her hands are crisply folded and her eyes are intensely shut, almost scrunched. But, of course, it's not an ugly statue; I just describe it that way. And I just marveled at how intuitive this religion is. If it didn't exist, we would have to invent it.
1 I thought I'd get an hour or two of reading while the kids were out at the fireworks but unpredictable weather forced a reschedule.
2 Wonder, oh, who taught her that?!
3 Kenny who enters fourth grade this fall is eligible to be an altar server and he isn't interested. We've already talked about it many times. I'm not going to be the pushy mom who wants her son to do things she never did ... although he did go to private school for a number of years ... and summer camp ... and Disney ... and ... but I'll promise you, if any of my children act as altar servers, I'll buy the surplice!