Monday, November 30, 2009

"Lord, have mercy....."


To my left was a life-size statue of Jesus with hands turned inward towards His heart. Colored votive candles shimmered at His sandaled feet.

My eyes kept welling up and occasional tears ran down my flushed cheeks. I was
soooo self-conscious. Thank God I sat in a back pew off to the side so no one would notice.


It had been twelve
years since I last went and something I wanted to do for the longest time. After over a decade, I finally attended mass last week. I decided upon evening mass at St. Peter's Church in the Loop, hoping it wouldn't be too crowded with all the commuters heading home from work.

Feeling awkward and out of place, I started to cry as soon as I sat down. Oh, and I forgot to genuflect on my way in.
Damn.

Everyone was nicely spread out so I had my own little space. I am NOT one for crowds! There was an assortment of people present. Older, younger, somewhere in between. Businessmen, housewives, and some homeless strewn about. All at church praying for different things.

When mass actually started I didn't know all the procedures or phrases to reply with. With folded hands, I rose when everyone else stood and knelt when everyone else did. I was more of a quiet observer than an active participant that day.

The priest read from
the Book of Daniel and said to the attentive crowd, "Do what you can, in difficult circumstances, with faith."

I had to keep turning toward the wall and looking down, embarrassed someone might see the tears streaming down my face.

Emotional not because of what I'd done in life but
what I didn't do. I've knowingly let my life slip by and am NOT living up to my full potential. Wasting life is as big a sin as any in my opinion.

Needless to say, going to mass was a roller coaster of an experience but I'm glad I eventually did it.

Will I go back? I sure hope so. There are very specific things missing in my life right now and I think I found one of them that evening.

Next time though I'll remember to genuflect....and to bring plenty of tissues!
Lord, have mercy.

49 comments:

Steven Anthony said...

Emotional not because of what I'd done in life but what I didn't do. I've knowingly let my life slip by and am NOT living up to my full potential. Wasting life is as big a sin as any in my opinion.(WOW do i understand these words)

I think it is wonderful that you went to mass, and the tears, i think you shouldnt be embarressed by them, I think showing emotion is healing, and what better place to do it than church....Ive often said you are stronger than you think, I believe this shows it.

peace

Michael Rivers said...

You never know when you'll have an experience like that. To remind you how important life is.

dkm said...

Forgiveness is giving up hope for a better past. Forgive yourself, Dean, and move forward to a better, happier future.

Dane said...

Genuflection is only the outward remembrance of our hearts inward humbling itself before god. Crying is also very good for the soul (I've been doing that a lot lately). I need to write soon.

Donnie said...

Wow, I've been really considering going back to mass myself the last several months. It's been almost 20 years for me. I think you've encouraged me to finally do it.

naturgesetz said...

Genuflecting is far less important than being there.

Congratulations on taking a big step!

Obviously, I'm not he one to judge whether you should have done things that you didn't do. But I will say that you shouldn't feel guilty for things that seemed right at the time and which only hindsight shows were unwise or unfruitful.

BTW that message from Daniel applies to all of us, but you seem to be in especially difficult circumstances right now, so it's a good one for you.

Clare said...

Well I got all emotional after reading that! I am Church of England (protestant) and have never been to a mass. I haven't been to a church service in ten years. Silly question: Can I go to a mass or do I have to be of catholic faith?

madtexter (corey james) said...

Dean, you are not alone. I'm the son of a retired Baptist minister, and I haven't actively attended church since I was 18 years old and left for college. I have gone here and there (you know, Easter, Christmas and such, but I think of myself as a spiritual person now. I know that seems like a copout. But when you've been in church from day 1, Sunday school, worship service, Sunday evening service, Wednesday night prayer meeting and Thursday night youth club, you kinda get your fill after nearly two decades.

I'm not Catholic, but I do go to the high holy day masses with hubby. I feel like a fish out of water, not knowing all the phrasing and traditions of the Catholic church, but I do get a sense of fulfillment afterwards. And like you, if I went alone to mass, I would prefer to sit away from others - I feel more in touch with the surroundings than if I had people tightly packed all around me.

Keep on keepin' on, my friend.

Anonymous said...

you regret not genuflecting and yet you take a picture of Christ, you were to embarrassed to look up but you remember the book of scripture quoted. Dean, you ring hollow here, grow up and take responsibility for your self and your seldom practiced faith/guilt.

Manon Doyle said...

Great post Dean!! Maybe be you have found what you need. I speak to my spirit guides on a daily basis and it helps me through the hard spots. I can feel good things coming to you!!

Dean Grey said...

Manon!

Thank you!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

madtexter!

I'm glad you understand where I'm coming from, Corey!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

naturgesetz!

I knew you'd be proud of me!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Clare!

I got emotional writing all of that down!

Sorry, I'm not an expert on the subject. I don't know if you can or cannot attend mass if you're not catholic. I don't see why not though.

Maybe someone more educated on the matter can chime in here and answer this question?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anonymous!

I'm quite confused by your comments.

How exactly do I ring hollow? I was embarrassed because I don't like others seeing me upset. I remembered the Book of Daniel scripture because I could relate to what was being said to me.

An explanation would be appreciated (e-mail me or leave another comment).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Michael!

I agree!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Donnie!

That makes my day! I'm glad my story is encouraging you a bit.

Let me know if you end up going or not!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dane!

Sorry to hear you've been crying as well. Yes, definitely get back to writing soon!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

dkm!

I will try!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Steven!

I'm saddened you can relate to those words.

"I've often said you are stronger than you think, I believe this shows it."

That sentence made me smile!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I appreciate EVERYONE sharing their thoughts and opinions on this subject!!

-Dean

Tracey Clarke said...

My friend, we are ALL in the same boat. We ALL have fallen way short of God's glory. The good news is that we can be new people in Christ, fully forgiven, fully accepted....whether we go to Mass or genuflect or not. Though these may be great religious traditions with human meaning and benefit, they have little to do with salvation and we make a great mistake if we believe that practicing these things makes us right with God.
Keep seeking....keep knocking....keep asking.
Try to connect with another person next time... this is how the hands and feet of Jesus are manifest.

naturgesetz said...

@ Clare — You may certainly go to a Catholic Mass whenever you want. Happy to have you with us. The only thing is that as a rule the Church reserves the receiving of Holy Communion for those who are members (in "full communion" with the RC Church and our Pope). So, while you're welcome to listen to the scriptures proclaimed and join in all the prayers, we'd request that you not come forward to receive Communion.

Aries said...

I see a beautiful soul behind this post.

randuwa said...

Clare,

No one is excluded from attended, only confirmed Catholics are permitted to take communion. I am an episcopalian, and when I've taken communion at a Catholic mass, I was not struck down by lightning, nor did the priest ask for my membership card! ;-)

Dean,

You post is beautiful. I would not consider myself a man of faith, (more a child of reason), but there is something in the ritual that can be profoundly comforting at times.

Dave said...

"...what I didn't do. I've knowingly let my life slip by..."

You're only 30! You aren't old enough to have let your life slip by!

Relax and don't beat yourself up about it (there are enough a**holes out there who will do that for you).

Most interesting people haven't figured out what they want to do until they're well past 30.

Dean Grey said...

Dave!

So does that mean I'm "interesting"? *(~_^)

You most definitely can be wasting your life even at 30, IMHO.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

randuwa!

Thanks for the help, Randy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

naturgesetz!

I knew you'd come through for me with an answer!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aries!

That's very kind of you to say!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tracey!

I'm aware that salvation is much more than mass and ritual.

Try to connect with another person there next time? Hmmm.....I'll see but it depends on how comfortable I feel.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks to all of you for the thoughtful comments!

-Dean

jason said...

Wonderful post!

"Wasting life is as big a sin as any in my opinion."

You're so right there...and one I think we're all too guilty of. I know I am.

Clare said...

Randuwa & Naturgesetz, thank you for your answers. I am now very excited to attend mass and I promise no communion.

Thank you for this post Dean.

stanw said...

Dean,

Your post is written in such a way that I can feel your tears. It is my feeling that God was drawing you close and He saw your tears and felt your pain. I as well have often felt that I have let life slip by and have not lived up to my full potential, I look back and see the truth in that but found that any regret only makes me feel worse and doesn't accomplish anything except to make me strive to make life, right now, count for more. I see that happening. I know you are on the right track, Dean, keep on keeping on.

Dean Grey said...

Jason!

But aren't you a lot younger than me!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Clare!

I'm glad my experts could be of assistance! LOL

I'm excited for you!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stan!

Thanks for the words of wisdom!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

All of your comments are very much appreciated!

-Dean

Rain said...

Hi Dean! Hope can do that to you, it's quite overwhelming. I see it in your words, I'm so happy for you! I hope you go back to Mass, if you feel that spiritual aspect of your life is missing! I had a similar experience years ago, the way you described feeling out of place...I went to the St-Joseph's Oratory way way WAY across town when I lived in Montreal, hoping nobody would recognize me because I felt ashamed to be there. Ashamed...but it was very good for me, even though I'm not very religious. It brought me faith in myself which was so important! :) I hope that didn't sound preachy...gosh sometimes I just write as though I'm talking, lol...
PS: Love the picture in your sidebar! :)

Cooper said...

Good post Dean.

No I didn't go away or delete my blog was away posted about on the blog today.

pathetic prophet said...

You've come to a major turning point in your life! Focusing on your potential instead of your insecurities is of monstrous importance. And putting it in a "God-context" is even better. You're right about your potential; concentrate on that and watch your life blossom.

Dean Grey said...

Rain!

Not preachy at all! I always enjoy hearing your take on things!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

pathetic prophet!

Good advice! So there is some hope for me yet, right?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cooper!

Glad you're still around!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks to the three of you for the kind words!

-Dean

Dave said...

> So does that mean I'm "interesting"? *(~_^)

Yes, of course!

suzanneberry said...

Dean, another incredible post. You are so honest and true with your emotions and that is what will get you through it all. I don't believe ritual brings us closer to God although it is comforting for some. And I don't believe that God is waiting at the end of this painful, terrorizing carnival ride to tell us why He did all these terrible things to us. I believe we are part of God and will always be and guilt about doing or not doing what we think He wants us to is only keeping us from His Peace. When we learn to love ourselves as He does everything will fall into place and we will be finally back Home where we have always been and will always be. God Bless you!

melanie said...

What if you are not wasting your life?
Some things don't make sense at the time and when looking back years later, we may see and understand'
how and why even the darkest of times had their relevance in our lives...
It's not whether or not we fall but that we keep getting up again, no matter how many times we fall'
From what i can gather you are a brave, honest and open man and it will be your honesty and expression that will set you free'
Never let the things you cannot do' stop you from doing the things you can'
Sending warm wishes to you xo

April Jarocka said...

Hi Dean. Thanks so much for the beautiful comments you left on my blog. I am also a catholic, so well done you, for going back to Mass.
I hope you have many more wonderful moments like the one you experienced...
Thanks once again and all the best
April

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

I'm happy that you're getting out and doing things like going to Mass. Don't flog yourself over "wasted" time. We'er here. We do what we do, or we don't. No guilt. We all do the best we can and are harder on ourselves than anyone could be on us.
Good for you, Dean. The tears are the deep emotions you're holding in. Let 'em out. {{{{{Dean}}}}
And paint another beauty like that leaf that SOLD :D

Dean Grey said...

Dave!

That's very sweet of you to say!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Suzanne!

Thank you for the insightful words!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Melanie!

I hope you are right!

The problem is that each time I fall, it becomes harder and harder to get back up. What happens when I can no longer even do that?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mary!

I'll try not to dwell on "wasted time" but it's not easy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

April!

I hope to have more moments like that too!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

All of you expressing your thoughts on the matter is greatly appreciated!

-Dean

melanie said...

I really can relate and Dean'
In fact I wrote this lil story a few years back...
You can read and delete or allow it on your comments if you like, tis a little long...

Once upon a time there was a girl.
One day the girl fell down.

She had fallen down before.
Those times she had picked herself up and brushed herself off.
Then began again on her way.

This time the girl stayed down.
Too tired to pick herself up.

The girl noticed some things that she had not seen before.
Staying down there, she saw that some people walked on past her.
To them it was as if she were invisible.
Some people wanted to help her up, but they didn’t have to the time.
Some people desperately wanted to help her, but mostly that was about them.
Some people really seemed to want to help her, they just didn’t know how.
Most people seemed to notice but not to really care.

There were people that the girl thought would have surely come to help her up.
They never came.
There were people that the girl thought should help her up.
But they never came.

The girl noticed that the longer she stayed down, the smaller her world became.
The light that had once shined brightly inside of her and her life had disappeared.

It began to feel cold down there.
Sunshine couldn’t reach her anymore.
Laughter had long ago left her.
Joy was just a memory.
The colored vanished from the world around her.
The birds stopped singing.

All that the girl wanted to do know was sleep.
Weariness overcame her.

Then from somewhere out in the cold and the dark, a voice called out.
Don’t give up girl.
Remember who you are.
How far you’ve traveled to get to here.
This too is a place you needed to come.
There have been lessons down here that you needed to learn.

A bright light started to flicker.
It became stronger.
The girl got up and walked on…

Take care' Melanie

Dean Grey said...

Melanie!

Thank you for the story!

"Laughter had long ago left her.
Joy was just a memory."


I can definitely relate to that part.

So I guess I have some lessons to learn while I'm down here, right?

Thanks again, Melanie!

-Dean

Anonymous said...

Dean,
I am responding.
Maybe it's just me but seems like you went to church, not to meditate, but to cry. You went not to worship but to wallow. You went to church for a quick emotional fix. You wanted to go to church for a decade and didn't. I am glad that you need to eat, not just want to otherwise you would be about 9 yrs and 11 months late i.e. dead.

James said...

Christ have mercy.

I think my favorite part of mass is this part that is sung near the end, "Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us." Something to that tune. Often when I prayed that was what I felt I needed more than anything else in the world, mercy.

I hope if there is a God that He will dispense is mercy freely on you and give you a leg up in life. Goodness knows you deserve it more than I do. <3

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

I liked Melanie's story.

I realize I have a powerful need to prove to myself that I can live up to my potential and therefore, defeat depression by painting and connecting and moving forward. But I can't stress the power of meds in that scenario. Have you researched a free mental health clinic?

Dean Grey said...

Anonymous!

Thanks for the explanation!

It had been so long since I went to mass I guess I just wanted to go and reconnect....if I could.

The intention wasn't necessarily for me to worship, meditate, or even cry but simply to go and see what it was like. That's all.

Maybe subconsciously I did go for a quick emotional fix, though I didn't feel "fixed" after mass was over.

I've been away from the whole process for so long that to me just going back to mass was the first step. Is that so wrong? I think it's unrealistic for me to be 100% comfortable praying and taking part in church services on my very first time back.

I hope this better explains where I'm coming from!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

James!

I like that part of mass too but unfortunately I didn't know all of the words (because it had been so long) so all I could do was just listen to everyone else say it.

Oh, and you deserve some mercy as well. Don't be so hard on yourself!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mary!

Thanks for the concern! I have done some research regarding clinics. I'm still not sure I'm ready for that step though!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The comments from the three of you is greatly appreciated!

-Dean

Kelley Carey MacDonald said...

Oh, Dean, I'm so happy you went. I have prayed for you, that you find your way to an open mind and and open heart to let some GRACE and JOY in. I am like you.... sometimes things can touch me so strongly the tears just spring out. I've cried many times at mass. Other people tell me they have, too, for many, many different reasons, so no biggie there. And genuflecting.... lots and lots of folks forget - or just don't know! I was a once-a-week-er, now I haven't gone in about 5 years. Still visit the church, just not during Mass. I'm glad you went. There's a light there that will warm you xoxox

Dean Grey said...

Kelley!

Thanks for sharing this!

I'm glad I went too!

-Dean

Renee said...

Dean I love this post.

You have nothing to be embarrased about. Keeping it real is a good thing.

I have to tell you I say God have mercy all the time, and I'm hoping that he will.

Beautiful post Dean.

Love Renee xooxxo

Dean Grey said...

Renee!

That is very sweet of you to say!

May God have mercy on us both!!

Thank you for reading this post!

-Dean

Winter said...

it's natural to feel that way :) i go to mass weekly and take a little something away everytime if not pray for someone i love. rely on it to get the signs i need to move on. take care

Dean Grey said...

Winter!

I'm happy to hear going to mass helps you when you need it. It doesn't always do the same for me.

Maybe as I keep attending, it will!

-Dean

Synx said...

just so you know, it took a lot of scrolling to get to this box :P

i don't think you should be afraid to show your emotions at any time -- even if restraint is needed now and then -- and i'm sad i wasn't there to hug you myself.

wasting life is sin, actually. you should read the story on that. in any case, i feel every word you wrote about that in here. i don't think you have too much to worry about there. we stumble, but eventually we get it and this is the important thing.

Griffin said...

Dean, let me declare myself first. I'm an atheist. But I ask you dear artist, do you think a merciful God would worry cos you didn't genuflect?

Sins? You do torment yourself don't you? I had someone tell me in my early twenties when I had tried to suicide that it was a sin. My answer was, I hadn't even begun to sin yet!

Be who you are, keep sight of your wonderfulness, be honest with yourself and please Dean - stop tormenting yourself with worries. You do what you can in life with what you can. That's the best you can do - religious or atheist. You are human - it's enough. Be kind to yourself mate, or as Arthur Rimbaud put it -

The world is vicious if that astonishes you,
Live and leave to the fire, dark misfortune.

Dean Grey said...

Synx!

I could've used a hug back then. Where were you? LOL

I'm glad you could understand where I was coming from.

Oh, and I appreciate you scrolling all the way down!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Griffin!

First off, I'm glad you stopped by!

Your words of wisdom are very much appreciated.

So you're suggesting I should be sinning more? (~_^)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks to both of you for the supportive comments!

-Dean

Dean Scott said...

Church got too painful so I stopped attending. I went for dad's funeral in 2002 and mom's in 2010. I gave the main eulogy per her request. I wondered if God would be mad since I had been away so long. I made it through the eulogy. I think he realizes that nature is my cathedral.

stanw said...

"Nature is my cathedral!" I love that statement. I too find that and also realize that it is in nature that I see the beauty and magnificence that God has created.

Dean Grey said...

Dean!

I rarely attend mass but still go into church to pray and ask for guidance.

A relationship with God is just like any other. There are times when there's distance between the two of you and then times when you come together again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stan!

I see the beauty God has created in nature as well but don't use that as a substitute for prayer or going to church.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks to both of you gentlemen for your insight!

-Dean