Today my daughter and I wandered into church.
New to town and in search of someone/anyone in the rectory, we’d wandered in there a couple months ago. Apparently to her three year-old mind that signaled a routine. So today after we finally did complete that unfinished business in the rectory, she wanted to go into the church again.
I hadn’t been planning on it. I’d finished my list of tasks and was headed to the car. I began to say we were done and could go home – when I paused. Why couldn’t we go into the church? We didn’t have to rush home. And even so, I make time to do all sorts of ultimately extraneous errands. Why shouldn’t I stop to spend a moment in the quiet sanctuary of the church? And at this point in time, in my life, in society, a prayer could certainly be used.
Angela and I entered the dark hush of the church, a sacred feeling sweeping over me in a way that just doesn’t happen with the hubbub of a congregation-filled Sunday. We quietly trod towards the sanctuary, my eyes on the golden glint of the tabernacle and rosy glow of the Christ candle, Angela’s moving from side to side across the pews.
“Where are all the people?” she asked.
Years of Catholic devotion springing to life through the sense memory of approaching and genuflecting on the altar, I continued forward without answering. After we both genuflected and crossed ourselves – she doing a surprisingly good job for a three year-old – she asked again.
“Why aren’t the people here?”
Just like my initial response to her request to go in the church, I had a quick and logical answer – it’s not Sunday, there’s no mass right now.
And then I saw this beautiful little being standing next to me, a human in miniature, not even as tall as the altar, asking her question again in her sweetly innocent voice.
“The people should be here,” I said.
“Yes, they should,” she said.
I knelt down and focused on the image of Jesus on the cross, His presence in the tabernacle, the light from the candle. I acknowledged all that He gave us and how all we do is ask for more. And then I asked for more. I asked for strength to give Him my all; to turn it all over to Him. I prayed to remember this lesson my daughter had unwittingly given me – to go to Jesus; that I should be with Him there and always.
And I suppose, somewhere, inside me, I knew this. I chose today, a week before Christmas, the midst of a week of trials and tribulations all around me, to officially register at the parish – a task I’d been meaning to do since moving in. Why now? The same reason I agreed when Angela suggested we enter the church. Something inside me needed this lesson, this reminder, this preparation of Advent that always seems to fall short other years.
And it is no small wonder that it came from a small child of God.