Friday, December 17, 2010

What People Pray For at 8 a.m. Weekdays

There is a little country church four blocks from my house and occasionally, I attend weekday mass.  Self-help books are always saying that if you practice silence, you’ll get guidance from God.  I would like a big fat message from above. “Hello, there.  I’ve been thinking about you a lot and I have some definite ideas about how you could lead the life that I had in mind when I created you."  The truth?  I don’t have a clue what I want God to say.   Church forces me to slow down and think.   The candlelight is hypnotic. I usually arrive late for mass and wearing my worst shoes because they’re near the door.  Shoes have defined my life because I’m short.  I feel invisible in church although I’ve studied every person at the daily attendance and when I look out on the men and women, tidy and intent, I feel what I can only describe as affection. There are very few people under fifty at daily mass.  Some are so old they have to hang on to the pew as they make their way down the aisle.  One of the women who works in the sacristy stopped me one morning. She kissed my cheek and said,  “I see you praying every day.”  I wonder if I’m praying or just using the church.   I always take communion even though I haven’t been to confession since high school. Perhaps the rule about mortal sin and taking communion has changed along with the Latin.  I liked the Latin. Et in terra pax hominibus, bone voluntatis.  Who wouldn’t like that?
There’s another event during weekday mass.   Between the Gospel and the Offertory people call out what they want from God and the congregation chants: Lord hear my prayer. This is a brilliant enticement on the part of the church because it gives people the idea that a miracle might happen.  It makes church going exciting.  You can just jump in with an entry. 
Most people ask, “for a special intention.”  One man asks for the same thing every day. He says, "for those traveling today, Lord hear my prayer."  Maybe he knew someone who was killed in a crash or derailment.   One woman prays for “our beloved deceased.”  Occasionally someone will mention a real name: “for my son, John, who has a birthday today.” I haven't heard anyone ask for money or fame. 
If it weren’t so crass and unreligious, I would say:  “Lord help me sell a boat load of e-books today.”

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