This is what I saw at Mass this morning:
A little boy wearing a shark tooth necklace.
A retirement-age woman leaning over to her husband to whisper her opinions on the homily.
A woman who reminded me of a friend I met through another Jesuit parish, her face radiant as she lifted a host to each person approaching her, offering them the Body of Christ.
A man who I see almost every Sunday, stepping gingerly and leaning on a pair of crutches, his T-shirt tucked into a pair of athletic shorts cinched high around his waist.
The cantor greeting the congregation before Mass, asking us to “sing with full voices.”
A young man behind us kneeling down after receiving Communion, head bent low over his hands. He was breathing so heavily he may have been crying.
A string of people like a thread of rosary beads, clasping one another’s hands during the Our Father. One man stood with his arms crossed in front of his torso so that he could hold hands with his wife and reach out to the person behind him.
Voices rising into the air, singing, “I will come to you in the silence / I will lift you from all your fear.” A feeling of nostalgia, home, yearning pulling at my chest during the chorus of the song.
A toddler coming back from receiving a blessing during Communion, clutching a big, overstuffed teddy bear to his chest.
A little girl with braided pigtails skipping out into the aisle to shake hands with a stranger during the sign of peace.
My fingers laced into my boyfriend’s fingers.
The priest speaking from his heart, asking us to pray for the victims and the perpetrators of clergy sex abuse, for all Catholics who feel heart-heavy and weary and bruised and yet still find ourselves in the pews each week.
A teenage girl who looked like she would rather have been anywhere else, her eyes sleepy, her long legs bare.
A brother and sister carrying up the gifts, the sister stage-whispering “STOP” to her brother as they reached the steps, then elbowing him hard to tell him where to hand off the collection basket.
A Eucharistic minister wearing cargo shorts on the altar.
Black faces. Brown faces. White faces. Old faces. Young faces. Tired faces. Emotional faces. Apathetic faces. Lovesick faces.
A family gathering up their purses and backpacks and coloring books so they could leave discreetly after receiving Communion, skipping the obligatory announcements.
A mother with her three children in their preferred pew at the back of the church, her sons in suits. She wore a black fascinator on her head and pointed-toe pumps.
Light streaming in through the blue stained glass, the thin, modern windows reflected in the glass face of my wristwatch.
The altar flanked with tall potted palms bedded in decorative moss.
Another song, one that we always sing before receiving Communion: “Take, oh, take me as I am. Summon out what I shall be. Set your seal upon my heart and rest in me.”
A community that I don’t see elsewhere in my city, although I live and work and shop among the people that join me in the pews. A belief that flickers and wavers. A belief that brings us back to the pews most Sundays, to talk to a being we can’t see, except when it appears in the people around us, a kingdom of God, sleepy and earnest, striving and slouching toward hope.