Since this is about my Catholic upbringing, first a confession: I went over five minutes. There, I feel better. 🙂
One of my first memories of going to church was with my grandparents. They were Catholic, my mom was Catholic, and so – *poof* – I was Catholic.
I went to Catholic school for six years (junior high and high school) and became very involved in youth group. I consistently went to Mass (sometimes only because Sr. Thomas Moore scared the crud outta me) graduated and went to college. It was my first public education experience since I was 10 and it was noticeably different. Throughout college I became increasingly uncomfortable with what felt like hypocrisy on my part. I was saying and praying what we, as a parish believed (I didn’t really have a sense of being connected to a church world larger than the parish) while trying to come to grips with feeling deeply that I didn’t actually believe all of the things I was saying.
(I won’t go into details here and I truly don’t wish to offend anyone.)
In a word, I lapsed. I went to church once in a while, always on holy days, and continued to pursue my faith outside the walls of the church. I realized that I still had that “God-sized hole” in my heart and soul that could not otherwise be filled or satisfied but I didn’t know how or where to do that. I missed many things about the church, the most surprising of which was the familiarity of the liturgy.
It took a funeral mass for a relative to make me realize how deeply those Catholic roots ran. I remember opening my mouth at the beginning of certain prayers or during a call and response and having the words just flow out of me as easily as when I had to study them in school. That prayer muscle memory came to life and I effortlessly slipped back in to belonging in that group.
Had I been asked to recite some of those prayers alone, I probably would’ve failed. But standing in a large cathedral, participating in the rituals that were so deeply ingrained, I was able to re-enter the space that seemed forever reserved for me. I didn’t have to consciously think about it; I just *poof* was back in that familiar rhythm.
It continues today, when I find myself in a church similar to my childhood, that I am not just transported back to anything, rather I am reconnected to something that is still a part of me.
That’s why, when I saw the FMF prompt, I had an immediate reaction and then just as quickly, I tried to argue myself out of it. I saw the prompt and my head said COLLect, with the emphasis on the first syllable. As in a structured prayer that has several specific parts which sort of sum up the prayers of the people. Verrry loosely described (CCD was a long time ago) it has an introductory address (Almighty and merciful God…) an acknowledgement (who is worthy of all praise…) a petition (grant us your peace and forgiveness…) a desired result (that we might share that peace with others…) ending with a doxology (the fifty cent word I remember from catechism (through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you…)
There are many things that come to mind when I think of the word collECT. I once loosely collected hearts (until I was then constantly gifted with them and it got out of hand). During a particularly irresponsible time in college, I had a debt sent to collections and was mortified at my immature carelessness. On hikes, I like to collect little bits of stone, feathers, leaves, and such as I’m walking because I never know what little treasures I’ll find. Back in the olden days, I was even known to make an occasional collect call. And one of my favorite Scriptures of all time, speaks of a collection as well.
But after all this time, amid the countless memories and options, my brain opted for a snapshot of a time that is both far away and right here in front of me. A tiny speck in a much larger picture, but one that still guides me with the precision of a compass pointing at true north, and always lead me home.