Thursday, November 01, 2007

I Hope the Saints are Willing to Wait for Me

I made the decision to go to Mass by myself this evening, thinking it would better afford me the ability to pray on this the glorious feast of All Saints. It wasn't long after I had settled myself in the second pew, however, that an unearthly cry came from the back of the church. I didn't turn to look at who or what had let out such a noise or why. The Mass proceeded as usual.

In the middle of the first reading the sound came again-- this time much closer. A man in a long coat and boots approached the altar. He waved his hands high in the air and was shouting nonsense intermixed with words from the liturgy. He stopped before the altar rail and fell to the ground in some sort of posed prayer. He stood up suddenly, shouted again, and took a seat RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. I was terrified.

I eyed the people around me and even tried to catch the attention of the priest with my powerfully persistent stare, but nobody seemed as put out by this man's strange behavior. When he shouted again and reached into his coat, I thought for sure this was the end for me. I knew it. I had always known it, ever since first grade when I had learned the meaning of the term "martyr" and wondered how I might be called to die for my faith. How else than to be shot down in a church, and on the feast of All Saint's no less?

I considered reaching for my cell phone, dialing 911 and leaving it open on the pew. I knew I was a goner because I was this man's first shot if he turned around, but I figured I might save some lives that way. That's when the priest stood up and stepped forward. As Father demanded that he leave the church, the strange man took his hand out of his coat and pleaded to stay. He didn't have a gun, it seems. When father asked for volunteers to escort the man out, several parishioners came forward. He left without much of a struggle, but shouted strange things all the way, poor soul.

Once he was gone, the woman who had been sitting beside him turned to me and said in a quietly concerned voice, "I thought he was going to shoot us all." "So did I," I replied through a relieved half smile and pressed her extended hand.

And that was it.

I suppose I should be rethinking my whole life now and making dramatic resolutions to change, but honestly, I am just relieved. On the drive home all I could think or feel was relief that the Lord hadn't called me--yet anyway-- to the quick and obvious martyrdom of my childhood imaginings. I was only too pleased to return again to the slow, daily grind of death to self.

24 comments:

Johane said...

Blessed be God! I am so glad that you are safe. I'll pray for that man, that he may get the medical attention he seems to need (and whatever other care he requires...)

Jane Ramsey said...

Oh my goodness, Suzanne, what an experience! I, too, am glad you didn't suffer your martyrdom last night---there are too many little people that depend on you. (And I would miss you, my friend!)

Ken Wills said...

Our priest once had a sermon about what would you do differently in your life if you found you had only 1 (day|week|month|year) to live? His answer was you should continue to do exactly as you are now. Every day of your life should be doing God's work whether that be preaching, ministries, working a job to help others accomplish God's works, or raising a family. Suzanne, I believe the stories and reminiscings in this blog clearly show you are doing God's work in spades! Keep up the good work.

P.S. Dialing 991 would not have brought much help :-)

scmom (Barbara) said...

I'm certain you WERE relieved when it was over. I'm glad to hear your brave clergy took matters seriously. In this day, Catholics cannot dismiss craziness for mental illness (even when it is). We never know when we will be called to be martyrs.

Erin said...

Suzanne

How frightening!! I bet one thought that went through your mind was, "thank goodness the boys weren't with you."

Suzanne Temple said...

Thanks johane and jane, I hope he finds the help he needs, too. So sad.

Ken,You are very right, we should be living every day like it is our last. Ha about the 991, you know that was the number to dial to answer the trivia questions during the World Series? I thought during the games that 911 would be getting a few "trivial" calls from that.I guess it stayed with me.

Thank you barbara. It's true. I've been in church before when mentally ill people have made disturbances, but I was never so terrified as this. Too many of his gestures were reminiscent of sad events in the news.

Yes erin, I was so glad to be alone.

Denise said...

Suzanne, I was in church with you last evening and praying very hard for all of us, including him, but especially those of you who were in the pews surrounding him. I was supposed to be at the earlier mass with my daughter but was held at work for an extra couple of hours (gotta love being a nurse!). I knelt down, prayed and wondered if it was the chosen end for me too, "was this why I was detained at work?" I am so grateful to the priest and the herd of men who stood up to answer their call to protect all of us and the sanctity of the mass. I will continue to pray for the poor soul and will remember his face for a long time to come. God Bless.

Cheryl M. said...

We had something very similar happen in mass in September - it is frightening. I'm very happy you are okay. :)

Karen E. said...

I, too, am very happy that you're safe, Suzanne! I had a similar thing happen last year, but I was at my holy hour, with just my daughter and one other woman in church. It is indeed frightening. Prayers for all ....

gretchen from lifenut said...

How frightening!

Kristen Laurence said...

How terrifying. Thank God everyone is safe.

Meredith said...

Oh Suzanne, thank goodness you are safe and how scary that must have been. Praying for his troubled soul and I hope you were able to snuggle with all your sweeties when you arrived home :)

Anonymous said...

wow.......that is all i can say...wow..... i guess youjust never know.
Praise GOD for your parents to instill in you at suich a young age the idea of Marytrdom....if they did not, what would you have really done???? Hum... makes you think......

Anonymous said...

wow.......that is all i can say...wow..... i guess youjust never know.
Praise GOD for your parents to instill in you at suich a young age the idea of Marytrdom....if they did not, what would you have really done???? Hum... makes you think......

Jennie C. said...

I don't know what to say. It's scary, and strange, and I wonder why he was there and what he needed, or what he was there to offer. I'm glad you're safe, but I also wonder, "What if..."

Suzanne Temple said...

Denise, I did not know you were there. Thanks for the prayers.

Journey of Truth said...

I have enjoyed your blogs immensely and would have cried my eyes out at the loss of you here on earth and the mum to such sweet boys who need and love you. So, thank God you are alright, as well as the rest of those there.

Ken made a very good point about continuing as you are. You are doing a splendid job (from what I can see here).

May the JOY of the Lord be with you and yours!

Bia said...

Just visiting from the Danielle Bean site! Something similar happened at one of our masses. Just before communion a teenager seated alone and dressed all in black started snickering loudly. Our priest immediately stopped what he was doing, stepped down, approached the teen, and demanded that he leave. Fortunately he left, but I was struck at how incredibly brave our priest (who wasn't young!) was to confront the teen.
I enjoy reading your posts . . . I have all sons as well! God bless!

J.C. said...

Wow, very scary. Glad you (and everyone else)are OK.

Anonymous said...

Is being killed randomly by a madman martyrdom? Or is it only martyrdom if the random killing takes place in a church, as opposed to out on the street or in the supermarket?

I always thought martyrdom was dying FOR something, or BECAUSE of something (as in persecution). I didn't realize possible random acts could so easily bring up thoughts of being martyred.

Nice to see that the church and its fine members practice such kindness and charity towards the afflicted. I'm trying to imagine if Christ ordering the apostles to drag the mad, the ill, and the possessed out of His presence.

Mia said...

so being in church isn't allowed if you're mentally ill or you somehow, just by existing, cause others to think you're dangerous?

I can see getting him out of the main service and maybe having someone sit with him privately to see if he could benefit from some counsel.. but to just throw him out of church because he was different, or maybe scary looking to some, that just doesn't seem like the proper christian thing to do, at least my 2 cents. It makes me a little ashamed to hear it tho.

::sigh::

Suzanne Temple said...

Anon and Mia, I left some details out of this story because I thought they might be taken the wrong way, but I hope I made it clear that this man's actions were certainly threatening. In light of all we hear in the news today, I think we need to be careful and protect ourselves from possible harm. I think father's actions in standing up to him were appropriate. Perhaps when we saw that he wasn't a real threat someone could have taken him aside.

Suzanne Temple said...

Also anon, At first, it was FAR from clear that this man was mad and yes, if he came there to kill people for being Christians, anyone who did not deny their faith could be considered martyrs. We'd have died because we were Christian. Now if he were just a crazy man shooting people randomly, no, being in a church doesn't afford the opportunity for martyrdom.

Ellen Connolly said...

g-o-o-s-e-b-u-m-p-s!