Granted, I'm no longer a practicing Catholic, but there are priests and nuns in our family and one of my aunts sings at Mass every single day. They're a devout group.
Sometimes, I miss the Catholic church. And sometimes, I do think about returning. But the last time I was at confession was in 1988. I think the penance for not confessing my sins for the past 24 years would keep me busy for the next 24 years.
Many years ago, at least 30 by now, I visited New York with the mother of my sister's ex-husband. Anne Marie was a wonderful woman who was also a devout Catholic so it was no surprise to me, that our first stop was to St. Patrick's cathedral to hear Mass. When, during our tour de New York this past week, we strolled out of Rockefeller Center and past the beautiful church, I insisted that we drop in for a visit.
As my eyes took in all the formal holy grandeur - the vibrant stained glass windows, the majestic Station's of the Cross and Pieta; the altar and dark carved pews, I heard Charlie gasp. I turned my head to see that our son, Henry, was vigorously splashing his toy Spiderman in the open-topped holy water stoup.
But when I rushed over to him, I heard Charlie gasp again, more loudly this time, and turned my head to see that Elizabeth was singing "Happy Birthday" (to Hans Christian Andersen in honor of his 207th birthday that we had discussed just prior) and blowing out the previously lit prayer candles that were inside the entrance way.
Grabbing my heathen children by their hands I whispered, "YOU ARE IN A SACRED HOUSE OF GOD (with a lot of people looking at us) .... DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING!"
Carolyn, meanwhile, had lit a match from one of the unextinguished prayer candles and was using it to light her own candle, while William who was reading the sign requesting a donation for any candles lit, told his sister, "You need to pay for that!" and reached in to his little pocket and extracted two coins which he dropped with a CLANK! CLANK! in to the empty copper bucket on his sister's behalf. I don't know if they have an amplifier hooked up to the donation boxes to deter people from giving change donations, but the noise from my son's two coins reverberated throughout the entire marble cathedral.
Charlie opened his wallet, slipped in a monetary donation of the paper variety, and lit a candle for his mother. He also lit a candle for our family as we all bowed our heads for a moment of prayer. Maybe one day we will return to the Catholic church.
If they'll take us.