Only Clare and I went to church this past Sunday morning (Ken took the others to our usual service Saturday evening but we were tired of people from two outings that day). A minute after settling into a pew, a lady slid into the space directly in front of me and I clenched my teeth. She is publicly, happily pro-choice, once announcing that she finally became Catholic when she found out that she could be pro-choice and Catholic (oh yay). How can I possibly concentrate on Jesus with this person in view? Mass is ruined now. Then something worse dawned on me. Since we are not acquainted and she does not know of my disgust, she was probably going to turn around and extend her hand toward mine to wish me the Peace of Christ and I'd be expected to clasp hers and wish her the same thing. What to do? Where to go? How to avoid this? Going to the ladies' room wouldn't work because I'd visited right before church and Clare knew it and I did not want to explain to her that I was not going to shake that lady's hand. I thought about coughing here and there throughout the liturgy so that when the time came for the sign of peace, I could smile and shrug while mouthing, Coughing; but again, bad example to Clare. Plus I didn't want to smile. So I stewed.
I'd love to say that the Scripture readings and psalm singing convicted me to kindness.
I'd love to say that my beautiful surroundings soothed me to sweetness.
But it was a reminder of the prayers from a fiery priest that I'd spent the previous day with in a mini retreat that spurred me on to a better way. He called it "Healing Litanies" and it took us an hour to read through together. There were about fifty ladies, from young women in their twenties to white-haired grannies, all murmuring these words ~ most of us on our knees (Father Shields has pastored in Siberia for twenty years and told us that the Russians "love to suffer on their knees," so we competitive Americans remained on our knees!
Some of the statements we prayed:
A Confession of Faith that included ~
* Lord Jesus I trust in You
*Lord Jesus I believe that out of love for me, You saved me
*Lord Jesus I believe that Your gift of life brings peace
Please forgive ~
Please heal ~
*My mental anguish
I ask You, Lord ~
*To open my heart
*To forgive others
*To desire Your will
I am sorry for ~
*The times I have turned away from You
*The times I have held resentment in my heart
*The times I was not Your instrument of peace
I seek refuge ~
*As I abandon my aggression
*As I abandon my fears
*As I abandon my worries
Jesus, let Your cross be my joy ~
*When I am tempted
*When I am not confident in Your mercy
*When I am in misery
Holy Spirit ~
Grant us a compassionate heart, Lord ~
*For the poor and homeless
*For victims of war and epidemics
*For those whose faith is tested
(There were many more prayers under each heading. It was sobering, yes, but also hopeful to be a part of a large group of women praying to love Jesus more, to love His people more, to love all people more. The simmering pentecostal in me was very close to hollering some "Amen's" and "Yes Lord's!")
Back in Mass, I realized that I had already prayed for this lady the day before. That Jesus loved this lady. That she was sitting with me in church and we were connected. That shaking her hand did not mean that I loved abortion. That I absolutely did wish the peace of Jesus to be with her.
When she turned around and held out her hand, mine was already stuck out to meet her, my smile was totally genuine, and I practically shouted, "Peace of Christ be with you!"
There is hope in peace. Even such a little bit of peace as a handshake. For the times I have not been an instrument of Your peace, Lord forgive me. He does and there is peace.