Last weekend, we went into New York city to do a little sightseeing. And I learned what could be one of the biggest lessons of the whole trip.
Episcopalians are Christians too. They've got something in common with us as Catholics. We're all Christian.
Yeah, yeah, I knew this already. I did. But it didn't really hit me until last Saturday.
Because Peter and I walked into St. Thomas Episcopal church, which is right across the street, practically, from St. Patrick's Cathedral. As I entered, I was struck by the beauty of the architecture. I would have to say that it was up there on my list of favorite churches.
My eye was immediately drawn to a side altar, to the left of the main altar. There was a service going on (it was noontime) and I walked quietly to the front to admire the carvings behind the altar. And then I sat down in a pew and watched the service. I looked, and I watched, and my jaw dropped.
I saw a man dressed in vestments, facing the altar and elevating a host, then a chalice.
I saw him genuflect in reverence.
I watched as the people responded, and he said a prayer.
And then they came forward to the altar rail, where they knelt while he distributed the hosts and chalice.
What was this?! Most Roman Catholics don't have the kind of reverence that these people had.
I had always believed (assumed, really), at least a little bit, that Protestants went to church on Sundays, where they sang hymns, heard a sermon, and may have a communion service. I never, ever thought that I would see a group at a weekday service. As Peter and I read the liturgy card in the back of the church, I read their beliefs, and the beauty of it all hit me. Over and over and over again.
We are so similar.
Do you realize the beauty and grace of this? In an age where division seems to be the norm, we have so much in common with other Christians. Shouldn't this be something that we hold on to? That we cherish and remember more often? I truly believe that it is.
I was overwhelmed. I don't know if anyone else understood what I had seen. While I get their perspective as well (that St. Patrick's is really cool), I just couldn't get that picture of the service in St. Thomas out of my head. Even on Monday, when we went back to the city, I encouraged everyone to visit. And even though I don't think anyone did, maybe, just maybe the thought was planted. Perhaps they will go, one day, and experience what I did last Saturday.
I am beginning my last week on Crossroads. Josh will leave this afternoon, Mario and Claire tomorrow night, and the rest of us will slowly disperse to cities around the country to begin a new school year. I have a feeling that you all will be hearing a lot about Crossroads from me in the next couple weeks: reflections, fun stories, (hopefully) lots of pictures. I hope you don't mind! I also hope that you've been able to experience some of it with me this summer. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to post half as much as I would have liked, but I'm sure I'll make it up this semester!
Please keep us in your prayers as we walk into DC and end this crazy amazing journey. You're all certainly in mine.