|This is not Christ The King, its just a lovely picture from pexels.com|
I started going for lunch time mass at Christ The King, a while back when I was a bit troubled. I could not get my mind to settle. I would describe my mind at that time as Monday morning traffic chaos in Kampala just before the traffic policeman/woman calmly arrives to start their shift.
So I took myself to the one place my mother taught me to go. Church. I had hoped I’d have a better chance of finding Him in his house rather than in mine. I wanted God to be a good traffic police man and set everything back in order. I wanted him to arrive on his police motorcycle with the orange light rotating and flashing, whistle in mouth, clip board under the arm, black boots polished, white uniform freshly ironed, ready to magically unlock all the confounded cars and taxis in my mind stuck in grid lock.
Church helped. The familiar pattern of mass helped still my mind, so much so that I somehow rekindled one of my ‘bad’ habits. From a young age I have always loved the idea of mass, the ritual of the movements, the rhythm and repetition in the priest’s voice and the congregation's, the predictable silences, the familiar hymns… I could go on…but for now let me stick to my ‘bad’habit. When I get distracted from my prayer, I love watching other people pray. There is so much you can learn about a person just by looking at how they interact with God. I actually think that people are at their most vulnerable in church, because church has totally different social cues. For one you enter silently and sit, no need to greet your neighbor, no need to introduce yourself, no need to tell people who you are. After all you are here to talk to God, and he already knows who you are.
So this habit of studying people in church, resurfaced during lunch time mass. And since my mother was no longer around to nudge my shoulder, or gently bow my head in prayer when my mind faulted, I settled back into my habit of studying people as they arrived, took their seats, and knelt to begin their private internal conversation with God. (I know...I know... it's a terrible habit which all story tellers need 😉 )
Some really interesting occurrences happened since the first time I attended. Today I have decided to share just three on this blog. Three that to this day have remained in my mind.
THE FIRST STORY: So this didn't happened in church, but it certainly surprised me. One time I stepped out of office to get a boda boda to church. I waved down one, and asked him the price to Christ The King. He seemed vague about it, so I assertively told him ‘ 1000ugx, that all I have!’. He didn’t quarrel, I hopped on, and we whizzed off to church. When we arrived, he parked his boda boda, I proceeded to pay him and to my surprise he refused to take the money. He took off his helmet and calmly walked off into the church for mass. And that was my first and last free boda boda ride to church. 😲😲😲
THE SECOND STORY: I was late, it was lent season so the inside of the church was packed. I spread out my scarf and sat on the circular steps that surround the entrance to the church. As we got busy saying the apostles creed. A bare footed women in dirty clothes approached the church. she was lamenting and crying to herself, and to anyone who would listen. She had a stack of tattered leaflets with her and she was trying to give them to people but they would twist their faces and move out of her way. You know the bronze statue of Jesus with the big feet outside of Christ the King? She stopped before it and knelt down. I swear she prayed straight from her heart with so much humility. I could feel it, remember I told you I have experience in watching people at church. I can tell who’s authentic. At one point she got up and flipped though her leaflets and picked out the best ones she could find, the glossy ones with the least amount of dampness from her tears. Then she lay them at Jesus’s feet. She gave her offering. Her best offering. Remember that story in the bible the one with the sick women who just knew if she touched Jesus , she’d be healed. What about that story when Jesus mentioned the greatness of the poor lady's offering in the temple verses the rich man? This reminded me of that. Because as she prayed she didn’t seem so tortured by her personal demons anymore. Then after five minutes, she got up and carried on walking, returning right back to the state she entered our presence in, lamenting and handing leaflets to strangers. Never saw her again. But I’d like to naively think she has many regular conversations with Jesus.
THE THIRD STORY: It was another lent season, I was sat outside on the steps as usually. I wasn’t alone there were other late comers like me. Around Fifteen minutes into mass, as they were reading the second reading . We see a short thin woman hobbling closer to us trying to reach the steps at the entrance of the church. She can barely move her feet because of the unusual heavy bundle on her back and the aged handbag and blue & green mukeka in her hands. the bundle is wrapped in a lesu with a common picture of the virgin Mary on it. When she reaches the steps , she balances herself, lays out the mukeka, places down her bag, then slowly and cautiously manages to put her bundle down. The bundle starts to move and unravel itself. It's boy, a boy with a head that is too big for it's body. The size of his head informs us that some special operation must be done to fix it. We all know in Uganda that will cost money, and from the looks of the lady she doesn't have much to spare. So where did she turn to? Church. God's house. The lady doesn’t make any eye contact with anyone, she knows we are all staring at her, and the boy . Despite all this, she joins in the prayers with us, because I am sure she is used to our reaction by now, we can’t be the first group of people to stare, possibly judge and then pity them. When mass is down she asks for no help, puts her son on her back, balances her bag and mukeka, and leaves as she came. For three days , everyone who sits outside with me at mass, we watch her come and say her prayers and leave. Then one day when it is time for the offertory, every single one of us takes our offertory and places it on the mukeka next to her. She is so shocked that we see her cry silently throughout the rest of mass. Like I said earlier, during mass the social cues are different. In the street I mind my own business, but in church this women could have fitted quite comfortably into anyone of Jesus’ parables, so at mass she becomes our business. After Easter, I never see her or her son at mass again. I don’t think we helped her much, in fact I think her faith and determination to get to mass everyday with her son actually helped us. It helped me put a lot into perspective. I think bronze Jesus with the big feet sent her to teach us something. My mind went very still that day. Things were crisp and clear like that first breath of fresh air during an early morning walk.
We become different creatures on the way to God’s house and also while we are in it.So maybe God didn’t arrive in a motorcycle, lights flashing, whistle ready to blow. He arrived the way he does. Unexpectedly. And I got the message.