We tend to rotate between masses at the church we’re attending. Depending on what time Benjamin wakes up on Sundays, and now, in our new trend, depending on how often he’s up during the night in the hours before mass, will decide what time we attend mass – 7:30 or 9.
We generally prefer 9 because the message is so clear and well-spouted. The priest at the 7:30 mass is lovely, but we’re never really quite sure what he’s getting at.
Anyhow, since Benjamin has started becoming wholly animated all day, every day, we’ve begun sitting in the “Bawl Room” at the back of the church near the nursery, the “Bride’s Room” (yes, the church is so big it has a room just for brides) and the rest rooms.
Two weeks ago we attended 7:30 mass and were sitting in the Bawl Room. During the first reading an older woman walked into the room behind us toting a large rolling suitcase and another bag over her shoulder. She did not look haggard or tired or homeless, but she was traveling with an awful lot of luggage and seemed a bit out of place.
She went directly into the bathroom and didn’t come out for a while. I take notice of things like this when I’m supposed to be listening to the word of God.
Since childhood, before ever doing something daring or nerve-wracking or whenever I’m in a situation where something unexpected could happen, I imagine what the newspaper headline would read if an unforeseen tragedy occurred and I was involved. ”American tourists in South Africa killed in rhino attack.” “Amusement ride at county fair crushes local woman.” “Girl sent by parents to get a gallon of milk: never returned.”
For some reason, I had a little pit in my stomach as I tried to imagine just what was taking her so long in the bathroom. What on earth was she doing in there? Should I alert someone that there is a woman with a lot of luggage in the bathroom and she’s been in there for too long? If you see something, say something? But what did I really see?
And then, just after the homily, the door to the bathroom opened and she came out, with her bags. Her clothes were changed and her hair was pulled back. She stood behind us. Chris was wrangling our busy baby and offered to get her a chair. She politely declined, coo-cooed at Benjamin and flashed him a huge smile which he reciprocated. And then she walked out of the room with her things. Benjamin followed her with his eyes.
As we prepared to receive communion, she walked up to the baptismal font, which is in the middle of the church, and dipped her hand in the water. She blessed herself.
Then, she dipped her fingers in again and used the water to smooth her hair back. She looked into the water, presumably at her own reflection.
I immediately felt peace. It became clear to me she was just an angel, stopping by to remind me not to get so worked up about things I can’t control, and to calm my imagination and lasso it before it runs completely wild. To be present, to be thoughtful, but also to pay attention to those around me without judging too harshly.
When I came back from communion she was gone, as I knew she would be.