Mass was ...divine (sorry 'bout that). We lucked into a service with the partial choir, the guitarist, and a baptismal party.
The church is relatively recently renovated, with the altar moved more to the middle of the congregation, and with the Vatican II approved partial-immerson baptismal font installed at the entrance. The outside courtyard is very lovely as well, with its own water feature of Mary on a pillar, water cascading through her hands into a pool.
We sat in reserved seating, since the baptism family didn't quite fill their space. At first I was "forcing" being part of the community, but as soon as I discovered that attitude, I switched to one of asking to be welcomed. The shift created a tangible change in the air around us, as I worked to surrender my "right" to be there, and instead opened myself to the gift of being in their presence.
And yes, the baby cried out in shock when the water touched her.
It also happened to be the going away Mass for one of the priests. He had come to the parish to go on sabbatical, but then the parish priest got sick. So the visiting priest stepped up and took on the job. There was a "Going Away" reception in the hall, so of course I guided the children over for some free danishes, brownies, juice and coffee. The coffee was for me. They get plenty amped just picking on each other.
"Dad! We don't even go here! We can't eat their food! You promised we could get croissants at Albertson's!"
"Yes, I did, but that was before this opportunity came up." Caitlan said something along the lines of God will provide, eh Dad? "Look, they are offering the food, we can take it and eat it without guilt, but if you like, we can also sign Father's going away card." That appealled to them both: signing a card for someone who would have no idea who they were.
It's a very welcoming congregation. At the reception, I started up a couple of smalltalks with some of the older crowd. Then this young hottie came over and introduced herself. College kid, I thought. Strong, self-assured, bold. We talked about this and that for a little bit, and then her equally beautiful mother swooped in, gently though firmly protective.
The kid "just turned 19" said her mom. The daughter smiled at me. We chatted about how far they drive to come to this church, and we called the priest over and talked about the kinds of things you talk about with that group dynamic. And I noticed something:
In a dozen subtle ways, the mother let the daughter know she saw her as a little girl. And the daughter receded before my eyes: still bright and alert, but less bold; more little-girl bright rather than young woman assertive. It was fascinating to watch. Makes me think about how to grow my relationship with my own daughter, to discover how to be the parent of a grown child.
So Caitlan, when you read this, know that I'm thinking about that, and will be trying on different ways to be your Dad.
PS thanks for enjoying Mass at that church, with that congregation. I felt very restored, and you helped with that.
PPS I just heard from Andy of SOL, a housing collective down near the Fruitvale District of Oakland, and we get to stay with them for a few nights! Yippee!!! No more crappy fast food for me! Ugh, my innards are so congested. I'll probably spend the first couple of days just getting cleaned out.
Hee hee, and my family will get to eat the kind of food I really like, and they won't be allowed to complain!!!