Sunday prayers

I have a friend I may have mentioned before, as it makes no sense that I allow her such a strong presence in my life. We disagree on most of the issues that are important to me. Still, somewhere beneath her misinformed views, she has a good heart. And honestly, some of her outlooks amuse me. For example, my weather app will be predicting an absolutely lovely day at the same time she is warning me to stay indoors or die. 

Because she complains so much about about the new weather patterns, the heat domes, the drought, the wildfire smoke, I explain again and again about unnecessary consumption, and fossil fuel contributing to climate change and the fact that if we spent the money we will sustain from these extreme weather events to transitioning to renewable energy immediately, there might be a scrap of hope for homo sapiens surviving beyond a couple generations. She tunes into far right news stations and doesn't believe the necessity to change and so on. During this most recent period of lockdown from intense heat, her weather channel finally brought up the slowing ocean currents as a concern and she remembered that I've been mentioning this worry for awhile, so it occurred to her that perhaps I had an insight into some of the factors that keep our beautiful biosphere working the way it does... and she asked me how long I thought we had. Then she said, I don't know what religion you are, a topic I deliberately avoid with her, and she launched into the last chapter of the Bible...and you can't dispute the Bible she told me...and began with all of the Armageddon stuff again, throwing in the absolute invincibility of Nostradamus while she was at it.

So it is Sunday morning and many Christians are at worship, but I am walking the streets of Philadelphia finding a savage beauty in the wildflowers 


which strikes me as so Philadelphia, raw and strong, 

with insistent buds in the darkest of places (here in front of the Eastern Penitentiary)

and I walk further, admiring the manicured beauty of the window boxes and small gardens of the row house residents. 

I am struck with how each resident reveals their own lifestyle and personality.

How artsy some are

How whimsical others are

How orderly everything seems

And then, suddenly, it doesn't. My heart freezes when I glance across the street and see this, a tribute to the death of children. I look away from the sodden stuffed animals. I can't count the number of votives. I look up to see the fire-charred window frames of the narrow row house. I don't want any more pictures of this in my phone. How could so many have lived in there? Later, my daughter-in-law will send me a news article of this fire, just last year, about one of the thirteen children living there, a young teen, slowly moving on with his life after losing nine siblings. 

I am thick with sadness and walk on, muttering prayers, trying to plumb the void I feel, to articulate something, anything. I walk on. I come to this Ukrainian church and feel the sorrow of the war there. Inside, people are praying. I close my eyes and bow my head, joining my prayer with theirs.

Last week, when I hopped off the bus I found myself at St. John's Evangelical Church just as Mass was about to begin. I had admired the architecture, read the plaque and mused over how wonderful it must have been when, in 1834, Mozart's Requiem Mass in D Minor (in its entirety) was premiered there.

So, I went in. I am not Catholic. Don't tell anyone. I've got a lot of the motions down though, pressing my forehead with my thumb, crossing my heart, the mumbled responses, pulling out the prayer bench and returning it... I even take Communion! Don't frown: I know it's okay. A bishop was there... a special treat as he was wearing his mitered hat and wielded a magical staff. He was from Mumbai where he worked at a hospice for lepers. He told the story of a legless leper who fell in love with a woman who also suffered from AIDs and they bore two beautiful children. The bishop came for money to support his work there. Money can be a form of prayer. Praying is a centering. A place to put the emotions, to at least vaguely name the sorrow and confusion and longing. To make it more manageable and then transform it into positive action. Even if it doesn't feel like action. Somehow it is. Take a deep breath and give thanks. If for nothing else, life itself.