Susan Klemond is a freelance writer living in St. Paul, Minn., who writes news and feature articles for the Register, OSV Newsweekly and the Catholic Spirit, the diocesan paper for St. Paul-Minneapolis. She also has worked in marketing, editing and magazine production. She thinks about St. Peter’s exhortation to ‘always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.’ While some days it’s probably better that no one asks, she keeps working on it.
When I stepped out of my Sunday morning routine recently, I think Christ gave me a glimpse of what he sees when everyone else is at church.
I got up one Sunday a few weeks ago with plenty of time to make the 9 a.m. Mass at my parish. But I was a bit too leisurely with breakfast. Then I couldn’t find the dress I’d decided to wear. After several searches, I was even more determined I had to wear that dress because I couldn’t think about coming up with another outfit. When I finally found the elusive dress, badly in need of ironing, it was 8:53. Not only would I miss that Mass, I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my service as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.
The next Mass wasn’t for another two hours, so I decided to pray the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary while taking a walk through a park in my neighborhood. It was a cool, tranquil morning, and the shady path was mostly deserted.
I meditated on the first mystery, Our Lord’s baptism in the Jordan River, as I passed a tennis court. A middle-aged gentleman was hitting tennis balls against the court wall. He stopped and apologized for any of his missed shots that might have hit me. I assured him that I hadn’t been hit. Did this ordinary scene have anything to do with Jesus’ baptism? For those lined up to be baptized by St. John, Jesus’ baptism must have been ordinary, too (at least for any who didn’t hear the Father’s voice afterward). The fact that Christ allowed St. John to baptize him was extraordinary, but it also showed that he shared our common humanity.
The second Luminous Mystery, the Wedding Feast at Cana, was on my mind as I encountered meandering dogs on leashes and their owners who politely moved over so I could pass. The difference between this walk and those I’d taken on other days was my awareness that at that moment my parish was celebrating the Eucharist. Before the Lord gave us his Body and Blood at the first Eucharist, he transformed water into wine at Cana, a transformation that, to me, symbolizes the new life he wants to give us. “We need that now,” I thought. I imagined Christ transforming the recent West Virginia floodwaters, the tainted water of Flint, Mich., and the polluted bay in Brazil where the Olympics are to be held.
The Lord’s call to conversion (also called the Proclamation of the Kingdom) was the third Luminous Mystery I began to pray as I turned onto a street bordering the park. As I considered how the Lord calls us, I prayed specifically for all the people who weren’t in church that Sunday morning: hurt or angry Catholics who have left the Church; those with no church affiliation; people who had partied through the night and were feeling the ill effects; and, finally, those who just had other things to do. I know that some of the people I encountered might have had plans to go to a later Mass or church service, but God inspired me to pray for the ones who weren’t going.
Then I prayed the fourth Luminous Mystery: The Transfiguration, in which Jesus manifested his glory to Sts. Peter, James and John. I thought about how the Lord walks among us now and how seeing him in his glory would change that Sunday morning. I wondered how the biker, the woman with two young daughters each walking puppies and the older woman reading on a bench next to a Little Free Library would react to seeing Jesus. I wanted them to know the Bridegroom, whom St. John Paul II describes in his play The Jeweler’s Shop, was passing by this morning:
The Bridegroom passes through so many streets,
Meeting so many different people.
Passing, he touches the love
That is in them. If it is bad,
He suffers for it. Love is bad
When there is a lack of it.
If my neighbors did not recognize the Lord that Sunday morning, I hoped that one day they would. I also hoped they would come to the feast I prayed about in the fifth Luminous Mystery: the Institution of the Eucharist. As I passed a row of quiet homes, I wanted to rouse the sleepy inhabitants and invite them to this feast, the memorial of Jesus’ sacrifice, where he offers his Body and Blood to those prepared to receive it. Catholic or not, I hope neighbors who don’t attend church for whatever reason may someday become curious and inspired enough to attend a Mass. Maybe they don’t know that, only short walk away, a rich banquet is served every Sunday. If I hadn’t missed Mass myself, I’m not sure I would be thinking — and praying — about them and what happens while I am in church.