Safe Harbor

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Image: A coups de clix
I stepped into the prayer room, wanting to spend a few moments in front of the Blessed Sacrament. There was always someone there to spend an hour (if not more) of his or her time, keeping Him company. Yes, one can pray anywhere, and the solitude that one can find in the countryside seems very ideal. But having been raised Catholic, there was no escaping the church. The people are the church but, over the years, I have also liked the buildings. It was a safe harbour, in a way, where I have sought, and found, solace and healing.

Usually, I would have much preferred to sit in a pew inside the church - I preferred the anonymity even though I may be the only one in there - but as the churches were usually locked during the day, the next best thing was the prayer room where there was the permanent exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

I had been going there a few times just because I had time on my hands and it was on the way home. And I was glad for that time for I felt I needed to say something to Him. Attendance at Mass was preferable, I know, but I decided that spending time with Him in front of the Blessed Sacrament couldn't be all that bad either.

It was more intimate inside the prayer room and as I entered, I noticed an elderly couple at the back (where I would have preferred to sit). Wanting a little more privacy, I walked to the front and knelt.

There was confusion within - mostly in my heart, but in my head as well - and I asked Him what I should do. I didn't know where my marriage was leading me. There were no children. Was I just too impatient or was this how it was supposed to be? Or was there something else? Yes, I asked too many questions but at least I was asking Him, going straight to Him instead of asking others around me. If my questions couldn't or wouldn't cease just yet, at least I could always go to Him. I obviously wasn't happy and I needed an answer from Him, anything. And even though I shouldn't have, I knew that I was asking for a sign, some sign that He had heard me. And even if help did come my way, how would I recognise it?

As I was so aware that I was not alone, I tried to hold back my tears as much as I could. Even the onset of tears surprised me. After a while, there was nothing more to say. I had forgotten to bring kleenex with me and kept my head down as I made my way to the door. I was also aware that the couple at the back had seen me and I felt a little embarrassed.

Being out in the open again helped to clear my head. I felt a little better. But still I needed to be within the safe confines of my car and walked quickly, all the while feeling upset.

As I composed myself in the car, I was aware that another car had parked right next to mine. I wondered why when the church parking lot was obviously empty. Why park right next to me?

I didn't want - didn't dare? - look up and put away my kleenex, hoping the other person would leave before I started to drive away. A knock on my window startled me and when I looked up, I noticed that it was a young man, probably the owner of the car that had just pulled in. I wondered what he wanted and hoped he didn't think I was loitering in the parking lot. Why I thought that, I'll never know.

I quickly rolled down the window and the young man asked casually, "Can I help you?"

All I could think was, no, I am not loitering and I hope he knows that, and I want to get out of here. Not in so many words but almost.

I quickly uttered, "Oh, I'm just leaving," wanting him to know that I wasn't loitering.

He nodded, perhaps understandingly, and then walked away. He hadn't smiled plus he was wearing darkglasses. I watched as he walked up the path and I gathered that he was headed for the church office or ... who knows where. It looked like he had an envelope in one hand.

I wondered who he was and I later found out that he was that parish's newly-ordained priest. And there I was, wondering who was this strange fellow who insisted on parking right next to me and had the audacity to ask if he could help me.

He was actually being helpful. Perhaps he had seen me rushing to my car in distress and wanted to find out if he could help in any way. He was ministering to me but I couldn't see it at the time mostly because I had no idea who he was and I just wanted to get away.

And I later wondered if he was the answer to my heartfelt prayer earlier that day. I did ask for a sign after all, and true enough, I failed to recognise it. Was it really a sign, or was it merely a coincidence? Was that His answer after all, that moment which was so unexpected and unrecognisable? I just never thought that He would answer me so soon. Didn't I trust Him? And what would I have said to this young man, anyway?

There are no coincidences. Not with Him.

Yet I know that there is a part of me that still wonders. And if I know what I know, surely I shouldn't wonder. But I know that I do. I'm on a merry-go-round of my own making, the tiger chasing its tail. I know that the heart can lead one astray but I also know that there are times when I just have to listen to my heart. And then I get afraid. And I wonder why. And on and on it goes.

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