Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Please Forgive Me

When a moment returns to my mind that repeatedly turns my face red, causes me to shake my head at myself and consistently gets me to laugh at its climax... I deem it worthy of being shared. I battled with whether or not to write this story because I didn't want to offend anyone. I feel the need to share it, because.... well, it's funny. I am one that laughs at life and doesn't take things too seriously. So when you read this, look at it from my perspective and laugh with me.

It was Easter Sunday and I was hired to photograph a beautiful little girl's first communion. I was honored, I was excited and a little bit nervous. I had been to Mass before with my grandma, but that was many years ago. I think I was ten. I called my mom beforehand to get the gist of how a first communion ceremony unfolds. She told me about her first communion as a little girl to give me a heads-up. I wanted to be prepared. I love a good challenge but I still like to prepare when I go into a situation completely in the dark.

I was already at a disadvantage before walking in the door. I was scared. Scared of humilitating myself, disgracing the church (in innocence of course) by doing something I shouldn't and getting kicked out of Mass. To someone that doesn't attend Mass this was a very intimidating situation to be in. There can be a lot of pressure when you are expected to know what to do.

I arrived at the church early. I was hoping to get a feel for the service. I was trying to get a feel for things so that I wouldn't seem like such an outsider. The service coordinator told me that I could stand up at the front of the sanctuary during the ceremony and that I was free to take pictures throughout Mass. One restriction, I was to not take pictures as the priest was blessing the elements.

Alright, easy enough... I got it!

I was at the front of the sanctuary were I was told I could stand. All of a sudden, I started to feel very out of place. I was the only one in front other than the priest and he was only about five feet away. I was definitely not feeling comfortable with this placement. As gracefully as I could, I crouched out of view of the congregation and found a more low-profile position on the left-side of the sanctuary. Thank to my amazing 70-200 mm lens we were still in business and the redness in my face had subsided a bit.

Mass continued and I rejoined my clients in the pew reserved for the families who had children receiving their first communion; the front pew.

The first communion ceremony was over and I was done shooting until after Mass. So I put down my camera and decided to participate in the rest of the service. The priest then called up the congregation to take communion.

Great! That sounds nice. I haven't taken communion in awhile. I followed the crowd and got in line.

Now, at this point of the story, most of you understand the contradiction. Most of you are already laughing. I was not supposed to be in line. Anyhow, lets move on.

I'm in line. I'm in the front. Remember my prime, reserved, first-class spot. Hmm, this is very different from how I am used to recieving communion. No problem; I will just observe and mimic those in front of me. I see everyone cupping their hands together, putting them out and then the priest gives them the blessed bread.

Alright, lets do this!

It was my turn. I cupped my hands together, reached out to the priest and waited. He said, "Christ's body." I looked up at the priest, his eyes were fixed on mine. He was just staring at me. Nothing was happening. So I gave a little gesture with my cupped hands. I sort of moved them forward a bit as if to say, "I'm ready, see!" Again nothing was happening. What was I doing wrong? I looked up at his eyes again and I could see that he wanted me to say something. I sort of started to panic. What was I supposed to say? Everyone had been whispering and I couldn't make out what they had said. I probably thought in that moment they were being polite and giving thanks as he placed the bread in their perfectly cupped hands. I obviously didn't feel that saying thank you was the way to go as I remained silent in a terrified frozen state. I should've paid closer attention and read some lips. "What the heck is the word?" I thought. Then I opened my mouth in a moment of desperation and blurted out in a whiny, scratchy, frightened voice, "I don't know what to say?"

He immediately implied, "You're not catholic." I felt my heart beating out of my chest and my face quickly turning a thousand shades of pink. I topped off our lovely public conversation with, "I'm a christian!"

He then placed his hand on my head and said a prayer for me. In front of the long line that was residing behind me, I patiently listened. He sent me on my way and I walked back to my pew, empty handed.

Well that was a surprise.

Let me remind you, I live in a very small town. I might not remember very many faces from that day, but I am sure mine will be remembered. You can be sure there is one priestly face I will always remember. I will always remember those eyes, that prayer and that moment of paralyzing fear. Maybe that is what Catholic's refer to as the fear of God!

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  1. Oh my goodness! My face would have been BRIGHT red.

  2. Oh Linsey, This is something that has always bothered me. We are all Christians and the Catholic Church needs to welcome us all. I'm so sorry this happened. I grew up in the Catholic Church and I'm so glad you can write about this and bring it out. You did so in such a loving manner, thank you!

  3. LOLOl I can feel for you, it better to see and not be seen lol I enjoy your blog... I started following you on Google

  4. Hahahahaha!!! Oh Linsey!! You crack me up! If it makes you feel any better, I wouldn't have known either!

  5. Thank you! What an upbeat way of sharing such an event. I’m sorry this happened to you, as I was raised Catholic. This story did make me laugh. I too went to a First Holy Communion on Easter Sunday. I wonder if we were at the same church. I love reading your blog.

  6. I love this story! I had a similar experience when I went to Sean's hometown church. I stood up to take communion and was gently told I could not. I'd had no idea. You made me laugh just picturing you up from saying, "I don't know what to say?" Awesome!

  7. LOVE this story! And you tell it SO well!! ;-) Hopefully that guilt won't set in you like it does my catholic friends.... no fun. God still loves you! :D