We recently had the opportunity to have a little overnight getaway for the weekend. It was the first time since the pandemic that we had traveled, and we were so excited. Our destination wasn’t too far away, just in nearby, Connecticut, but to us, after being confined to the house for so long, it seemed like we were traveling across the world. We couldn’t wait!
One of the things I enjoy most when we have a chance to travel is visiting churches I have never seen before. I love seeing churches that I have never been to, and when I have the opportunity to attend Mass in a new venue, the experience is even more wonderful.
The church that we were attending this weekend was situated right by the sea. Much of the artwork and statuary was centered around the theme of the ocean, the sea, and fishermen as well. A group of young people was sitting to the right of the altar, with guitars, drums, and even a flute. It was really beautiful.
The opening hymn was announced and we all stood. The music started and the congregation raised their collective voices in song. My husband and I exchanged a glance, heartened by the wonderful participation of our fellow church goers.
Even though there was not a choir, everyone was singing. We enjoyed singing the hymn and when it was over the rest of the Mass continued. All prayers were celebrated in song — all the responses, the Lamb of God, and the Our Father.
When it came time for the Sign of Peace, my husband and I exchanged a greeting and I saw in his eyes how moved he was by this beautiful service. I felt exactly the same way! How fantastic to be far away from home, yet to feel like I had found a home in the house of God with my fellow man.
We exchanged the Sign of Peace with the folks in our pew, and then the woman in front of me turned around. I smiled at her and wished her peace. With a frozen smile she locked eyes with me and said: “So, you love to sing, dear?” and her smile vanished. I started to answer her, but she abruptly turned her back on me, facing the altar.
Mortified, I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. This was not a sign of peace that had just been delivered, rather, a declaration of her dissatisfaction and annoyance at my singing! I was crushed, and confused, and struggled to keep my focus on the remainder of the Mass.
When it was time for the concluding prayer, I was confused. If I kept singing the way I’d been before, I would be deliberately annoying her. But why should I be inhibited from worshiping my way?
On the other hand, what good would it do if I knew it was going to aggravate her? That didn’t seem very Christian. And two wrongs don’t make a right.
Blinking away the tears, I asked the Holy Spirit for insight. Thankfully, it came right to me —instantly: Maybe she is having a bad day, be merciful. Of course, God can hear me singing His praises loud and clear, even if I don’t make a sound! He hears our silent prayers, doesn’t he?
With jubilation, I sang that last hymn very quietly, grateful for the wonderful time we were having. And I added a silent prayer for the woman in the pew in front of me, that she would harden not her heart.
This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.