I went to Church the other day. It had been a while since I last went. I remember being with Inez then at the Church of the Holy Sacrifice in UP Diliman to hear a weekday mass (no, she didn't force me to go). Last Saturday, Melmac and I went to hear an anticipated mass at the Padre Pio of Pietrelcina Chapel in Libis (no, she didn't force me to go either). There had been around twelve years in between those visits.
I had been at Padre Pio once before but it was only for taking Melmac and Taffy. I stayed with Mang Nestor while they attended the service. I'm not a church guy. At least, not since I was in college.
Being a sacristan in grade school, I knew a lot about the ceremony. We were quizzed regularly about it because there were so many things to do and we just had to know how to do them. I still always got the order of serving water and wine wrong, though— it's a good thing that Father Remirez was a patient man. He will always have a special place in my family's collective memory.
But the experience from last Saturday, though, was a bit jarring. (No, I didn't get myself in flames when I received Holy Communion.) Since it had been a long time from when I last took mass seriously, a lot of things seem to have changed. Chief of them, the response to “peace be with you...“, which is repeated several times during the service. It turns out, the response these days is “...and to your spirit” or something to that effect. I honestly, don't get it. I still prefer to respond with, in my mind, “...and also with you.“ I don't know if it's because it's just how I was taught or it just resonates better with me.
Peace be with you. And also with you. And everyone's at peace.
One complaint I would make is that, in Catholic services in these parts, it's so typical for parents to let their children play even when mass is ongoing. While I have nothing against children playing, I wish their parents would mind them better especially at a time when other people around them need some solemnity.
Then again, peace. I suppose that if there is really any peace to be had at Church, it still has to come from within. Little children, unruly thoughts, devils putting weight on your shoulders. It shouldn't matter what they do. We all have to find our peace regardless.
The Gospel was great. It doesn't matter if people think I'm a crazy fool. But I will take it as a personal welcome back message. It was John 13:31-35. Look it up, I will not repeat it. But it's basically something that I have tried to live by. Even when I believed in other gods. Even when I felt that I was agnostic. Even when I couldn't believe in anything of that sort.
Love was the message.
And I will take it to heart as I have always had.