For years the small church off Highway 44 on the drive to and from Corpus Christi, TX fascinated me.
Then, at a dinner hosted by St. Joseph Church in Port Aransas, TX in 2009, we happened to sit at a table with some really nice folks from that little church.
“Y’all need to come visit one of these days soon,” they said.
Wish in progress
This past Sunday, we took advantage of Steven’s not serving at St. Joseph’s and headed out to St. Anthony Church in Violet, which is now part of Robstown, TX.
We arrived at nine-thirty-eight, and what did we see?
A full parking lot.
“Looks like Mass is in progress,” Steven said.
We checked the schedule nearby before getting off the vehicle ’cause it was very cold out.
Only one Mass was listed, and it was for nine o’clock.
What to do, what to do.
“There’s St. Anthony’s in Robstown,” Steven offered.
“Or St. Michael the Archangel in Banquete, and we can surprise Father Tito.”
“My heart’s been set on this place for years, but I think God has another plan for us,” I said. “Wherever we end up is where we’re meant to be.”
“I hope the listings for St. Anthony’s in Robstown are correct. If not, we’ll have to come up with another plan.”
“It’ll all work out. You’ll see.”
Looking for St. Anthony
Locating the church wasn’t as easy as we’d thought. We had to stop for Steven to consult his phone again. Why we didn’t use Onstar, I have no idea other than it never occurred to us. I guess we just didn’t want to be late, and we were more concerned about Mass times than about directions only.
We arrived in the knick of time. Then, after some dilly-dallying about whether to get down or not since the parking areas were full there, too, Steven parked the vehicle closer to church; and we made our way to the entrance.
A man stood near the corner.
Is he waiting to pick up someone after Mass?
“Good morning,” he greeted us.
“Good morning!” I smiled.
Does he think us silly for walking to church when Mass is about to end? I wondered.
“I hope we’re not late again,” I told Steven.
We entered St. Anthony of Padua. Then, through the glass doors in the foyer, both of us saw a church full of parishioners.
I thought about my students and the magic of threes that added excitement to their written stories. Is this to be a story to remember? One to look back on and learn from… as in, next time, call ahead to confirm Mass times?
Overwrought with conflicting emotions, I didn’t even think to look for a church bulletin.
Oh, the drama of it all! Maybe we just should’ve gone to St. Joseph’s instead? No. I don’t think so. It’ll all work out somehow.
Still, I was concerned ’cause neither Steven nor I like to be late for Mass, much less miss Mass altogether.
“We could head back to Flour Bluff,” I suggested.
“We wouldn’t make it in time for eleven o’clock Mass,” Steven replied.
We opened the glass door and stood in the back of the church as we waited.
The usher stood next to us but didn’t offer to lead us to our seats.
“May we walk in?” I asked quietly, almost pleading to be allowed in. Mass seemed to have started, and we were very late.
The man smiled calmly, almost like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland. Or like the Mona Lisa.
What does he know that we don’t? Why did he simply nod and gesture with his hand for us to proceed?
I felt so foolish!
The closer we slinkered to a pew with open seating along the middle aisle, the more panicked I became.
We sat; and, with my eyes fixed on the priest, I removed my coat.
Oh, my gosh! Can this be?
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the priest… gasp… cleaning the cup! Again we’d arrived too late!
To make matters worse, the Mass was being taped; and the camera was on the church goers! With us prominently in view, no less!
Horror of horrors!!! We’ve really done it this time!
Wide-eyed and freaking out, I turned to Steven and calmly whispered, “The priest’s wrapping things up. We’ve arrived late yet again. Shall we go?”
Steven looked concerned.
We’d wanted so much to be on time, so how could we have messed up so badly?
We quickly and quietly… no doubt sticking out like a sore thumb… got up and walked out into the foyer, which was fuller than when we’d entered.
I was beyond dismayed, but I wasn’t passing up on a golden opportunity. The foyer had too much to photograph!
Steven, looking like he felt out of place, stood in front of a small table by the exit; and on his left was a woman holding papers… bulletins maybe… in her arms as she waited.
I took some photos; and then, turning to talk to Steven, I noticed a few bulletins on the corner of the small table.
I showed Steven the Mass schedule and then turned to the woman on my left.
“Is there a Mass after this one?”
“Yes,” she said softly.
Late but early
“So we haven’t missed Mass then?” I said incredulously.
The woman smiled. “No,” she said. “Nine o’clock Mass is running late, but ten-thirty Mass will start on time.”
“Oh, my gosh!” I laughed. “We were so worried we’d missed it! You see, we drove in from out of town; and we had no idea what was going on.”
Not being shy, I told the woman about our morning at Violet and then there.
“I’m Deli,” I said, extending my hand to shake hers. “This is Steven.”
“We’re friends of Father Tito Ayo.”
Noemi’s eyes lit up.
She knows him! How special is that! I thought.
“After we met Father last May, I searched online for Catholic churches in Robstown. I thought he might be at St. Anthony’s, but he wasn’t. He said other SOLT priests were in residence here; but I’ve wanted to attend Mass at this church ever since. Is it okay to take photos?”
St. Anthony’s finally
“Today’s ten-thirty Mass is special,” Noemi explained. “The children’s Mass happens just once a month. Twelve o’clock Mass follows right after. Sunday mornings, the first Mass starts at six; the last one, at twelve. If you want to take pictures, there’s not much time in between; so you’ll have to hurry.”
“I’m so glad I asked! Thank you so much!”
Waiting became bearable then, so I took photos in the foyer while we waited for people to exit. Then, as the newcomers began to fill the church, we entered as well to take photos before Mass.
Of course, we remained until right before noon Mass; and then we stepped out into the damp, frigid afternoon to take more photos of the surrounding area.
All in all, Steven and I were quite taken with the church community, which is warm, inclusive, and quite appealing. In fact, St. Anthony’s is so inviting that we’ll definitely visit again one day soon.
Links of interest… Franciscan Mission Associates: prayer requests / quarterly newsletter / seasonal devotions… Hymn to St. Anthony of Padua… Nine Tuesdays devotion… Si quaeris miracula: prayer / song… SOLT… St. Anthony (Violet, TX): old church / parishes online… St. Anthony of Padua: facebook / parishes online / school…
WP posts… Budding relationships… Familiar yet new… Holy relics… Honoring Joselito… Pink divinity… Prayer… Quiet prayer time… Saint of miracles… Si quaeris miracula… St. Anthony… St. Anthony chaplets… St. Michael chaplet… Tony’s big day