Holy Wednesday

Was it the presence of the brothers on the streets, stirring up the neighborhood?  Or was it something deeply spiritual about ‘Spy Wednesday’?  We don’t know.  But the atheists were fired up last night, showing up everywhere.  Two of them made it all the way to the church itself.   The first one, a ​young​ woman who said “I am only here to ​light the candles they gave me at the corner!​”,  lasted just a minute.  She came back out, gasping for air.  “I can’t breathe in there!  Something is wrong!”  (The ​giant cathedral doors were wide open all night and so with the two side doors.​  ​Most of us ​thought it was a pleasant,​ but bit chilly night.​)

The second​,​ a middle-aged ​woman​,​ proclaims her “ interest i​n church​ architecture.  ​Hmmmm…..  An atheist with interest in church architecture? ​ Can I walk around and take pictures?”   “Of course.  Everyone is welcome here.”  Soon, she declares proudly,  “I am a ‘devout atheist.’”  Clenching her fist, she underscores her point.  “Yes, in fact, a hard core atheist!  I don’t believe any of this!”  “Wow, you seem pretty fired up.”  “You should stop deceiving people! Atheism is what we should be teaching everyone!”  I decide to go right past her declaration, to find out what she’s really hiding underneath all those layers she’s wearing.  “Are you Catholic by any  chance?”  “I was baptized Catholic but not anymore, not since I was maybe 7 years old.”  She moves closer to me.  “There is no God!”   Silence.  “There are many things that I do not agree with among the teachings of the Catholic Church.  For one, I am a firm believer and staunch supporter of women’s reproductive rights”.  “Oh, you mean you support abortion?”  “Yes, although I believe we are in agreement when it comes to supporting the poor!”, she says, somewhat proudly. “After all, you can be any religion and be supporters of the poor”, she added.  “That is so true! In fact, we Christians support the poorest of the poor, the unborn child”. “No!  No!” she protests loudly. That is what we call ‘subject to debate!’”  “Is it? Is the defenseless, weak, helpless child in the womb not poor? Specially those under threat of death?”  She retreats to lower ground.   “The problem with you Catholics is that you cannot accept the reality that there is no God!”

​ I say “If you have time, I can name you realities that speak strongly of the presence of God”. I am ready to give her a short list….every drop of rain, every bird that flies, every flower in the meadow, every star in the sky, every bolt of lightning and roar of thunder! …Every tiny baby who holds her mother with twinkling eyes! ..does she need more realities?….. Suddenly, she declares an end to our dialogue.  “I need to be somewhere.”  As she ​leaves​ the church, I wonder if she is now a layer lighter.  I ​did not get the chance to ask her,​ “If there is no God, why all these passionate protests against someone who does not exist?”

The missionary in the back of the Church