I often write about my new found Catholic faith but tonight I was waxing poetic in my mind and felt the need to share it with you.
Back in my youth **** years ago I used to attend a dual denomination Protestant Church - United Methodist and United Church of Christ to be exact. I was confirmed there and then became very involved in the youth group and choir. I led an active faith life because of the choir and fought to be allowed in much younger than was "normally acceptable". I was a "regular Sunday attendee" because I had to be, not necessarily because I wanted to be. We were an important part of the service and therefore the expectation was that you would be there providing you weren't pushing up daisies.
Howard was an elderly gentleman and our token Baptist after the Baptists kicked him out for being too zealous or whatever reason. There were many stories about Howard. He was a kind soul and a bit lost but nonetheless he was ours. After something he really liked, a rolling hymn, a rousing choir song, a sermon with gusto, Howard would occasionally stand up and yell in true Baptist fashion "AMEN!" and there would be a smattering of giggles, suppressed murmurs, and quiet smiles.
For those attending, particularly those of us who sang in the choir or served otherwise in what Catholics would call "liturgical ministries", it was a sign of a job well done and of sending a message home in a particularly good effort. "AMEN!" meant we'd done our job well that week - a little pat on the head straight from God spoken through this odd little 5'4" 80 year old Baptist in the third pew.
There are days when I miss Howard and his "AMEN!". When I am feeling low and sad, that "AMEN!" meant the world to me. When I really nailed my first solo in the parish which was a very bluesy gutsy kind of number with all kinds of slides and swoops, Howard said, "AMEN!" When I told the story about what it was like to be the wife of a disabled veteran and to go through getting "the call", Howard said "AMEN!". I worked hard for that "AMEN!", that sign of instant approval that what I was doing was right.
Catholics have a harder road in this way. Of course if my church hadn't had Howard there wouldn't have been any acknowledgement either other than people congratulating you after the service which I have always hated. My voice and talents are for the glory of God, not man. I am never comfortable when someone compliments me but to rouse Howard out of pew meant more to me than all the other praises. I was never embarrassed by the "AMEN!". That was the point. ;)
We do not always get a sign of instant approval in this life. Indeed, the "AMEN!" moments we may have are often rare indeed - especially when we are looking for gratification from the exterior world instead of the interior. No one jumps up and applauds you for doing the dishes. I've yet to see someone leap for joy at a freshly vacuumed carpet. I have occasionally danced because someone helped take out the trash and am also somewhat known for praising the Lord for clean laundry, especially WARM clean laundry.
Doing the things we need to do in this world can be dull indeed - instant gratification is our society's primary vice. We are told to "offer it up" and to "pray the day" - I believe in that with all of my heart but sometimes the performer in me runs off with my brain and I miss the old days of Howard.
Catholicism is not a religion of instant gratification. We are here to sacrifice, to serve. We are here for much more than "Alleluia" and "AMEN!". In many ways we are here to pay the penance not only for our own sin, but for the rampant sinning of others. We get the short end of the stick and the crummy dry bits on the edge of the casserole dish on this side of the world.
Oh the Glory you will know...that beautiful wonderful day that shall come when you feel in your heart that what you are doing is pleasing to the Lord. When you're doing dishes and look out the window to see your children playing Mass in the yard, when you sit down quietly to pray and your children gather around you and join, when you least expect it and most need it there will be that "good Mama" pat on the head from Him.
Sojourn on and just know that somewhere out there, even in the darkest of moments when you are fighting through the day that you are doing what you can in this world to make it a better place. "Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends." I propose "Greater love hath no mother than to lay down her life for her family."
And Howard said, "AMEN!".