At mass this morning, sat next to a fellow my age, also an ex-priest, though I think he’d say inactive or resigned. Fine, no problem here. Now and then I’ve flirted with seeing myself as a priest once more, 41 years after I left that profession — rather, the ministry.
The mass celebrant, or presider as they say these days of downgrading the priestly role, making him a sort of chairman of sacred proceedings — even as he has a more prominent role than in the old days of Latin mass with his back to us, absorbed in what he was doing — was leading us in the Hail Mary. It was a culmination of his short sermon-homily. He had begun proceedings with a hymn to the Blessed Virgin, which he worked into his talk as being what they sing at the famous shrine at Lourdes, France.
I did not join in because I had come for a quiet, meditative experience and was not in a reciting or singing frame of mind. But my seatmate didn’t either, he who once could be heard from across a church responding to the celebrant-presider, “And with your spirit” or whatever was called for. (Later he did the Our Father all right, I didn’t even do that today.)
He held off from the Hail Mary, I’m sure, because he resists Marian devotion as old church. He was a young priest at the time of Vatican Council II, as was I, and had absorbed Pope John 23rd’s aggiornamento thoroughly, as did I. But over the years I have slid back from that enthusiasm. He has not. I have become more tolerant, even transferring at times my enthusiasm to the old stuff as it’s been revived. He has not.
We both approach the Last Roundup. He’s looking poorly these days. I am not. He’s not a ranter, never was. But he apparently took it all to heart 40–50 years ago in a way I did not. I was like a Roman (yes!) candle, full of sound and fury, having very few unexpressed thoughts, judgments, and opinions. (Still are, you say? Fie!) He was more laid back and over the years has now and then surprised me by taking positions for granted that I have rethought and reassessed and sometimes abandoned.
We see little of each other these days and are unlikely to discuss our differences. We had arrived at church separately and left separately. His greeting at the handclasp of peace was correct but not warm. I take that as a sign of his weariness. Indeed, I know the feeling and have been at times delinquent in the warmth area. Elan vital escapes us senior citizens sometimes.
But you know what? We worshiped together. We took communion at the same mass. We sat and stood at the same time — neither of us kneels, and now I think of it, he stood almost not at all. We both look ahead to life everlasting in due time — not quite yet, if you don’t mind. All’s well that ends well, I always say. And this will end well. Credo.
Reader D: Ah, but I do like it. Especially the part about seeking a meditative experience at mass. So much folderal going on that there’s no time to think about what I came to think about.