If you are quiet, if you are very still and yet listening, you can learn from cradle Catholics.
He sat behind me at Mass this morning. I exchanged the Sign of Peace with him, but I did not realize what this day meant to him.
After Mass, I kneeled and prayed, and as I prayed, I heard their quiet conversation in the row behind me. The conversation would take my prayers in another direction.
Someone is dying. Someone this man loves very dearly. Maybe his son. The dying one has just two weeks... he wants to be buried in the parish cemetery.
And the woman speaking with the older man said she would be praying.
My prayers changed in that moment. God was asking me to intercede. As I looked at the Lord, up there on the Altar, the man walked forward and bowed. He stepped into the doorway of a side room where Father was removing his vestments and preparing for next things.
A woman behind me said the dying one is young . . . will be leaving behind four children.
The faith of these cradle Catholics hits me hard sometimes. It is a faith that is not easily explained. It is almost always as quiet and deep and difficult as this man's faith. A faith that abides all. A faith that calls a dad to morning Mass on a Tuesday morning so that there will be enough grace to speak to one's priest about burying one's son. A faith that yields grace as the man walks each step from the Adoration Chapel to the church offices, some fifty or a hundred steps away, in view of the cemetery where Jesus hangs on the cross and Our Lady of Grace stands nearby. In view of a cemetery where his son will rest - in a few days' time. In view of a cemetery where this dad will rest as well. One day. But not this day. This day is the kind of day where gold is tested by fire. Where faith is all that remains. A faith that sustains a dad as he enters the parish doors and once again tells the story of a dying loved one and asks what must be done to prepare for that most difficult day, a day that is more difficult than one's own death.
Amazing strength. Amazing grace.
This is what it means to be Catholic.