I have not seen the inside of a church for more than a year now. One Tuesday last September, we tried going to the Redemptorist Church but two security volunteers met us at the entrance gate to advise us that while we can get inside the compound, we can not enter the church since we were senior citizens.
Please stay in the car, one of them courteously said after taking our temperature. A lay minister will approach you if you want to receive communion.
I am not particularly pious but, until the pandemic, I made it a point to go to church on Sundays and holidays of obligation. It’s a carry-over from my childhood days, I think. I was an altar boy in grade school and spent two summers in the convent, scrubbing floors and wiping windows when I was not serving during the mass with two other boys.
We also waited on the parish priest and his guests, mostly seminarians who come visiting our town during the summer. One of them asked me if I wanted to be a priest and for a brief moment, the thought of wearing a sotana and a roundish shaved patch on the crown of my head titillated me.
In the end, I decided against it, actually my brother did it for me. Every now and then, I would wonder what if I had taken that leap of faith and entered the seminary. Not that I have any regrets on the life that I have chosen. The many rough patches notwithstanding, I still consider my life adequately blessed. Still, Father Frank, how would it have fit me?
Speaking of the rough patches, it was during one of those that I stopped going to church. It’s a long story, something I have badly tried to bury in the past as I cringe every time I remember how wrongly I have blamed Someone for the things that I brought upon myself.
That realization was long in coming and it happened during the first time that I reluctantly went back to church after a long absence. The words the priest said in his homily still ring in my ears: We blame God when bad things happen to us but when the good times were rolling, have you even paused to say thank you to Him or were you thinking that everything you had, you earned?
I cannot and will not claim I have become a better person for the experience. But I have learned to acknowledge my limitations and rein in my ambitions, to not worry about earning scorn and not care for praise. But most of all, I have learned to say thank you for even the littlest favors that I receive to Him who made it possible.
I miss church. I miss the choir, no longer caring that they needed more practice; I miss the little children and the challenge their running around and screaming pose to my staying in communion with Him; but most of all, I miss the sense of community, the happy feeling of being a member of one true church.
The church doors will not be locked to people my age forever. Soon, they will reopen. And for the privilege of being able to wait for that time I am grateful.