Over Easter break, I had an intense moment of clarity. Admittedly, Easter has always been my least favorite holiday. The foundations of celebration is an overwhelmingly beautiful reminder of the hope that religion can provide to people. However, in my humble opinion, the holiday in its present form, at least how I’ve experienced it, is nothing more than a ceremony of pomp and circumstance. I was not looking forward to witnessing the parade of overdressed soccer moms that day at church, which left me in a less-than-celebratory spirit. However, I encountered a rather brave soul at Mass that I would like to address, an unknown woman meditating in the midst of Easter Mass.
Dear brave soul: thank you. Indeed, you are as common in a suburban Roman Catholic Church as a paycheck with less than six figures, but maybe that’s why I feel that I understand you. You see, I have struggled with being Catholic since I was old enough to think about what it really meant. The Jesus that I thought I knew loved the ones no one else did, ate with the hated and spoke with the voiceless. He took risks, which I’m guessing made him look pretty ridiculous sometimes. In my youth, I saw religion being used as a force of hate as opposed to a force for love, which truly confused my budding brain. Going to church became painful, because when I let myself sit down and be honest with myself, religion had never given me comfort, but had made me nervous and confused. I looked around the congregation of well-intentioned but unable-to-go-out-of-their-safe-suburban-McMansion- people, and I want the risk-takers. The ones that are able to look past the hyper-political church dogmas and see the root of Christianity: love of one another. Where are the martyrs of El Salvador? Where are the Dorothy Days? Quite frankly, I haven’t found them here yet.
So that Easter morning, the thought of returning to this church worried me. I have gone to Mass my entire life to bring comfort to my parents, whom I love more than life and would do anything as to not hurt them. As I fiddled precariously with my breakfast, a soft tear fell down my face, and with one, came a river. My dad quickly said, “Mary Frances, are you seriously crying over your sub-par breakfast?” I smiled, and said no. I really am that deeply pained about my struggle with religion, which is hard for people to grasp. I didn’t want to hurt them, though, so I wiped my tears from my face and eggs.
I walked into church prepared to be disappointed. Every time that I go, I want so badly to feel something. It hasn’t happened yet.
That Easter, however, there was a wonderfully out of place woman sitting in the back, not in a pew, but on the floor. She was draped in a loosely-knitted forest green sweater, delicate flowers sewn into the yarn. Her legs were in lotus position, her smile-wrinkled dusted eyes were half closed, and her mouth was curled at the ends in a warm grin. Oh, how I wanted her courage. She seemed so comfortable on the floor of the church that had caused me such confusion. I admired her security in a building that has seldom given me comfort.
I realized, though, that her location really had nothing to do with it. Heck, she made no sense comparatively to the stuffed shirts around her. She was having a conversation with God, that’s all.
I think that she’s exactly what I needed. Maybe she was God’s small present to me, in the form of a beautiful, aged hippie. I needed to see a risk taker, a person, who like Jesus, looked a little ridiculous amongst the rest of the population. Thank you, kind soul.