|Swollen foot before the "boot" cast.|
[H]e covers you with his feathers,
and you find shelter under his wings.
It has been three weeks since I broke my foot. The break itself is small, but the sprained ligaments down the side of the foot are still making life uncomfortable for me. So, in church, I have been sitting for most of the Mass. Sitting keeps the foot's throbbing at a minimum.
I place my booted foot, resplendent in black foam-filled, air-pumped padding and Velcro trim, on the kneeler and say my prayers while feeling very small. Even the eight-year-old towers beside me. Truly, I am curtained by people which makes the sanctuary seem far away, on the other side of a mountain. But, I am grateful to be where I am, in spite of the differences in my stature. I would much rather be IN church than at home praying with the computer. (I detest televised services having experienced too many of those in bedrooms, hospitals, and nursing homes with my mother.) I am certain I will be able to stand longer next week, and in a few more weeks I will be able to offer someone else a ride. For the time, I am dependent on the kindness of others
I truly am in a good place for having people pray for me. The obvious, temporary injury always gives me something to talk about, something to laugh about, something to anticipate being gone. It is different from the hidden problems that people hide from because they are so insidious and frightening in the manner they debilitate a person: cancer and depression and other illnesses that do not have one wearing band-aids or casts. An illness which allows a person to stand during a church service turns him into a sopping ball of pain when the room in his house is quiet, empty, and closed into itself. It is the harder one to endure.
Years ago, before churches made accommodations for handicapped access and wheelchairs, I sat with my mother in the servers' sacristy during Mass. We were about three feet from the open door, at an angle to view the whole sanctuary and altar, but out of view for all but a few people in the church. Since my brothers were frequent altar servers, it was my duty to stay with Mom until my sister was old enough to take turns for this duty of turning the pages of Mom's missal and being her companion in prayer. I had a folding chair, but I knelt on the cold asphalt tiled floor with no rug or padding. Mom sat in her wheelchair through the service, an exercise that exhausted her during those early years after polio. Later, she was able to build endurance and could last for several hours before needed to lay down and refresh. She was so grateful to be present at Mass.
Whenever I wish to define piety, the picture that comes to mind is that of Mom receiving communion. Father O'Brien would stop to give Mom and me communion before distributing the sacrament to the congregation. He wore a heavy brocaded chasuble with heavy incense odor still clinging to it. As though carrying a halo that needed to be put back in place, the server held the patten under Mom's chin. It reflected the act of Mom receiving the host, the host disappearing, and Mom bowing. Whereas I should have been saying my own prayers after receiving communion, it was hard not to watch Mom sitting with her eyes closed. What had she swallowed? More than bread, it was the Eucharist that sustained her; more than a world of support, she pulled Christ into her heart. I was too young to understand what I watched or felt. I simply knew that I observed the blessings of Eucharist as Mom's whole person seemed to wrap itself around what she had consumed.
I am grateful my penchant for sitting during Mass will not last, but I found a comforting connection to what I had experienced before while accompanying Mom, years ago. The handicap I am briefly enduring has allowed me a different view of my world. It is shorter, slower, and more limited than what Mom and others live. However, as my mobility and endurance return, so will my busy distractions. I will lose the quiet time I have had to reserve for icing my foot. I will stop craning my neck to look up to the eight-year-old. My time for stillness and slowing the world will need to be scheduled into my day.
It has been good to have a brief, forced time for sitting. There will be a time for standing, walking, and running.
Isaiah 44: 29-31
He gives strength to the wearied,
he strengthens the powerless.
Young men may grow tired and weary,
youths may stumble,
but those who hope in Yahweh renew their strength,
they put out wings like eagles.
They run and do not grow weary,
walk and never tire.