I went to visit my parents and I couldn’t say no to their suggestion that we go to church together. Well, I did say no, it just wasn’t accepted. “Today is Pentecost Sunday”, my father announced, and I replied “Really?!”, as if that was a valid enough reason. So off we went to the parish my family has attended ever since we arrived in America. A parish that is closing its doors in a few months.
It used to be that we would have to go early in order to get a spot in the small parking lot. My parents are still programmed to leave home at the same time, even though the parking lot these days doesn’t fill up. Outside the parish, we encountered a handful of elderly Italian immigrant’s “Bon Giorno-ing” around. That felt different. Inside, we sat on the same side that we always did. It was probably the same aisle but I wouldn’t remember. Behind me, more “Bon Giorno”. No, this was decidedly different. In front an Indian family. Also different. I looked around the sparse church, full aisles empty. Even then it was spotted with more people of colour than I remember.
Do I kneel on my left or on my right as I enter the aisle? Oh look, there’s an altar girl, I wonder when that started. After the priest said his greeting, I alone replied “And also with you” while the chorus around me was a definitive “And with your spirit”. Oh yes, the new English translation of the Catholic Mass was adopted in 2011. Thank goodness I don’t speak loudly in the first place. I stumbled through the Penitential Act and the Gloria so by the time we got to the Apostle’s Creed, I was silent. I was reminded of Easter masses in Nzema where I had no clue what was being said. I just knelt and got up and knelt again with the crowd. It had felt like eternity.
The priest is charismatic, a Nigerian. I’ve heard him before, but I don’t recall him busting out into song, loud pitch at that, in the middle of his Homily before. Pentecost Sunday indeed. I imagined him at the altar of a Nigerian Church in Nigeria. I imagined that he would be less restrained, maybe even dancing filled with the Holy Spirit.
When it came time for Holy Communion, I had visions of being denied for saying the wrong thing. Luckily I did not have to make a fool of myself. I just went back to my pew and begun to think of what was for lunch savouring the waffle. At least by the end of the mass I had the reply to the concluding rite right “And with your spirit”.