Last Saturday I went to the Missionaries of Charity (MOC) house in Baltimore (they're the Mother Teresa nuns) to meet my friend Jeremy before heading to the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen (CMOQ). Jeremy suggested I come to the MOC morning mass and help make breakfast. So I got up at 4:30 to make it in time for the 6:30 mass. The building is in a not-so-good part of town but I figured any murderers would be sleeping in on Saturday like everybody else.
Probably because of their vow of poverty, the chapel is decorated more like a dorm room than a typical chapel--with sparkly curtains and clipouts. There were a few old pews and some chairs and the sisters kneel on the floor. I got to make an awkward scene when the priest ran out of communion wafers when I got to the front of the line (I was last). So we all waited while he got another from the tabernacle. This was the first time I took communion directly on my tongue (usually I take it in my hand). I opened my mouth like I do at the doctor's office, hoping I didn't have any spittle or bad breath in there, and waited while one of the Sisters held some mirrored plate-thingy under my chin--I guess to catch Jesus in case the priest and I managed to somehow flip it out of my mouth, not outside of the realm of possibility with me. But fortunately it landed on my tongue and stayed there.
Turns out two girls regularly volunteer to make breakfast on Saturdays so I was out of a job. Instead I chatted with some of the guys who are living there--the sisters board sick, poor people with nowhere else to go. One of the guys was telling me about the bedridden boarder Barry White so I got to use one of my best 'jokes'--"I have a friend who's a white girl and her name is Carrie Black!" Later I got put to work sweeping and mopping floors and before we left the head sister gave me some awesome Mother Teresa prayer cards.
After driving in circles and spending 20 minutes for what should have been a 5 minute trip to buy the nuns some ginger, we spent a couple of hours at a sandwich shop talking about catholicky things and probably drawing all kinds of attention. I especially wondered what that guy must be thinking who interrupted our conversation to get some napkins--knowing my conversations with Jeremy it was probably about the Holy Spirit and/or demons.
Eventually we made it to CMOQ which is an amazingly beautiful cathedral with statues of various saints. We knelt in front of St. John Vianney and prayed for about an hour and asked him to pray for various intentions for the church and priests. We asked so much of poor John Vianney that we decided we should perform a penance and both thought that giving up coffee might be good. This is something that I needed to give up anyway--I'll be giving about a zillion presentations within the next two months and people are always trying to 'help' by finding me a laser pointer, which makes it impossible to hide the nervous trembling. I don't need to go supplementing that with coffee jitters! Jeremy suggested no-coffee Tuesdays and Fridays (the days that people traditionally meditate on the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary) but I figured I 'should' be able to live without coffee. We'll see how that works next time I have to sit through an hour long seminar talk. Then halfway through our time at CMOQ someone came in for organ practice so our prayers were drowned out by ridiculously loud, repetitious organ music to the point that Jeremy said "how can he practice for so long??" I had rashly proclaimed that there must be a pelican icon somewhere in this church and felt very smug when Jeremy found it!--this is a popular image in Christian art based on a legend that the mother pelican will pierce her chest with her beak to feed her babies blood during times of famine.
After CMOQ I called FrC and he had a couple of hours available which is unheard of so, since he's my favorite priest in the world anyway, I stopped by to visit. We decided this was a good time to enroll me in the brown scapular confraternity so we went into the church and FrC ran off to get a jacket because he was convinced I'd be too cold. So he came out with a huge black leather jacket that fit me pretty much how one of my jackets would fit a baby--my hands were completely lost in the sleeves. I hope the Virgin Mary liked my new look! Then FrC made what could have been a five minute formality into a half hour beautiful and prayerful ceremony which almost made me cry several times. When we were done he hugged me and said he's so proud of me so, of course, as soon as I left I totally cried in the privacy of my own car. Sigh, so much for my stoic exterior!