The faith grew from inside my bones, starting with incense, candles, and bells. I loved the magic of my church. First down the aisle came the Verger. Then came the majestic candles and banners, singers and acolytes, and the hypnotic clouds of incense from a swinging ball. Then came the Assisting Father, the bearer of the holy Gospels, and lastly the Celebrant Father. The sweet fog of the incense hung in the air like a cloud of God, making everything in my head holy… making me, myself, holy. Holy: as in whole, complete, well-loved.
It all helped me pray. I prayed for lots of things, on my knees, eyes closed, hands together, kneeling in the pew. I just knew someday I would live in a convent castle, and be the bride of Jesus. But at the same time I was always a tiny bit afraid I might speak out loud; what if I said a bad word? Even in elementary school, I understood this fear should be irrational and unlikely.
But it wasn’t! My little brother had once, when he was under the age of two, shouted the word “fuck” while the Congregation knelt with their heads-bowed, palms pressed, in one of the dramatic kneeling sections of the service. And my baby brother’s voice was so bright, so free, so joyous… that even the Celebrant Father couldn’t keep from laughing.
Everybody laughed. Including the Assisting Father, who was round as a ball and wore his red hair shaggy, and had round, hippie glasses. It may have been High Church Episcopalian, but it was still Fort Lauderdale in the 60s. Thank god my little brother didn’t do that when I got Confirmed by the Bishop was my only thought!
“Jesus loved children,” said the Celebrant Father, and the service flowed on without a hitch.