Disquieting moments

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Two weeks ago my Coolpix and I visited the St. Jude Shrine on Saratoga for the third time, and I finally captured St. Simon’s stained-glass window to my liking.  But I’d also planned a long-awaited outing to Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church, so I could hardly wait to get there!

Late December 2005

We seldom drive into Corpus Christi unless we really have to, so imagine my fascination at seeing an old-style church off South Padre Island Drive during my first trip into town. 

Is it Greek Orthodox?  Is it Catholic?  It reminds me of the church that Segy and I stumbled across in Prague.

I could hardly wait to satisfy my curiosity!

“I’m going to visit that church one day soon,” I told Steven.

Fall 2007

SPC102301-tilmaTime passed.  The week of October 23-27, the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe visited St. Paul the Apostle Church in Flour Bluff; so the parish had two festive celebrations.

At both the welcoming and the despedida Masses, a group of very talented mariachis led us in song; so Father Stembler thanked them afterwards, adding that they perform regularly at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church.

Hearing that, Junebug, a friend who’d also wanted to visit the church for a long time, and I caught up to one of the musicians as they were leaving.  We asked about the Mass schedule and, much to our delight, were enthusiastically invited to “come for twelve-thirty Mass on Sundays to hear the mariachis.”

Since obligations at our respective parishes kept us home on Sundays, we never made it.  Still, my desire to explore the old-world church persisted.

Two weeks ago

So here, five years later, my wish came true.  Having driven into town for quite a few doctors’ appointments, I finally felt confident about venturing out on my own in Corpus and, oh, the surprises that awaited me at Sts. Cyril and Methodius.

SCMC61410-21First, I took note of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s statue not because of its inviting garden setting, but because of the message on the church wall.

No temas…  ¿No estoy yo aquí, que soy tu madre?  Do not fear…  Am I not here, am I not your Mother?

A couple of years ago I’d read the same message online.

Then, on entering the church, I noticed the room to my left.  I walked in, took photos, and— on turning around— found the Infant on his pedestal.

What a wonderful surprise!

Next, I walked past the glass doors into the dimly lit church.

A man and four or five women sat in silence: some with their prayer booklets, others with rosary in hand; some departing, others taking their place.

Old-world ambiance

I sat in the back for a while, joyfully dialoguing with God about this new adventure before getting up to make pictorial memories for others to enjoy through my blog.

Other than my Coolpix snapping photos of the windows and the stations of the cross and flashing intermittently, I walked around soundlessly, respectful as usual, mindful of not being a distraction to the others.

“Ma’m, are you Catholic?”

Having gone full circle, I made my way to the front of the church.

Bowing in reverence to the altar as I had done each time I’d approached the front of the church, I turned to take my final three shots of the back (the entrance) of the church.

My peripheral vision caught sight of two women: one, shielding her face with a booklet as if to keep from being photographed; the other, beckoning to me with her right hand.

I acknowledged the latter smilingly and walked over thinking I should’ve had one of my calling cards with me, but the woman scowled at me.

“Ma’m, are you Catholic?” she chided.

“Yes, I am.  I’m from St. Joseph’s in Port Aransas.”

“Can’t you see we’re praying here?” she scolded me in a low, rough voice.

She had fire in her eyes and, clearly, she was speaking for the others, like the woman seated close by who nodded in agreement to my being treated like an insolent child.

“Don’t you know that we’re here to pray?!!” she vehemently rebuked me.

Discomforting disequilibrium

StsCMC61410-75I was a stranger, an intruder.  How dare I take photos and “disturb the adorers!”

“Yes.  I understand,” I said, being shushed by the woman time and time again as I told her that I, too, had sat awhile before taking photos.

The woman was beside herself with disgust.  But I remained cool, calm, and collected.  Even as I patiently, succinctly, tried to explain my presence there, she avoided making eye contact and shushed me as if I were a despicable nonperson.

“I apologize for having offended you,” I told the woman in a quiet voice despite her unwillingness to stop shushing me.  “Clearly, this was not my intent.”

Undaunted

Although I would’ve wanted one or two more photos of the back of the church, I relented.

“I apologize for having offended you, but each of us adores God in his own way,” I told the woman and walked away feeling neither one way nor the other.

Once outside I felt embraced by the warm breeze as I looked around, gauged the traffic on the frontage road, and walked to Steven’s palomino.  I unlocked the door, got a couple of my calling cards, turned to take three shots of the building’s exterior, tossed the Coolpix in the vehicle, and headed back into church.

Barely touching the woman’s left shoulder, I whispered, “This is my calling card.  Should you ever want to visit St. Joseph’s,” I said, pointing to the St. Joseph stained-glass icon on my card, “this is the window above our church entrance.”

The woman, still shushing me, took the cards without looking at me, placed them next to her on the pew, and gave me the cold shoulder.

“Again,” I said for the last time, “I apologize for having offended you, but each of us adores God in his own way.”

Then I walked away, undaunted.

Disquieting moments

I’d been sincere toward the woman, but she’d overly exaggerated her right to be there more than mine to visit that afternoon.  Nevertheless, I knew that God understood both of us.  So that was all that mattered.

As I drove off the church parking area onto a road I’d never traveled, I had time to reflect on the disquieting moments experienced at Sts. Cyril and Methodius.  But even after Kostoryz connected to McArdle— a street I’m familiar with, thanks to the Catholic Shoppe— my pea brain was still trying to come to somehow.

I wasn’t annoyed or angry.  I wasn’t amused or perplexed.  I wasn’t even embarrassed.  I was stunned… numb… calm.  Very, very calm.  

I “never ever ever” (to quote our youngest child) had been treated as an outcast in any church, much less within my own Catholic community.

This had been such a unique, unexpected experience that my system was in shock— unable to mentalize, much less verbalize, my thoughts and feelings.  Yet, driving home I was sure of one thing: My visit to Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church had been part of God’s master plan— just another of his extraordinary lessons in real time.

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July 14, 2010

Discussing this post with a couple of friends last week, I had a momentous epiphany: I’ve experienced this exclusivity before!

I don’t know what makes people so apprehensive about strangers and not so familiar faces at church.  We’re all part of the same community regardless of who we are or where we’re from, so we should be particularly accepting of each other as Catholics.  But this isn’t always the case.

I know what it is to be an outsider within my own parish.  This is why I started the church blog— a perfect opportunity to smilingly welcome newcomers and returning visitors as I take photos before, during, and after Mass.

I’m friendly, genuine, inclusive.  I treat others as I’d like to be treated.  The way we were back home.  The way Segy and I experienced church when we attended Mass in Budapest, Prague, and Berlin.

Because being Catholic is more than just sitting quietly (meditating, petitioning, praising, praying, problem solving, and/or reflecting, for instance), we should embrace (engage, explore, make meaning of and/or try to understand) the diversity that is our Christian faith.  After all, to be Catholic is to be universal.

Prayers

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.  Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.  Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.  Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.  Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.  Amen.

Grant, O Lord, your protection.  And, in protection, strength; and, in strength, understanding; and, in understanding, knowledge.  And, in knowledge, the knowledge of justice; and, in the knowledge of justice, the love of it; and, in the love of it, the love of all existences.  And, in that love, the love of spirit and all creation.  Amen.

Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight; and give your angels and saints charge over those who sleep.  Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ.  Rest your weary ones.  Bless your dying ones.  Soothe your suffering ones.  Pity your afflicted ones.  Shield your joyous ones.  And all for your love’s sake.  Amen.

June 12, 2015

If work is God’s will, it must be sanctifying; for, in ultimate analysis, sanctity is only doing the will of God.  Therefore, work is a sacred thing; it is a “sacramental”— an outward sign that can give grace.  Hence, you can go to work for the same reason you go to church to worship God!  Work is a religious thing.  It is holy (Fr. M. Raymond, OCSO in Spiritual Secrets of a Trappist Monk).

January 5, 2016

“As Christ has his work, we too have ours; as he rejoiced to do his work, we must rejoice in ours also” (St. John Neumann).

January 17, 2016

“I do take my work seriously, and the way to do that is not to take yourself too seriously,” (Alan Rickman).

January 18, 2016

God is always summoning us, calling us out of the hustle and bustle of our lives to be his companions.  Developing the contemplative dimension of our Christian lives involves developing our capacity to hear this summons in whatever way it comes (“The Complete Christian“).

“It is not enough to pray thy kingdom come, but to work so that the kingdom of God will exist among us today” (St. Ursula Ledóchowska).

January 20, 2016

The pleasure of those who injure you lies in your pain.  Therefore they will suffer if you take away their pleasure by not feeling pain (Tertullian).

January 28, 2016

“We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject; for both have labored in the search for truth and both have helped us in finding it” (St. Thomas Aquinas).

July 22, 2016

“Take care not to meddle in things which do not concern you, nor even allow them to pass through your mind; for perhaps you will not then be able to fulfill your own task” (St. John of the Cross).

January 5, 2017

We might not be able to control how people react to us, or see us, or feel about us.  But we can train ourselves not to be crushed.  We can learn not to take it personally— even if it’s personal (Heather King in Loaded: Money and the Spirituality of Enough).

January 10, 2017

“If you wish to arrive speedily at the summit of perfection, animate yourself to a true love of shame, insults, and calumny” (St. Ignatius).

February 17, 2017

Persevere in the exact fulfillment of the obligations of the moment.  That work— humble, monotonous, small— is prayer expressed in action that prepares you to receive the grace of the other work— great and wide and deep— of which you dream (St. Josemaría Escrivá).

April 4, 2017

Hospitality is the practice of God’s welcome by reaching across difference to participate in God’s actions bringing justice and healing to our world in crisis….   In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus promises to be with those who offer hospitality to the least of our brothers and sisters.  From this it would seem that hospitality can be understood as solidarity with strangers, a mutual relationship of care and trust in which we share in the struggle for empowerment, dignity, and fullness of life….

The ministry of the church is to be partners with strangers, to welcome those whom Christ welcomes, and thus learn to be a community in which people are made one in Jesus Christ in spite of their difference classes, religious backgrounds, genders, races, and ethnic groups (Letty M. Russell in Just Hospitality: God’s Welcome in a World of Difference).

June 22, 2017

When we feel us too bold, remember our own feebleness.  When we feel us too faint, remember Christ’s strength (St. Thomas More).

July 10, 2017

When you agree to live simply, you can understand what Francis meant when he said, “A brother has not given up all things if he holds onto the purse of his own opinions.”  Most of us find out that this purse is far more dangerous and disguised than a money purse, and we seldom let go of it (Richard Rohr in Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi).

August 18, 2017

“Catholicism is a deep matter; you cannot take it up in a tea cup” (Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman).

September 27, 2017

While proofreading a manuscript I’d better keep my mind on the text, not on God.  If my mind is torn between the two, the typos will slip through like little fish through a torn net.  God will be present precisely in the loving attention I give to the work entrusted to me.  By giving myself fully and lovingly to that work, I give myself fully to God.  This happens not only in work but also in play, say, in bird-watching or in watching a good movie.  God must be enjoying it in me, when I am enjoying it in God.  Is not this communion the essence of praying? (Brother David Steindl-Rast in The Way of Silence: Engaging the Sacred in Daily Life).

September 28, 2018

Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage.  The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict (William Ellery Channing).

Links of interest…  Answering the call to work…  Beauty of the soul…  Catholic community doesn’t look the same for everyone…  Catholics should welcome questions…  Complete Christian (YouTube)…  Delanceyplace: archives / homesecond guessing ourselves (Presence)…  Everything can turn into prayer…  Gift of work…  Go to church, meet annoying people…  Holy Infant: artifacts / history / prayers / stories…  Hospitality: A forgotten virtue…  Lorica of St. Patrick…  Our Lady of Guadalupe…  Photographer on how capturing light is a call from God…  Practice of silence for lay people…  Prayer through work: Sanctify your daily tasks…  Praying with your eyes: How to get started with visio divina…  Scripture speaks: The better part…  South Texas Catholic…  St. Paul the Apostle Church: facebook / parishes online / website…    Sts. Cyril & Methodius: about / apostles / church: facebook – website / enlighteners / saints…  Suffering for a reason: Not what Yoda would advise…  We help people because we’re Catholic, not because they’re Catholic…  Who are we to judge

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Bearing one’s crosses…  Building community…  Call of service…  Connected tangents…  Full circle…  Gifts…  Heart of hearts…  Kindred acorns…  On being Christian…  Prayerful messages…  A real church…  Revisiting St. Simon…  Right at home…  St. Jude shrine (Corpus Christi)