I'm not a religious person. I don't even really consider myself Christian- though I celebrate the secular version of Christian holidays. But I feel moved to talk about faith and religion today.
This weekend was one of the most difficult times I've had in my life. My cousin Patrick took his own life last week and we had to pay our respects this weekend. On Friday my mom and I drove up to Michigan to help his family with last minute preparations and to provide our support. That night, his sister, asked if I'd come to a youth service and grief support meeting that their church was putting on for the kids who had known him. I had no idea what to expect but wanted to be supportive of my cousin so I agreed to attend.
I'm so glad I did. The service was beautiful. My favorite moment was when each of us present was welcomed to come up, light a candle, and place it in these planters at the front of the altar. My cousin and I went up together and it was peaceful and beautiful and so overwhelming. After everyone had a turn they turned all the lights off and we sat there, in silence, just remembering. Later I accompanied my cousin up to sit in front of the candles and I was just amazed at her strength in that moment. She knelt there and prayed and it was so touching to me. I remember looking at her and smiling because I could tell how much comfort the church and her prayers were bringing her.
Several of these young people, from 15-20 years old chose to stay in the sanctuary. Chose to continue to pray, and seemed to draw so much from it. It was one of the most beautiful and emotional things I've ever witnessed.
The next day at the funeral mass the church made a point of inviting those of us who are not Catholic to participate in the mass by going up and getting blessed during communion. I appreciated that so much. I was feeling so vulnerable and sad and there was just something comforting about being blessed by the priest. I walked up, arms crossed over my chest as instructed, and I remember him setting down the host, smiling, and touching my head.
I have no idea what he said, and frankly it doesn't matter at all, I felt included. Some people probably think it's weird for a non-believer to feel so strongly about a mass, but I knew how much this church meant to his family and how much it was helping them and I wanted to be a part of that.
St. John Neuman in Canton, MI showed me what I think a church should be. It was welcoming and warm and supportive to it's members in the darkest of times. I haven't been converted, but I have a deeper appreciation for what a strong faith community can give you- especially one that seems so open.
Not going to lie though- I still can't get over the whole Communion thing-- the songs about the body and blood of Christ made me think of Zombies... Is that something lifelong Catholics just get used to?
To my dear dear cousin E if you're reading this. You are an amazing woman. Your poise through all of this has been impressive. I love you and wish you peace.