When I was very small, I thought everyone in the world was a member of the Roman Catholic Church. My world was a tiny wheel, the hub being my parents’ house. There were four or five spokes to this wheel and each one took me through or to safe Catholic places. Faithful grandparents, aunts, uncles, and neighbors lived along each path my little lady alone feet traveled in their red Buster Brown oxford shoes or Keds sneakers. These places and people shielded and insulated me.
Eventually, all the spokes of the entire wheel turned towards Holy Family Church and the pews on the left rear of the small building. I don’t even need to close my eyes to see my Nana coming back from communion and placing her left hand on the front pew to steady herself as she carefully turned the corner and stepped down into the window aisle. Or my Tante Anna’s sophisticated hats blocking a full view of the mass to anyone sitting behind her.
There was no day of the year when this sacred place was more mysterious to me than on Good Friday. My little feet carried me from the Marion T. Morse Elementary school to church; after kneeling as devotedly as I could for a few minutes, I’d sit quietly in a pew, observing the veiled crucifix and the bare altar. Our extended family would return later in the evening for the veneration of the cross.
The priest would chant, “This is the wood of the cross, from which hung the Savior of the world.”
We would respond “Come, let us worship.”
Was there incense? I don’t remember.
My little feet grew and carried me away from home and I discovered that not everyone in the world was Roman Catholic. I’ve searched for answers to life’s existential questions in many Protestant denominations, some which consider the machinations of Catholicism to be pagan rituals. No matter where I have been in my life, Good Friday has remained a solemn and gravely thoughtful day for me, in deep contemplation and remembrance.
There are not many churches within walking distance of folks in town these days. But that’s a different drama.
I apologize for having no answers for you, dear reader. In addition to reading the gospel accounts of the passion of Jesus Christ today, I’ll be reading my brother’s blog and Wendell Berry’s essay “God and Country.”