Monday, July 26, 2010

Agnus Dei (or Why I Got the Giggles in Church on Sunday)

We have a great Praise and Worship team at my church, Dunwoody Community Church (in Dunwoody, Georgia) - if you live nearby or are visiting Atlanta, I invite you to stop in and check them out - they are THAT good.   All members of the band are professional musicians, not that you must be to lead worship in a church, but I am so proud of each of them and so thankful to have them lead us each week.  They always lead us in some amazing, meaningful, and deeply felt worship at the beginning of our services, and no Sunday morning would seem complete without it. 

I have on several occassions been moved to tears by the beauty and feeling of it all.  I have on  occassion been moved to tears because the words of a particular hymn happen to speak to something that I am dealing or struggling with in life at the time.  I have also on occassion been moved to prayer, and stop singing along so that I can pray right then and there.  On all occassions I can't help but do a little "dancing" - just tapping my feet or swaying, I've even caught myself bouncing a time or two.  But this past Sunday, I was moved to giggle when we began singing Michael W. Smith's "Agnus Dei". 

Growing up Catholic leaves it's indelible mark on a person.  For me, there are many things that bring me back to the Sundays of my early childhood where you'd have found me sitting on kneelers at St. Bartholamew's Catholic Church, eating whatever snack Mom had tucked away in her purse and drawing on the edge of the bulletin.  Mom and Dad would hand us each coins so that we too would have something to place in the collection baskets - this was a good thing, however for me it was never good enough - I wanted to put in a dollar.  Anyway, of all the many things that take me back, hearing anything with Latin words for a title takes me back immediately!  Which is why I caught a case of the giggles yesterday.

As we began to sing Agnus Dei Sunday, my mind filled with memories of training for my first confession at the ripe ol' age of six.  You had to make your first confession before you could make what I'd been looking forward to all that year... My First Communion!  I couldn't wait to finally wear the white eyelet, floor lenth dress that my Mother had sewn (and that my sister before me had worn for the same blessed event in her life) and to top my head with a lace-edged veil just like brides wore!  The only problem was... I was deathly afraid of making that first confession!  I had to tell someone else all the ways I'd been "bad" and if that weren't harsh enough I also had to memorize the "Act of Contrition" - the prayer one recites to the priest while in the confessional.  It goes like this:

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all because I have offended you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen.

I was horrible at memorization.  I still am.  As long as I live I'll never forget standing in line on my own personal "D-Day" waiting to make my confession.  Confession of what I do not remember, and 30+ years later I can't imagine what "mortal" sin I required absolution from. With sweaty palms and nervously shifting my weight from one foot to the other, I remember heartily praying that God would make sure I ended up in the confessional on the right instead of the left, as the one on the right had the "Act of Contrition" framed and posted beside the black screen in the wall that seperated the sinner from the priest.  (Good news - God came through!)

I lived through my confession, read the prayer right off the wall, and  and received and prayed the appropriate penance for my crimes:  One "Our Father" and a "Glory Be". 

A few weeks later I made my way down the center aisle in that beautiful dress and veil, with a lovely corsage of daisies and gold floral ribbon.  My Mother had set my hair on big painful rollers the night before, and she'd assured me in the morning that I looked "just like Farrah Fawcett", something always important to me in those days.  I was so happy to have the entire church see me daintily place the communion host on my tongue, and I even remembered to perform the Sign of the Cross afterward.  Just before my group entered the church, I remember telling one little boy "I love you in God's way because I have to, but I sure don't like you!".

So should you ever see me grinning and giggleing to myself in church, just know that there's probably a good Catholic story behind it, and I hope you'll pardon me for it - I promise to share the story with you later if you do!

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