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.