I was born and raised a Catholic in Rochester, New York, but I now live in Cerritos, California. And I usually try and attend the daily 6:30 AM Mass at St. Pancratious Church in Lakewood, about 8 miles away.
But recently, I had an appointment in Burbank, about 40 miles away, and figured I would not be attending Mass that morning.
At least, I thought would not be…until earlier that morning, when I awakened with this thought:
“I can attend the 8:00 AM in at St. Finbar’s Church in Burbank, which I attended time when I lived in Burbank.”
So, I was good to go.
But due to the usually-congested traffic on the 5 Freeway between Cerritos and Burbank, I had “to go” by 6:00 AM.
Then once on the freeway, and half-way to Burbank, I realized I had forgotten my rosary, a rainbow-colored rosary that once belonged to my Mom, who died in 2008. It’s the only one I have left from her collection of rosaries, including a dark green rosary that I lost in Florida when I lived and worked there a few years back.
Though disappointed about my lack of rosary in hand, I continued on to St. Finbar’s in Burbank.
Upon arrival, I started toward to the left middle pews of St. Finbar’s to where is my usual spot in any church I attend, mostly because that general area is where I also used sit in church as a kid, and especially whenever I would attend Mass with my Mom.
Before taking my seat, however, I ran into a friend of mine in the vestibule who lived in my former apartment building when I resided in Burbank. We were happy to see one another and I thought after, “Wow…what a coincidence.”
But I had not seen anything yet, as in, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
When I eventually walked to my side of the church inside, I found my regular pew, to the left of stands a statue of Jesus. I kneeled, said my initial prayer, sat down in the pew, and waited for Mass to begin.
As the priest and those assisting entered from behind the altar in front of me I happened to turn to the pew behind me, and noticed a rosary, hanging over the front part of the bench.
I’m like, “Alright! I have a rosary for Mass!”
It was only after I picked it up and started to pray that I realized it was a dark green rosary…just like the dark green rosary that once belonged to my Mom, who passed away in 2008.
I did a little “gasp,” just as the Mass began to an audience which also happened to include the First and Second Grade classes of St. Finbar’s School, all of whom sang this morning.
That day, and each day before when I would see those blessed kids at the Morning Mass at St. Finbar’s in Burbank, it always reminded me of when I would do the same with my classmates at the three different parochial elementary schools I attended in Rochester. Those being St. Peter and Paul’s on Brown Street, St. Augustine’s on Chili Avenue, and St. Anthony of Padua on Lorimar Street (which, by the way, is near exact replica of St. Pancratious Church in Lakewood, which is one of the many reasons why I love that particular church).
Back in Burbank at Finbar’s I listened to the first reading, and then to the priest who gave the homily, which mentioned how today is the 45th Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade landmark decision.
I gasped again upon the realization and reviewed the events that brought me to that moment that morning. My 9:00 AM meeting…the trek to Burbank…seeing my friend in the vestibule…seeing the new green rosary on the pew behind, as if waiting for me to reach for it…the school children at Mass…and then the revelation relayed by the priest of what day this was Father Francis Mendoza.
My mother’s name was Frances, and in her later years, she used to jokingly refer to herself as “St. Frances.”
That morning, that didn’t seem so far off. In fact, it seemed all meant to be.
After Mass, I approached one of the sweet church parishioners about what to do with my new green rosary. I told the story of what had just transpired and asked if it was okay to keep the rosary. I felt awkward about it, thinking someone may have left it there.
The nice church parishioner, a woman, told me to keep the rosary.
I was delighted, and it was now 8:45 AM, she was heading a separate church group in additional prayers. I decided to stay with them, hoping the extra prayers would be completed by my 9 AM meeting, which would be taking place at the Starbucks up the street.
I finished praying with the prayer group at 8:59 AM.
I had one minute to make it to my meeting.
Once outside the church, I telephoned the colleague who I was scheduled to meet and told him I might be late.
“No problem,” he said. “I’m still on the freeway.”
A blessing in disguise…one of many this morning.
In all, my thoughts are this:
First and foremost, my Mom was saying hello to me this morning from Heaven, while wanting to make sure I had a rosary.
Seeing my former neighbor in the vestibule was great. My appointment went wonderfully, and my heart was full.
As to the Roe v. Wade issue…and abortion, I can only speak for myself and offer my personal opinion regarding this issue or any issue. I don’t sit in judgment of anyone’s religious, social, or political beliefs. Each of us should have the right to do anything they want to do about anything. And while I don’t think there is a woman in the world who would want to put her body through the trauma that transpires during an abortion, I believe each woman or any human of any gender should be able to do whatever they want with their bodies. We’re all doing the best we can, and any good-hearted individual tries to make the best choices they can; to make all the right decisions. And, for better or for worse, we all live with those decisions.
I also believe that we are dearly loved by Heaven where God resides with endless mercy, and loving-kindness.
That being said, I am pro-life. That doesn’t mean everyone has to be pro-life, but it does mean that I pray everyone would be. And that’s the way I see it, and I’m just sharing who I am and where I stand on the issue, and nothing more.
However, Father Francis that morning at St. Finbar’s stated it infinitely more perfectly and beautifully…and I paraphrase here, in quoting him: “We should live in a world where there is room for EVERY life.”
And I can only add this to that:
I just sure am glad that there was room in this world for me. I’m so very happy and grateful that my Mom didn’t abort me, or that any parent of those precious children singing in church this morning did not abort them, and for that matter, that any parent of anyone I know, know of, or love, or any parent of whose ever reading this, decided not to abort them either.