A few weeks ago, three of my siblings and my mother made a reverse exodus from Texas to Oklahoma to visit me for a few days (and exhibit their dogs in a dog show – you know, purely coincidental). My youngest sister Aeren (who just turned 7) was one of the lucky three siblings that got to experience
Hell Tulsa construction at its finest, but was a fabulous sport about it. However, as the week wore on and we inched closer and closer to Sunday, she began to ask the all-important question that every traveling PK faces at some point in any vacation.
“So, when are we going to church?”
For me, the heart of this question was always “Hey – are we like, actually going to sleep in on Sunday? For once? Really??”, but Aeren. . .not Aeren. Aeren lives, breathes, prays church. She knows every song. She knows the idiosyncratic responses. If she were Catholic she’d be able to say the Mass better than most priests. Her response to everything wrong in the world is an immediate prayer, filled with all the charismatic sincerity in her little girl heart – and Heaven help you if you try and shut the prayer down any sooner than her spirit deems appropriate.
“We’re not going to Church this weekend, honey,” my mom responded – with a tiny, tiny bit of exasperation at repeating this for the umpteenth time in days.
“Unless you want to go to Mass with me!” I quipped. I glanced at mom to make sure that this was, in fact, not breaking some unspoken interdenominational family peace treaty, and she simply shrugged.
“Unless you go to Mass with Kassie.”
So, 7 am Sunday, I woke up, got Aeren dressed and in her wheel-chair, dragged my 16-year-old brother Logan along for the ride, and we headed to the (very beautiful) Holy Family Cathedral in downtown Tulsa for their first Mass experience ever. I tried to give Logan a last-minute rundown on wha the liturgy was going to be like, but ended up confusing the kid more than anything.
“Just. . .stop saying the Lord’s Prayer after ‘deliver us from evil’, and read the missalette.” Yeah, I know. Less than helpful.
The usher asked us to leave her wheel-chair in the back of the sanctuary, which made transporting her more than a little difficult, but we managed – and I made it to the confession line without having to add cursing-brusque-ushers to my examine of conscience.
When it came time for the readings, I couldn’t help but smile at the inclusion of “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you”. I know the theological implications of this statement are far less literal, but standing there with my brother and my sister – one born in Texas the other in the mountains of China – I prayed silently for the orphans left behind, my eyes fixed on the red glow of the tabernacle.
“Your church is really different, Kassie.” Aeren informed me while playing with my chapel veil in the back seat, in the midst of her rousing rendition of Shout to the Lord.
“It’s a different church, babe. Same Jesus.”
“Dude. It’s only 9:15,” Logan said as we picked up bagels for the rest of the family after Mass. “They haven’t even started sound check at home and I’ve already been to church and watched people cannibalize Jesus.” . . .yeah. That’s my brother. (#facepalm).
So, fellow converts, how do y’all prepare friends and family for first-time Mass visits?