Sunday, November 6, 2011



For years I went to Mass alone, looked around, and saw a bunch of Hispanics, Filipinos, what struck me as sort of dreary old people. I kept wondering: Where is my peer? Where are my people? Now I see they’re all my people--and I'm their person, too. This is it. This is his Church.

For most of my life, I would have thought: I don’t want to cast my lot with THESE nutcases! (or boring people, or people with different politics, taste in music, food, books, etc).

Now I know that worshiping--walking toward the light--with people we haven't hand-picked is a microcosm of the whole world, in which things almost never go our way; are almost never the way we want them to be.

It never occurs to us that someone looks at us and thinks: How unpromising. It never occurs to us that it costs someone to be kind to us, just as it costs us to be kind to them. I always think, Oh poor Jesus, with the doilies and the lame statues. Maybe he likes fussy tcothchkes.

Everybody overlooks somebody, some huge group or groups in whom they’re not interested, who can’t do anything for them, who they can’t fix, who aren’t stimulating or noteworthy. Only Christ loves with all his heart the poor, the rich, and “the mediocre.” The invisible, “small” people who no-one much takes any account of. The mediocre parts of each of us. The people who are neither well-educated or wealthy or sophisticated on the one hand, nor, on the other, poor enough to be “the poor.” The people who none of us tend to be much interested in and who hold the whole thing together: the Church, the world.

More and more I ponder: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’" [Mt. 21:42].

We all think our taste is best. We come and we consent to taste that isn’t ours. We consent not to have things our way because we have found the pearl of great price. We've sold everything we have in exchange for something no-one else can see!


  1. David DeAtkine, Jr., MDNovember 6, 2011 at 8:11 PM

    I loved your books Parched and Redeemed and I find something valuable in what you write every single day. As someone who comes from very far right of where I suspect you are politically, I have the same "who are my people" issues at the Church. I suspect to a communist the Church must appear in league with the capitalists and to the right like myself, the Church sometimes feels positively communistic...and I think that is good. It's like marriage. Men and Women understand each other about as well as cats understand each other-- but lo and behold, we love each other, can't live without each other, and that forces us outside of ourselves in a way we would attempt without that tension.

    So thank God that the Church is a family, and not a club. And may God bless your holy work and this blog.

    Regards, DDD

  2. Great post, Heather! There are parts of it I should like to memorize. I think you and I are both fortunate in that we are intimately acquainted with "big-city" Catholicism -- which in the United States means getting a really good glimpse of the Church in its universality, across ethnic and economic and political lines, and across just about every other line imaginable!

    I loved Dr DeAtkine's comment to the effect that our relationship with the Church is akin to a marriage (and I'm 42 and have always been single, so what I know about marriage could fit inside a thimble with room to spare!) -- and of course, Christ is married to His Church, and so the whole nuptial image is exceedingly apt. Our relationship with the Church does entail accepting the sometimes "difficult" habits and stances of others!

    And yes, yes, yes to the point about "mediocrity" -- or even out-and-out failure! -- being something that Christ is drawn to, and that draws us to Christ. Last night I was reading a reflection by Blessed John Paul II to the effect that Christ meets us exactly at the place where we are not-quite-right, where we are weak and hurting, where we are failing or have failed, where we are sick and sinful.

    And of course, Heather, your gratitude for the Church is most welcome and most infectious, especially in a day when many people delight in throwing tomatoes or bricks at the Church -- at its hierarchs and at the "credulous" people in the pews.

    And about feeling welcome -- who was it (James Joyce, of all people? or someone else?) who said that the Church's motto should be "here comes everybody"! Yes. Give me the irregular people, like me. Give me the people who are seen as "holy in a way" or not quite "acceptable." (I've got some work to do on accepting people, I think. My obsessive concern in the '90s was: yes, welcome people, welcome everybody, but don't rewrite Church teaching to bring them in!) But welcome and acceptance -- the spirit of charity -- the letting people IN rather than keeping people OUT -- has a lot to do with why I'll watch some Catholic programming on cable (Boston's CatholicTV) and why I won't watch others.

    I could say more, but I'll curtail these ramblings here. Suffice it to say: Bravissima!

  3. Sounds like you touched the hem of his garment, he turned and smiled at you. God Bless and keep you.

  4. Wow. The heavens may have opened when I read this post. You have no idea how precisely this was what I needed to read right now. What am I saying? Obviously, you know exactly how much I needed it, having demonstrated here how well you know what you're talking about.

    Forgive my less-than-articulate rambling. I am fantastically grateful that you wrote this and posted it just now. I am likewise grateful for David's and Dylan's comments. My struggle lately has been because of my deep irritation with the rightward political bent of the majority in my parish; but David, see, you've pinpointed and illuminated the saving grace in that struggle for both of us, and I can only hope I get a clue from your insight and start living like I have that clue.

    A Protestant pastor I knew years ago used to say that he thinks the half hour of silence in heaven (Rev. 8:1) will be given so we'll have some time to re-adjust our theology. We think we're so smart, and others we consider less smart annoy us; but man, we are all in for such a shock when the final word on What's What really comes down. Meanwhile, we'd better get clear on how blessed we are to be in the Church, where "here comes everybody."

    Heather, I found your blog just recently and put it in my Google Reader. It's become essential reading. Thank you so much.

  5. Thanks, everybody, and Dr. DeAtkine, I remember you! And am so glad you, along with everybody, weighed in. Yes, the Church is like a marriage, or a family. My impulse is always to run from whatever human contact is uncomfortable, awkward, messy...the problem with that is that ALL human contact is messy, awkward and uncomfortable...It's not that we don't get to, are in fact called to, observe, evaluate, form opinions--but we can simply have no idea of what is going on in the mind and heart of another. We have no idea of another's burdens...We have NO IDEA what Christ is making out of each of us. The whole of Church is a terrible blow to our egos! WE would do it differently...we would "clean it up" to our own specifications...Whether we lean to the right or the left, we need to remember that's what Hitler did...Christ doesn't sanitize; he glorifies, even our weaknesses...

  6. I can think of no better image of the Church then the one in Flannery O'Connor's brilliant short story Revelation. As Ruby Turpin rages at God, she has a vision of heaven and it's not what she expected...

    "“They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away…what she heard were the voices of the souls climbing upward into the starry field and shouting hallelujah.”

  7. Oh Heather this is just inspired...I want to read it again and again to reflect more. It's touched so many parts in me - things I have been thinking about recently and also things I don't really want to think about if I'm honest....
    God has been completely unsubtle with me recently about my need to die to self and take up my cross. About a month now with every talk, article, sermon, scripture passage being on this theme.
    He must increase, I must decrease.
    God bless, Lizzie

  8. Thank you Heather. As I shuffle into our basement chapel with all the senior citizens and sit there and wonder why there are so few 40 something stay at home mothers at daily Mass in my parish, it never occurred to me that the blue haired set may be wondering why I'm crashing their party! Yikes! I guess we shouldn't take ourselves too seriously, because nobody else does!

  9. Lately, I have been struck by the fact that all these people with whom I sit at mass are saints-to-be, by the grace of God. One day, they will be wearing crowns and clothed in white robes. One day, they will shine with glory at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Who am I to be sitting here among them?

    All I can pray is: O Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner, for the great grace of being permitted to sit among these, Your saints-to-be, at the table of the Lamb. May I grow in holiness and charity, that I may be found worthy to sit among them as well.

  10. I'm reading "The Power and the Glory" by Graham Greene. And for some reason your post reminded me of this:

    "But at the centre of his own faith there always stood the convincig mystery -that we were made in God's image-God was the parent, but He was also the policeman, the criminal, the priest, the maniac and the judge. Something resembling God dangled from the gibbet or went into odd attitudes before the bullets in a prison yard or contorted itself like a camel in the attitude of sex"

  11. I love this post.

    I loved reading your Therese book, too. I read it slowly because I couldn't help it, it just made me want to pray.

    You really are so gifted, and courageous. Thank you for writing.

  12. Thanks Heather. Really. I feel like God has been looking at my laziness and has inspired you to write the things I should have thought through myself. Thanks for helping me along on my path.

  13. Amazing ! I don't remember reading anything so moving.

  14. You have no idea how much I needed to read this today. Thank you!

  15. Kinda late to the party here, but thank you for this post, Heather.

    Last Friday, Veteran's Day -- after Mass, I had to leave our chapel in order to do some RCIA stuff -- and the ladies (and some gents) were adoring our Lord and readying themselves for praying the rosary -- and I heard the rosary leader suddenly call out to the others, "Oh, no, I forgot my rosary in my car!" So another woman got up and gave her own rosary to her to use. That left the 2nd woman without a rosary. I know she was perfectly able to pray without it, but I felt that my rosary needed to be used to pray with them even though I had to step out. So I walked over to the 2nd woman and, in trust, gave her my rosary to use.

    Later, as I was kneeling in the main church, listening to them as I was finishing up Prime prayer in the Divine Office, and I felt as though I were bi-locating like the saints -- in two places, praying at the same time. That was cool.
    It must be how the saints feel when we look at their images and they pray with us.

    The 2nd woman was delighted I was still in the church after the rosary and she slipped into the pew next to me, thanking me -- not with words, but with a big grin as she placed my rosary (our rosary now) into my hands.

    Also reminds me that I gotta always have two rosaries with me because you never know!

    As I was leaving and as I always have my wooden rosary in my pocket (so now you know that all my clothes MUST have pockets!), I just pressed my rosary

  16. Stefanie, love it! I think if we all ironed our rosaries the world would be a much better place...thanks so much for this...


I WELCOME your comments!!!