I was late for Mass yesterday morning. Andrew and I were forced to divide and conquer our Sunday obligation and so I dashed out the door (after tripping our house alarm) and slipped into a back pew just two minutes into the 8 o’ clock. Not far behind me was a girl about my age, who stepped into the same pew, and we exchanged a quick smile before assuming liturgical reverence.
Though this girl was a perfect stranger, I was amused that our respective behaviors in the liturgy were so similar – bowing deeply during the Nicene Creed and even keeping the same posture during the Our Father. What I found especially uplifting, though, was her singing. I consider myself to be a full, active participant in Mass, however I wouldn’t say that I necessarily “sing out.” I allow my voice to disappear into the congregation and if I know harmony to a particular hymn, I resort to humming it just loudly enough that it resounds in my head, not in my neighbor’s. It was obvious that this stranger possessed no such timidity – she seemed confident and hearing her helped me shake my shyness and really pray each hymn as I was singing it. It was so encouraging sitting next to someone who not only shared the same Mass-ly mannerisms, but who also unknowingly helped me along when I was tempted to spectate instead of participate.
After such a positive experience, I realized the whole thing was evidence of a greater truth: that this is why we as humans, as Catholic humans, are designed to live as a community with one another. By this I mean with family, in keeping good friendships, and in being an active member of the parish. God Himself is a triune God, living in community as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If we are made in His Image and Likeness, then we should imitate His existence, especially in this way. Alone I might atrophy spiritually speaking, but with someone else singing with me or even to me, I’m strengthened and encouraged to pursue my relationship with God with reckless abandon. My favorite analogy relevant to this the one about hot coals: if you have a pile of burning coals and you keep them together, they blaze powerfully. Take a single coal away from the pile, though, and the spark quickly goes out. In hindsight, all the periods of my life when my virtues weakened and my prayer life lay neglected were when I had stepped away from those who were on fire for the faith.
Living in communion with one another fosters faithfulness and happiness. It’s true, too, that actions speak more loudly than words and it’s in our regular behaviors and expressions of our gifts that we encourage each other. For example, my mom’s steady prayerfulness and strength of faith throughout her life cultivated the love of God and Catholicism that I have. Within our marriage, Andrew and I move each other to patience and frequent prayer. His virtues and daily heroism, especially, are inspiring to me.
Not only are we designed to live in community, but we’re called to express ourselves outwardly so that others will be encouraged by our light. My friend Amy once casually told me that every time she sat to pray the Rosary, she started with the Joyful Mysteries and happily concluded that they must be her favorite. I doubt she knows that this single conversation piece exchanged among thousands stood out as encouragement for me to pray the Rosary. Similarly, my friend Emily’s sweet and content nature calls me to be the same way with my husband and children.
Within a community, we sharpen each other, we can help perfect each another because of the varying gifts God bestowed among us. These talents are meant to differ and they are meant to be expressed and shared. By nature, Catholics are out among the world being watched and so we should reveal to the world a sweet charity and bold faith, because you are always in someone’s spotlight!
Thank you, Stranger, for your inspiration!
“Where one alone may be overcome, two together can resist.
A three-ply cord is not easily broken.”