Friday, August 12, 2011

Another Blown Save

The chapel is always very quiet.  Maybe it's because people are still half asleep or, because folks serious enough to get up for such an early Mass are not likely to cause a disturbance.  This being August, people tend to go on vacation, so I have the feeling that some of the regulars are missing because they're away.  At the same time, I'm slowly recognizing who works there, who comes solely for Mass, and who the Sisters are.  So when a kind of shabbily dressed gentleman showed up yesterday, I noticed.  I try to pray for those around me not only in case they need it ( who doesn't?) but especially if they are in the chapel to pray for a sick loved one.  For the past few days I've noticed a mother and a teen-aged girl coming in to pray for someone I imagine is not doing well, based on their demeanor.

Anyway, at the conclusion of Mass, having time to say a Rosary before heading to work,  I am the last one in the chapel when the priest locks up the sacristy, turns out the lights and leaves.  Today, although there were plenty of other places to sit, the gentleman chose to sit next to me, and when Mass ended, he, too stayed behind.  I thought of changing my seat because when I would look up at the crucifix behind the altar, I could tell he was looking at me and truthfully, it made me a little nervous.  But, being the sado-masochist that I am, I decided to stay put.  And I was totally caught off-guard when the man slid closer to me in the pew, pointing to his Rosary.

"Excuse me, would you like to say a decade of the Rosary with me?."

I don't know why, but this was as awkward as the time the class nerd asked me to go to his senior prom - a week beforehand!.  I quietly said I preferred to pray by myself and then he went on to say that he was new to the area and didn't know anyone.  I told him I, too, was new and I wasn't sure if people prayed out loud or not.  I told him I preferred to maintain the silence in the chapel until I knew better.  In all honesty, if someone had a few minutes to steal away from the bedside of a sick person desiring to speak to the Lord, shouldn't they have that opportunity?

Then again, would anyone really be disturbed if the sounds they heard were people praying, the Rosary?

And he went away sad.  Not really, he continued to sit next to me, but now I was feeling like an evil ogre.  It's not the first time a man has approached me in a church or chapel.  Had a woman approached me, would I have reacted the same?  If one of the sisters approached me to pray with her, would I have reacted the same?  I have to say that when it men approach me, it always feels like they're not just interested in praying.  A lonely person is a lonely person regardless, but as a married woman, I am uncomfortable with being approached, whatever the reason.

I shared this experience with Rebecca at dinner tonight and she shook her head.

"Mom, that was mean.  You should have prayed with him."

That's what I thought.

I'm just not a touchy-feelie person, but I thought it would have been just the kind of sacrifice St. Therese would gladly have made.

I blew it again.


  1. Hmmm. I'm probably not the best one to comment on this approaching me usually creeps me out, and I would have done the same thing. You went with your instinct and that's OK. It's hard to make those judgments on the fly. If it was a missed opportunity Joyce, you know the Lord will give you another.

  2. The key thing here is that he sat next to you--not, say, a pew over.
    You weren't rude. Just honest.
    It's ok.
    Caroline is right: there will be others.

  3. If I were a woman, I would have felt nervous myself. Actually even as a man I would have felt nervous. Strangers intruding your private space is something to be skeptical about. And shabbily dressed isn't exactly comforting. I guess a woman doing that to you could be just as puzzling and off putting, though the physical danger might not be as great. It doesn't sound like a good situation to me.

  4. Joyce, don't feel bad. You are a kind person, but this time your gut feeling made you uncomfortable.

    Creepy things can happen in church sometimes. I have had to be downright unfriendly toward a man who has some mental deficiencies, but functions on a very high level. He used to call my sister and me all the time and ask personal questions about how long we had been married, etc. The final straw was when he sat next to me at daily Mass once and at the sign of peace, grabbed me and kissed me on the lips!

    I was completely horrified, and when I told my husband he felt this person could be dangerous. So now I barely look at him when I see him. I don't like feeling unkind, but I feel it's necessary in his case.

    I agree with Caroline and Julie. God understands why you rejected the man's request. Maybe you would feel better if you said a few prayers for him. God bless you!

  5. I appreciate everyone's comments. I thought a little more about it. Had the gentleman said something like " could you pray with me, I am praying for a sick relative and need some support" instead of "I'm new in town" I might have reacted differently. I didn't get to Mass this morning so I went to the Vigil Mass tonight. I sat behind a woman who demanded my attention before I had even genuflected to Jesus. I wonder if people are drawn to church because they are drawn to the Lord or because they are drawn to other people. It's a sad commentary on our society that the one time we should devote our attention to Him is also the only opportunity some people have for human interaction and contact. Charity should dictate our actions, I know that, but it so hard.

  6. The elderly gentleman I "replace" during one of my perpetual adoration hours is always trying to engage me in a little conversation. At first I simply nodded a reply or gave a one-word whisper with a smile, because I didn't want to encourage him.
    I have since discerned that he is very lonely and only needs, thankfully, for me to listen briefly to him say a few words about the weather or the Bible passage he just read before I turn my head and he leaves the chapel.
    While I would much rather be silent in adoration, I have a strong feeling Our Lord, in this case, does not mind our short discourse.

  7. My mother reminded me, when I relayed this story to her, about the man who was stalking women after Mass and at Adoration a few years ago who eventually got himself arrested. He made life hell for awhile for a few women I know but thankfully never bothered me. I'm feeling a little better about my decision but certainly the exchange adds one more person to my growing list of those to pray for.

    Julie, I agree with you. That's when charity must trump decorum.


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