I have been praying about writing. What to write, and how to write it. Writing is one part self, and another part, everyone else. This is if you can get them to read it. Which leads to another question. Who is my audience? I'm still not sure. I guess this gives me a chance to improve. Whatever I write, I can choose to share it or not. Every letter, every word, every sentence, every paragraph leads me closer to crafting a story that may someday matter to someone or more.
So, I prayed for a word of knowledge. As Christians we know that such a concept is considered a spiritual gift, a blessing from God. I can say, it is usually the case that when God rains down a blessing (outside of the ones I take for granted, like food, water, shelter, and loved ones), it is totally unexpected and out of the blue. What an appropriate phrase, "Out of the blue," like out of heaven.
Rob and I went to a funeral mass for a friend this past week. Written here is my experience.
Check this out!
The seven practices of charity toward our neighbor, based on Christ’s prophecy of the Last Judgment, that will determine each person’s final destiny:
- Feed the hungry
- Give drink to the thirsty
- Clothe the naked
- Shelter the homeless
- Visit the sick
- Visit those in prison
- Bury the dead
With all these in mind; pressed, dressed, and perfumed, we ventured to the church.
We knew already before arriving, it would serve as a blessing.
The church was packed. Rob dropped me off to get in line and find us seats, while he parked the car. A sea of black, charcoal gray, and dark browns outfitted parishioners in pews. I felt honored to be invited. Though torn with grief for the bereaving family and friends, I felt at home in a Catholic church with the familiar liturgy and structures that decorate a sanctuary. Like visiting a museum, there are variations of art that beg to be appreciated by new visitors and old members. I motioned to an usher, holding up two fingers, for my husband and me. He obliged, placing us a few rows from the front. How did he know that is where we prefer to sit, close to the altar, where we can see, hear and smell?
I noticed devout young adults with clasped hands, a rosary tied around their left palm. A guy's was rustic, and wooden. A girl's was bejeweled with pearl like beads. I was impressed and encouraged to do the same. The rosary is a reverant, quiet, and non-violent weapon against evil. Rob and I recognized a few people we know and felt warm inside, knowing that in our short time together, we would share Holy Communion.
A shaft of sunshine streamed in through an upper window, highlighting an older lady two rows up. I could tell that in a few minutes, it would travel further back and warm another section of the church. After a few minutes when I'd forgotten because of prayers and worship, the sun reached me. It was a straight line spotlighting me, in the middle of the bench. I closed my eyes and listened and basked in gratitude. I believe it is possible to feel unworthy, yet loved at the same time.
The Word was read and preached. Prayers were said. Music played. Tears were shed. Consecrated bread and wine offered and received. It was a beautiful Mass and left no one out. We paid our respects and commissioned to live our lives as unto holiness. I thought, "To dwell in the house of the Lord, forever... there is no better place to be."
We shuffled into the reception hall where it seemed everyone continued their observance of the deceased. No one "Ate and ran." People were friendly, loud, and hungry. Tables of food beckoned with fewer tables and chairs to accomodate. I served myself an unlikely combination, lasagna and sweet potato casserole. Famished, Rob and I scuttled over to an empty corner, dimly lit and spacious. We stood and ate alone for a minute. Then another gentleman had the same idea and stood next to us. I mentioned, "This isn't too bad, you think?" He returned, "Not bad at all, did you know _____?" "Sort of." We then included that our son, Scott Anderson is friends with his brother. He smiled and told us about his connection while another couple approached him to shake hands.
Out of nowhere, an older man stepped up to Rob and me and said, "Excuse me, I overheard that you are Scott Anderson's parents." This man works with the Newman Club at North Georgia College and State University, where our son spent one semester as an Army Cadet. Scott struggled through to eke out that fall term and decided the Army wasn't for him. As much as he hated, loathed, detested that rude awakening to college and military life, he didn't let on to those around , his misery. This gentleman said, "Scott is a fine young man."
I asked, "What is your name?" He said, "Paul Thigpen." I gasped! "You are an author!" Modest, he put his hand over his heart and admitted, "Well, yes, I write." I said, "I write too." "Oh, what do you write?" "Personal essay, memoir, but memoir is very scary, so I'm looking at doing young adult fiction." I added, "What an honor, that you walked over to introduce yourself," and grabbed his hand to shake it again. He said, "The honor is all mine. You are good parents."
This morning I looked up Paul Thigpen on Facebook and there he was. I retrieved a book on our shelf called, Surprised by Truth, a compilation of essays from 11 converts who give Biblical and historical reasons for becoming Catholic. I reread his piece called, His Open Arms Welcomed Me. I recalled his experience that I read a few years back, (14) when Rob and I became convinced that the Roman Catholic Church is the Church that was founded by Jesus Christ upon the rock of Peter, in whom Christ handed the keys to the kingdom. I was enthralled with Mr. Thigpen's writing.
So what is the word of knowledge that I received? Well, a few things. First off, the quote I found at the beginning of this essay, "We should all remember that God sees us even when we are in a crowd."
Second, the blessing of children, that they are gifts and rewards from God. If it weren't for our son, Scott, I would have never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Thigpen. I could refer to several verses that describe this reward, but you all know them.
Third, that in the community of my church, I find Christ, and I know that whatever I do
and wherever I am, God is watching, guiding, and loving me every step of the way and with every stroke of the pen. He's already written the Book.