Joy is a sign of a generous personality, Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Since the pandemic began a year and a half ago, I have been on the look-out for “silver linings,” those unanticipated good news moments. (It must be my tendency toward optimism!)
Anyway, due to some odd things that happened in my old church during the pandemic, I started thinking about looking for a new church. I have been going to my old church for seven years, and I tend to feel a sense of loyalty to my parish, but last weekend, I visited a new church.
There I sat in this new church, surrounded by strangers, observing how things are done here.
The first thing I noticed was the music. There were several people leading the singing and in addition to the pianist and guitarist, there was also a flautist and a violinist. The sound was rich, and it pulled me into a sense of community worship.
At the beginning of Mass, the priest called the children up front for children’s liturgy, and about a dozen children happily approached. He said a few words to them and then began singing, “If you’re happy and you know it….” The kids and the congregation joined in, singing and clapping their hands. The priest added a silly bit, and everyone laughed.
And then I realized I was feeling something I hadn’t felt in church for a while—I was feeling joy.
As Mass went on, the sense of joy continued. Two children were baptized during Mass, and I found myself smiling, happy for these two young families and their extended families.
The priest included the congregation in his sermon by asking questions, and he called people by name. His sermon was relatable—he talked about spiritual healing and physical healing, and days later, I am still thinking about the message.
Perhaps none of this seems extraordinary to you, but all of this indicated to me that I have probably stayed at my old church too long. Church is one of those places that can get comfortable, and the habit can make it easier to stay than to go. The pandemic shook that up for me—I only attended Mass once in-person, and I found my church too casual about Covid guidelines for me to be comfortable.
This has been a year of many changes for me, with my mother’s death and leaving my job, and I feel I have been living in a liminal space. Here, where routines have been tossed aside and everything is new and different, it seems a good time to explore.
What silver linings have you noticed because of the pandemic?