I have never liked doing anything alone, and growing up, rarely had to. My twin brother has been through it all with me, from the first day of preschool all the way up to the first day of high school. We’ve had joint birthday parties, took our road tests on the same day and even took some of the same classes in high school, meaning we did our homework together.
When I moved to college, I had to start doing things by myself. Although I prefer running errands with other people, I learned to shop by myself, and even ate a few meals alone in Alliot.
One thing I never thought I’d do alone is attend church. But in May I conquered that fear when I wanted to continue going to Mass and didn’t have anyone who wanted to go with me.
When I found myself in the parking lot of a completely unfamiliar church, even I was shocked to find myself pushing against my own comfort levels.
Last weekend, I went to Sunday morning Mass by myself at St. Joseph’s Church, one town over from where I live.
I had been thinking about going for a few weeks, but never thought I’d actually do so. Since I’m not Catholic, I usually feel a bit out of place at church, especially at churches I’m not familiar with.
My biggest peeve with the church in my town is that the priest and Eucharistic ministers don’t bless me when I go up for the Eucharist (being a non-Catholic I obviously don’t accept the bread). I also don’t like how the early morning Mass does not have a choir or any singing (they simply recite the words).
Along my summer travels thus far, I was able to attend Mass at a lovely church in Illinois and a beautiful church in Maine that both had great singing and music, and priests that blessed me when I went up for the Eucharist.
I was hoping to find the same at St. Joseph’s.
As I sat in the church parking lot, I realized I didn’t even know where the entrance was. As usual, I was over 15 minutes early, which left a little too much time for my mind to take over, challenging me to face my ever-growing fears and actually go through with this. I was extremely nervous.
When others started to arrive, I followed them with my eyes to figure out which building was the church (it really wasn’t obvious from my vantage point, since the parish office is located in a completely separate building).
I thought about not going and driving back home. But I’m too cheap to waste all of that gas. I figured the worst that could happen was that I’d have an awkward moment, and the chances that I ran into someone I knew were pretty slim, so I had nothing to lose.
After I mustered up enough courage, I started the long walk in. Along the way, the priest came out from the parish office, as he, too, was walking into the church, and he greeted me and asked how I was doing.
Immediately I felt like I belonged. Something reassured me that I was supposed to be there.
Once I found a seat, I said my prayers and took in my surroundings. That’s when I noticed there were no Bibles in my pew. Or any pew.
Apparently you have to get them in the back, but since I came in from a side door, I didn’t know that, and didn’t have one.
Despite that, I ended up enjoying the Mass. They had a piano player and one singer (I actually enjoy piano music). The priest’s homily discussed finding lost faith, and how the parish welcomes those who haven’t been to church or who haven’t prayed in years.
Things were going fine until I was taken for another loop when it came time to go up for the Eucharist. Unlike any of the churches I’ve been to, St. Joseph’s has ushers who direct the congregation, starting with the back pews. Although I was a little slow to realize this, I did go up and received a blessing from the priest, which I was pleased with.
The song they played/sang during the Eucharist was “Taste and See,” one that is familiar to me from St. Mike’s. I knew the words without even needing a book to follow along with.
After Mass, I felt proud of the fact that I had actually gone. I pushed aside all of my fears and uncertainty and decided that I would try to find a church that appealed to me. And I did. I guess all it takes is a little taste for one to see what else exists out there, even if it means doing so alone.