While spending some time with my parents over the holidays, I had the opportunity to attend Mass with at the parish in which I grew up. My family has been members since I was fairly young, and my siblings and I all went to the parish school there. In fact, we all received first Reconciliation and first Communion in that church. It was in that building that I saw my father be received into the Catholic Church. I’ve been to Mass there countless times, on cranky Sundays as a teenager, before big parish celebrations, to witness both weddings and funerals.
Now that I’ve moved away, my somewhat transient life in the Society of Jesus means that, no matter how friendly they may be, most parishes I attend do not have the same familiarity as my parent’s parish does. When I go to my parents’ parish, I see people with whom I share decades of history, and it makes me wonder.
I see a grade school classmate of mine, now married and teaching at a rural Catholic school, and I wonder what it is that God touched in her heart that makes her drive miles out into the country to serve at a Catholic school.
I see a man who I know does not himself believe in God and yet for years has accompanied his wife and kids to Mass. Now his kids having gone to college. Still this past Christmas there he was, still sitting with his wife. I wonder whether God is stirring in his heart in ways I can’t begin to imagine.
I see an elderly lady accompanying two men, one of them recently homeless; both of whom she’s ferried into the Church, sponsoring them as they became Catholic, and I wonder what it was in her life that helped these men say, “I want that.”
A liturgy, a Eucharist, always brings together that phenomenal range, the variety of stories that make up lives. It’s just that when I know the stories, it becomes so much easier to sit in wonder.