Sunday, October 26, 2008

For Brine: Salt Of The Earth

I've always been that guy.

Yesterday I went to Confession. As an explanation to non-Catholics, penitents line up along a wall and wait their turn. Yesterday, I silently examined my conscience as I stood against the wall and waited. I crossed my arms over my lungs and I bowed my head against my chest. The lines were long. People are afraid. Apprehensions beget allegiances and affirmations.

An elderly woman, bent from her life of limitations and curved from carrying on regardless of her circumstances, toddled beside me and stood alongside me. The knave was quiet and solemnity permeated the space where incense used to waft. She touched my arm and I turned to see what she wanted. “Who’s the priest?” her litany began. I whispered the answers to her questions. I did not want to talk to her. It was the wrong place. It was the wrong time. She was wrong to interrupt the time I was taking to tally my trespasses. I felt wronged.

I was wrong. I was selfish because I wanted to be that guy who was too busy to take the time or too consumed to offer a hand or too didactic to lend the ear. I saw my sin. So I bent my ear to her lips and I listened to her lamentations. And I knew that at that time, I alone was in the position to stand beside her. I was alone; she was alone. Yet we shared a belief. We shared a faith. We were two. We two stood on the same stones and waited to bend our knees to the same God. Two by two.

I've always been that guy who people approached. I've always been that guy who people trusted. I don't know why. They just do. Maybe I have an honest face. Or maybe my deportment is inviting. I just assumed God sent them to me. And I've tried to assume responsibility for their care.

Yet I’ve also been that guy who received societal scoff. I've always been that guy who didn’t quite fit. I’m that guy who doesn’t quite keep society’s rhythm. I’m that guy who doesn’t yield no matter how many times disdain is beat into me.

Today I went to Mass. It’s the earliest Mass. It’s the Mass that is offered with the most solemnity. Usually the congregation is elderly or infirmed. This morning I noticed that nearly a third of the community is young men under 40. They sat in pews alone. They knelt alone. They stood alone. They prayed alone. I bowed my head and bent my knee and I realized that I was just one of those guys.

And now as I read my words, I recognize that I’m that guy who is too earnest and too verbose. Yet I’ll risk the scoff. I risk it for anyone who reads my words and realizes he’s just one of the guys too. Two by two.