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    A View from the Pew

    In this house

    I meet my dad weekly for Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Home. I follow a procession of walkers, wheelchairs, oxygen machines, movable beds with attached IV’s into the chapel that seats about 100 people.  Other family members and some the nursing home workers who gather nod or smile their greeting. Just about everyone who goes to the chapel for Mass goes a bit early to recite the Rosary, led by one of the home’s chaplains. The celebration of the liturgy immediately follows that devotion. This crowd loves and embraces shared prayer.

    The assembly’s language changes in the new Roman Missal create a bit of a conundrum. The response “And also with you” still resonates throughout the chapel. The only members of the assembly who respond “And with your spirit” seem to be family members who worship in other parishes and know that the response changed. The same thing happens at “It is right and just.” But the presider refers to the assembly card in the pew for the Glory to God and the Creed. Perhaps the decision to ‘let things ride’ is based on the fact that the aged assembly would find the changes confusing. Many of the residents are already confused due to health issues; perhaps the new language changes would simply be too much for them to bear. Many cannot see and hear well or at all; so much for pew cards. I’ve reasoned that the decision by the house chaplains to move slowly on these language changes may be pastoral one. What would I do if I served this population? I have to walk around in their shoes for a little while to know the answer. Or maybe I should just ask them.

    I’ve come to look forward to the Kiss of Peace each week. Some residents leave their pews to greet people on the other side of the central aisle. Others who are wheelchair bound turn their chairs or their heads to nod and smile at everyone in the chapel. I think that so many of this friendly gathering are simply happy to be in one another’s company and feel free to express that joy in a liturgical moment that I often take for granted. In my opinion, when your interaction with people becomes limited, you seize the moments that allow human contact. I find myself seeing Christ’s face in the deep wrinkles, arthritic limbs and in the helping hands that surround me from all sides. Ritual worship mediates God’s presence in surprising ways.

    The presider chants the Alleluia and sings the verse; a gusty response echoes the chant. These folks sing well. We recite the psalm and other acclamations. A small organ stands silent on Sunday mornings. Do I volunteer to lead music? Does this small assembly desire a sung liturgy or do I leave well enough alone and remain in the pew with my father? Would simple acclamations and a chanted psalm serve this body of worship? I discern my role: daughter in the pew or pastoral musician back on the bench? I wonder if God has sent me to be the musical manna to this tiny community of faith. I contemplate the question and wonder where the question will lead. In the meantime, my view from the pew in a nursing home continues to reveal Christ who feeds me in this house of elder care and sacred community.