I don't often go to mass midweek, but something is looming for me and I am one of those Catholics who feel my prayers might get on the express way if I show up in person. I am hop skipping toward the church entrance, arriving five minutes into the service, as usual. My mindset is not quite right for church. On this busy weekday dawn, my head is already filled with reminders and tasks for the office, a place that's further away on a Sunday morning.
Reaching the church doors, I wait behind a few people and wonder why the delayed entry. My impatience becomes a sigh and I peer around the heads in front of me. I glimpse the side of a wheelchair and it's pusher navigating the narrow side entryway and the pews. Great, I think to myself. I always pick the slow line.
After a few moments, we filter in. I hurriedly poke my finger in the holy water vessel and some splashes on my hand. Quickly, I slide into a pew near the back, averting my eyes from the priest who I am certain notes my tardiness. Only one other woman sits nearby, an older lady clutching a rosary with eyes shut in prayer. Most of the parishioners sit in the front pews, mostly elderly women alone. A handful of younger adults are scattered about.
As I kneel to pray, my cell phone vibrates in my bag. I am missing a network breakfast this morning and a wave of annoyance tightens my chest. Before I bow my head, I habitually look at my watch. I hope this mass will not be too lengthy. Perhaps I'll make the second half of the breakfast meeting.
I kneel, I rise, I pray, all with good, albeit, distracted intentions. And now it is communion time. As I wait for my row to be lead, I gather my belongings to exit directly after receiving. Standing there in the church as the sun glints through the stained glass windows, a serenity asserts itself ahead of my daily worries and I pause to feel what I think is divine peace.
When I look again to the front of the communion line, the wheelchair and its pusher are next. An old man sits in the chair as an equally old woman wheels him forward. They reach the priest, who smiles broadly and steps back a bit. The woman walks around to the front of the wheelchair and slowly kneels down. I cannot see what she is doing. She comes around to her husband's left side and slips her arm under his. The man is rising, carefully but purposely rising from the chair. He bobs slightly forward and backward as he leans on his wife, who supports him as the priest places the communion wafer in his mouth.
Only after the man faces the alter and crosses himself does he sit back down in his wheelchair. The two slowly wheel away and back into the front pew. The woman kneels beside her husband's chair and I glance at her as I approach the priest. She prays, hands clasped, eyes closed and smiling gently. Her husband places his hand on her head and bows his own.
I take communion. I pass the exit and continue back to my pew. I kneel. I push the breakfast, the annoyance of getting up earlier and the restless thoughts out of my mind and pray.