Last night was my last time to attend mass in Liverpool; I’ve been going to church in the Crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral for two years, a weekly promise to myself and commitment to work on my faith. It took me this long to muster up the courage to sign up to read for mass and as the mystery in God’s timing, my turn came yesterday.
Practicing the night before to read the First Reading, I worked on my pronunciations and pacing to avoid any slurs and respecting the scripture. As I sat in the front bench of the Crypt, the minister cheerfully informed me the cantor fell sick and I would have to read the responsorial Psalms as well, which of course I have not read.
My heart beating like a horse galloping for a race, trying to retrace my steps around the altar and on when to pause. I knew what to do with the music as my rehearsals were based on the cues, I had no music this time so I played everything by ear. The priest greeted the audience, room silent and I was still sitting on the bench confirming with the minister if this was my slot.
I am one of those people who work well when prepared but on days with missing steps and cues, the chaos and nerves can take over. Standing in front of the microphone and keeping still whilst ensuring the people at the back could hear me, I began to read.
My finger moving from one word to another as my guide and before I knew it, both my parts were done. You must be wondering why I’m even writing about this moment, well, it has been more than a decade ago since I read in front of a crowd and second, people tend to sound different on a mic. The crowd and the unfamiliar voice bugged my thoughts, I just wanted to get it right with this one chance.
People are called in different ways and times; I’ve been discerning for years on the decision to read and when my time came, I was asked to stay to read a few more bits. Instead of focusing on my pronunciations and when to pause, the First Reading felt like a calling to hear Him out. To give Him time to convey His message to me.
The church is not a place for the perfect but rather for the hurt and the work in progress, I was reminded of this when I read the passage of our mission as men and women of God.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners
A place of sinners and the broken yet also a place of conversion and revelations. As I leave the beautiful city of Liverpool to go back to Philippines with two luggages of winter coats and what nots, for this one night at mass, I felt blessed with God’s grace. Gifting me the message of peace amidst my personal hurricanes, He tells me, my child come home, remain in me.
The Crypt is as gothic as it sounds, a place tucked away in the back of the mammoth sized Metropolitan Cathedral. I started attending Sunday morning mass at the cathedral but found a sense of intimacy in the evening service. The longer walks, the dark nights and smaller crowd were my moments of solace. I remember there were always two beggars at the gate; one who sat with a dog and another selling paper. The grotto was concrete and the statue of Mary had a blue rosary around her neck. Wooden benches that creaked when the cushions were opened to kneel on. Families were complete, university students, night shift workers attended this service for this is when we promised our time to pray. And the Crypt is where we did our rosaries, our silent nods of hello to strangers, lighting candles and came for His words of nourishment and healing for we came impatient, wounded and hungry.
The priest’s sermon that night made me smile from the inside; this is the time when Catholics spend hours decorating their Christmas trees, on getting the right Turkey and thinking of strategies to keep warm in the dark cold winter nights. With a firm end, he says, there’s nothing this world can do or give that our God cannot provide. Let’s put everything down during the time of Advent and step back for our eyes to see what matters.
Dear friends and readers, I pray that you may find happiness in Him and remain in God’s love for He knows what your heart longs for, for He knows the plans behind your cries. Be in peace this Christmas for we believe in the one who saves.