I got to the church a bit early last night, and sat in the car contemplating the fact that I was about to once again walk into a mass.
The usual feelings surfaced quickly. Mostly panic. A little bit of incredulity, but mostly panic.
I panic when I think about how unfamiliar this all still feels. I panic when I consider the fact that at some point I’m going to have to break the news to my very protestant family that I’m planning to join the Catholic church. I panic when my heart begins to break as I consider the forthcoming disunity that this decision may cause.
And then I get out of the car and I slip into the church. I dip my fingers in the font and cross myself with holy water (ignoring the “what’s the deal with holy water, anyway?” question that crosses my mind, tucking it away for contemplation at a later date). I find a seat near the back of the main section, and I try not to feel awkward. I work to ignore the voice in my head that screams that I am an impostor here, and that it’s clear to everyone around me that I’m not a Catholic and I clearly don’t belong. I know it’s not true, but in those moments each week as I sit in the sanctuary (do Catholics even call it a sanctuary?) I feel just a bit like there is a flashing neon light over my head that somehow announces that I don’t feel like I belong.
Mass starts, and I let my spirit sink into it. It’s ever so slowly becoming more familiar, more natural. I feel like I’m missing less cues (though some of the motions I don’t understand, even as I imitate them, while others are rapidly beginning to feel necessary, holy, and welcome.) I soak in the scripture that permeates the mass, and feel the longing begin to rise powerfully within me as we move towards the Eucharist. I laugh at the jokes in the homily, and make mental notes of things I want to remember. I sing and engage with my body
And as I walk out after the mass has ended, dipping my fingers again in the holy water and crossing myself (and still ignoring that question for later contemplation), as I head back to the car I’ve borrowed for the evening, I’m struck by this thought: I may start every week with panic, but in every mass Jesus has been oh so faithful to meet with my spirit, and to confirm that I am in the right place – that this is the journey He has called me to. And that quiet confirmation in my spirit each week is enough to keep me coming back – to fight off the panic one more time, and engage again in this form of worship that still feels mostly foreign.