After waking at 5:30, prepping the kids for school, walking them to school, and sitting down for a leisurely cup of cafe con leche and an egg sandwich on toasted baguette with Kevin, we strolled to the park. It was still only 8 a.m. As we settled onto a cement bench alongside other people taking a few minutes to enjoy the morning, a guy selling broken lollipops for a donation came up to us. Of course, I didn’t know what cause he was raising money for (I heard “casa”) but I gave him about 300 colones from my pocket and took a sucker.
Kevin had a phone call to make for work. I sat there, absorbing the dappled sunlight and people-watching. Music was pouring from the open doors of the red church and people streamed in. A quiet minute in a peaceful place seemed very inviting. Kevin pointed to the church and mouthed, Do you want to go? I nodded and made my way to the massive wood doors.
I found a wooden pew in the back and sat down. It was a few minutes past eight, so the priest was already giving his homily. I enjoyed listening to the rhythmic melody of his words. And even though I didn’t know what he was saying, I could tell it was something good. I was left contemplating the architecture of the church, the backs of the heads of the people in front of me, and the fact that I was starting to recognize more and more words. Putting them all together when someone is speaking as fast as the priest was is another story!
I snapped my attention back to the priest as he was just finishing. We all stood up. Next, he did the intercessions. I didn’t really know what the response was, so I just said, “Lord, hear our prayer,” in my head. It was clear when he was readying the Eucharist, as he was behind the altar, holding cups high into the air, and bells were ringing. I said, “Blessed be God forever” in my head. Then when everyone held their hands out to the side, I did the same, repeating the Lord’s Prayer—again in my head. That’s the nice thing about the universality of the Catholic Mass. There are no surprises. And, even in another language, you can sort of follow along. It’s like I have a tiny little home in every Catholic church in the world.
Really, the language of the Divine transcends all other language. Whether we’re speaking English or Spanish or French or Russian, when you’re talking about the beauty and grandeur that is God, whatever you might call the God presence or essential truth, the language is the same. The shining truth of What Is will always be the same. That blessed secret of humanity and divine and how the two swirl together will never change, despite inconsequentialities like geography and language and year on the calendar. This truth is an eternal wellspring that we can tap into, if we only realize it, that nourishes us in the most basic way. Examples of the eternal truth are all around us. The ego-less face of a baby just born, or a puppy nuzzling it’s mama, or a sick person lying in a bed and about to cross back over. The prayer you feel vibrating within you, without words and that needs no language. It’s the message we see in the springy seeds of a flower or in the soft velvet of its petals. It’s the quiet song of the birds as a hot afternoon lazily rolls by. It’s the voices of children laughing and playing the world over—the intonation of innocence unencumbered by chattering thoughts. It’s the sound of friends calling to each other, and the feel of their arms circling you as they embrace you in welcome. It’s stopping in the street to fully soak up a distant vista of a cloud-misted mountain dotted with simple houses. It’s the modulation of your own breathing as you sit silently in the inky darkness and crane your neck to look at the stars, bright dots in the mystery of night, the same night that has always been. It’s the feeling of total relaxation right before you drift off into sleep and it’s the memory of a beautiful dream where a loved one from the other side visits you and tells you everything is going to be ok. All of these are divine occurrences—universal, timeless, regardless of what your name is, what language you speak, or what national anthem you sing.
I love that here in this simple and pure place, people still tend to believe in the quality of silence, the value of a moment, and the sanctity of friendship and family. They haven’t yet sacrificed their souls to the rambling thoughts that keep so many of us imprisoned in our egos. So often in my modern and rushed culture, I feel like an island all alone in a sea of stress and anxiety. Many of my friends and family seem to feel the same. Work becomes our total validation and replaces personal fulfillment. We never spend time doing nothing. We can’t sit still. We can’t think or do anything for more than a few minutes. We’re splintered. We’re ill. Collectively and individually.
When mass was over, I made the sign of the cross and went in peace, just as I always do, even in my part of the world. I walked out feeling pure and simple. These few minutes of solitude had been a beautiful gift. A few minutes away from who I think I should be in order to tap into who I really am.