A few years ago when life events crushed me inside and out, I felt that the Lord was moving me in a new direction. It was during that troubled time when my world came crashing down that the Lord placed it on my heart to go to a Catholic church.
I replied to the Lord, “Father, I’ve never been. Are you serious? A Jewish believer in the Messiah, Jesus, going to a Catholic church? Lord, I’ve been in the church for over thirty-five years, am I hearing you correctly?”
I let it rest. It wasn’t the time. 2018 came. The house sold; I moved into a small apartment. I was prepared to live alone and serve the Lord. I told a friend that I thought the Lord wanted me to go to a Catholic church, but which one.
She replied, “My son’s school is right across from a Catholic parish.” So, it was to be!
A year ago this month, I went to my first Catholic mass. Interestingly, all the priests in this parish were from an order in Africa. On my best day my hearing was poor from my Army days. So here I am sitting in the third row close to the isle in the rear left section of the church so I could have a good view of the screen on the wall behind the choir and so there would be people in front of me so I could copy what they do. You know, when to kneel and stuff and I had trouble hearing clearly.
The first week in March, I met with the senior pastor. He was a man of God filled with God’s grace. I could tell by how he responded to me wondering if with all my old baggage I could come and worship.
He said, “God already knows what you have done. He is more interested in what is ahead.”
That did it. I started to go to Mass every weekend. Sometimes nine-o’clock, sometimes eleven o’clock checking things out. Then it happened.
One of the pastor’s at the end of Mass made an appeal that was so clever and corny I couldn’t resist. He said that he’d have to sell the back row of music stands and microphones if more people didn’t join the choir. I laughed as did most of the parishioners. It touched both my funny bone and my heart.
“Lord, you’re not serious. I haven’t sung in a choir for over ten years or so.”
God was serious. After the Mass, I walked up and introduced myself to the choir director. I was invited to come to the next choir practice. At that point I had no idea why the Lord wanted me in the choir. I always fancied myself as a jazz and blues singer—in the shower or in my car. Not in a Catholic choir. I didn’t know any of the songs.
I still didn’t know when to kneel or not but was singing a bunch. Four o’clock mass on Saturday; nine and eleven o’clock masses on Sunday. And then she walked in to practice and lit up the room. I was smitten. Not long after that, it could only be by the Holy Spirit’s prompting when one of the directors commanded that she had to sing next to me. She had me at the “Our Father” when we held hands; she had me again at “the sign of peace” when my hand touched her left side.
“Lord, I can’t be smitten. This is crazy. No one will understand. I don’t understand. I’m old, she is young. I’m white, she’s black. I’m a Jewish believer, a Christian; she is Catholic. She’s been singing here forever; I don’t know what I’m doing. What are you doing? Obviously, this isn’t a call into the priesthood for me! I can’t possibly consider a relationship.”
One Sunday after mass, one of the choir directors asked me to stay. I said stay for what. “For African choir practice. You might like it. All the songs are in Swahili,” he smiled. I stood in the back row with the tenors and basses and looked at the sheet music. Many of the words seemed to be a foot long. “Lord, is this your idea?” Then she entered the room, greeting friends, and took a position in the front row. Our eyes met. Obviously the Lord’s idea. Not mine.
The choir practice email came on Wednesday. The choir director asked me to prepare the attached music to do a solo on “Danny Boy” this coming weekend. Holy smokes! Fact: I don’t read music. Fact: I did the solo. Fact: She and I sang in the African choir the last mass of every month.
Then came a lot of “firsts.” First, we talked a lot after choir practices. And our first dinner out together after singing at mass. There was also a first kiss.
Hindsight is such that it is highly probable that the only reason the Lord had me go to this church was to met her and sing in the choir. Love blossomed as we sang and sang some more.
Waiting to sing at nine o’clock mass we’d sit at tables in the open courtyard and talk about all kinds of things. One such day, one of the sopranos announced, “If the sex scandals in the church get any worse, or if the Pope is implicated, or if they reveal any more cover up, I’m done!” Quiet followed.
Our amazing drummer was not only blind, but was well schooled in Catholicism and taught music in the local school system. He broke the silence,
“The Catholic church is being purged, being cleansed for what is to come.”
I looked at him and thought that our blind drummer isn’t blind at all. What he said was wisdom. As the world becomes darker the closer we get to the Lord Jesus’ return, the Church must shine brighter. The world’s perception of itself is that things are getting better. Not true. Jesus told his disciples, “I will not speak with you much longer, for the ruler of the world (Satan) is coming.” (John 14:30 AMP)
And the Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians, “…the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving to prevent them from seeing the illuminating light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4 AMP)
In Matthew 16:13-20 (ESV), Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was and Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
The Lord keeps his word. The Church will prevail. Stronger and more faithful than ever before regardless of what is going on in the world.
Stand firm in your faith.
Having said all of this there is another dimension of unexpected love that blossomed during the time I sang in the choir. I love the Catholic Church, style and tradition of worship. I grew to love and respect the saints in this parish and choir and all the clergy there. My classes to become a Catholic were interrupted by our marriage and move. We had to move. The more we tried to stay, the more the Lord showed us we had to go.
Recently, the Pope held a mass in the UAE, for which he is to be commended, but sadly, during these recent weeks, more reports about sexual abuse of boys and nuns in the Catholic church continue to surface.
If you were to read my About page, you’d know that I was sexually abused as a child, so these reports anger me and grate on my soul more than you know.
If the Vatican were to vote to allow married men to become priests, I’d volunteer even though in the Army I was told to never volunteer for anything.
Closing thoughts. For all of those who were abusers or covered up the abuses, the judgement seat of Christ is yet to come. I still love the Church, people, and clergy. Our bottom line is no different than our Lord’s bottom line—to do the will of the Father. Meanwhile, my sweet wife and I are pressing forward as the Lord leads in our new sweet home.