I belonged but I didn’t belong. This was my church but is wasn’t my church.
It was an old church. Ornate. The morning sun shone on the stain glassed windows. The ceiling was painted and etched with details. I could feel the magnificence of the altar.
The priest walked out from behind a door onto the altar. There was no processional. There was no music welcoming the congregation.
I belonged, I knew I did. I am catholic, after all. I was invited to this mass and the meeting that followed. I was there to accept a scholarship from the First Catholic Slovak Union on behalf of my daughter, Hannah, a freshman at the University of Vermont.
The priest began the mass. He spoke Latin. Both the priest and the altar server faced the altar. I scanned the parishioners in front of me. Spotting someone who I could be my silent mentor as I made my way through the mass. I found a woman in a green sweater whose mouth seemed to utter the Latin prayers. I felt comfort with my new found mentor.
The mass continued on – in Latin. The priest and the altar server seemed to speak a silent language. The altar server knew when to help the priest remove a vestment he wore. It was ceremonial. The altar server knew when to ring a bell, when to kneel and stand and when to hold the priests hat. He knew when to put the vestment back on. He knew when to lift the center back of the vestment as the priest held up the communion and then the chalice. They spoke a silent language.
The mass continued on and not being able to understand, I began to observe the people around me. I wondered if any them were here to accept a scholarship on behalf of a family member. Lost in my thoughts, and the Latin, I noticed some women had their heads covered in a lace veil. I counted seven of them. Seven women and one young girl with a veiled head.
When it came time for communion, I eyed my mentor in the green sweater. I watched as she, and all the parishioners, made their way towards the altar. I had noticed the altar was surrounded by a low glass half wall. I wondered how the priest would get off the altar to serve communion. I watched as I rose from my pew. One by one the parishioners in front of me made their way to that glass half wall and knelt. The priest made his way across the altar serving communion one by one. The altar server held the a gold plate under each chin. There were no hands receiving communion, there were no “Amen”s after communion. This was my church but it wasn’t my church.
The mass ended with three Hail Mary’s and a prayer of St Michael the Archangel. I knew the Hail Mary and was familiar with the prayer of St Michael. I found comfort in the English.
The mass ended as the priest exited out the same door he had come from. There was no processional. There was no recessional hymn.
It was mass rich with history and tradition, in a church rich with history and tradition. I was thankful to have been invited and able to attend.
Following the mass, I went downstairs to the annual meeting of the First Catholic Slovak Union. I felt Grandpa Hiza’s presence. He was a proud member of the First Catholic Slovak Union. He was the reason Hannah was receiving this scholarship. I was proud to be there to accept her scholarship on behalf of both Hannah and Grandpa Hiza.