I can't remember the last time I attended mass, but today, I decided to give First Friday Mass a shot.
I wasn't exactly sure what time I should be at the cathedral. My mom suggested I look into their website for mass times.
7:00am - Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Sacrament of Penance
Since I am not 83 years old, I opted out of the ungodly (no pun intended) first mass of the day and decided to go for the more doable 8:15 schedule.
I wake up at 7:15 and drive to church at 7:30. Except for a few small coughs and wooden pews creaking against the weight of various joints (mostly arthritic, I imagine), the elegant, spacious cathedral was completely quiet.
I find my spot, kneel, sit. Attention deficit moment in 3, 2....
I get up and walk to the back of the church, following an old man who needed the restroom. A woman enters and out of nowhere, I approach her, saying,
'I'm sorry ma'am, but can you tell me where I can go to confession?'
She was middle aged and obviously still sleepy. She pointed toward a side door right next to the wash room.
'You see that door?'
'Yes, but, how do I know if someone is inside? Should I knock?'
'If the red lights are on, it means there's someone inside. Wait until the lights turn green.'
Ah, yes. Red means stop, green means go... even in heaven, I suppose.
Anyway, back to this peculiar instance--yes, I suddenly felt compelled to go to confession.
I did not believe in confession. At all. It's one of those Catholic things I thought was completely unnecessary.
But today, I felt like talking to someone.
The kneeler was extremely hard and hurt my knees. Bad. I was out of church shape.
Finally settled albeit still quite uncomfortable, I nervously tell the priest, who had a thick Indian accent, that my last confession was ten years ago. He calmly responded with an 'Okay.' He had a kind enough voice. I imagined a benign Pagoda from The Royal Tenenbaums behind the screen.
I talk to him about living those ten years focusing on the physical world, going through life's trials on my own, and deliberately refusing God even though I knew I needed His divine intervention.
I tell him about my love for science and everything that is tangible and true. There's that word--true--which I had, for ten years, defined as the things I can see with my eyes and touch with my hands.
I tell him more until I run out of ten years worth of stories to tell.
I pause and wait for my penance. I mentally calculated five hundred Hail Mary's, based on those ten years worth of what my Catholic upbringing would call utter transgression.
Benign, calm, and kind Pagoda clears his throat and says,
'God loves you.'
I keep waiting for his order of five hundred Hail Mary's and walking the rest of the way back to my pew on my knees. But he spends the next couple of minutes telling me about how beautiful this world we live in truly is, how remarkable and blessed the sciences were, and how, despite how utterly magical all of these were, I was still missing out on a life that means so much more than what we can merely see with our eyes and touch with our hands.
'There is so much more to life, my dear daughter-in-Christ. I urge you to start seeking that life by opening up your logical mind and curious heart to the wonders of the intangible and spiritual.'
And my confession was done.
I walked out of church ready to take on that journey to appreciating the intangible and spiritual. I found peace that day, but also excitement. I can see today with my eyes and feel it with my hands. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but this strange unknown makes life so much more fascinating, and meaningful.