Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Divine and The Dummy

On our recent trip to Paris, I was most excited to visit the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

Steeped in a history of love, charity, and true miracles, I have been reading about this place for years.  I've had such a special experience with the Miraculous Medal and been so touched and inspired by the story of St. Catherine LabourĂ© that I made it a priority to visit this sacred location and see where St. Catherine's body is on display, peaceful and incorrupt.

Walking into the courtyard of the chapel, I silently prepared myself for an emotional experience that I'd get to share with my husband and son.

We entered the chapel just as the Eucharist was being received.  The line was short, but we hadn't been present for the entire Mass so I didn't think I should get in line to take communion.  We stood hesitantly on the sidelines for a bit, then decided to leave until Mass was over.  When we returned I made a beeline to the front of the chapel to an elevated glass coffin.  Here she was! Here was the woman that had played such a big part in the changing of my life!

For propriety's sake I'd sidled into a pew not-too-close to the front of the chapel.  As I gazed into the contents of the glass, I felt terribly underwhelmed.  I stared past the people taking pictures in front of the coffin and I couldn't help feeling that something was just not right.  Why did she look so fake?  Why didn't I sense anything special?  Why did I feel like just a dumb tourist looking for a photo opp?

I watched another line begin to form at the center of the chapel, probably people there to offer Mass intentions or prayer requests to the nuns in attendance.  I felt a desire to join the people and quickly dismissed it because I don't like being part of a fuss; part of a crowd.  Then I thought of my husband waiting for me at the back with my son, so, without uttering even a short prayer, I snapped a picture and hastily left.

The historic chapel was beautiful and I felt the satisfaction of checking a spiritual to-do off my list, still I was left with a feeling that something was missing.

It wasn't until the next evening, searching online for an answer to my disappointment, that I discovered my blunder: in my attempt to make my visit quick and not get in anyone's way I had snapped a picture of the only glass coffin I'd seen, the tomb of St. Louise.  In fact, the "person" inside wasn't a person at all, but a plaster representation of the saint housed below the glass.  My dear St. Catherine's body lay not 20 feet away at the other side of the chapel.

Had I gotten in line to receive the Eucharist I would have seen her.  Had I stayed in the chapel to see the end of the Mass I would have seen her.  Had I not avoided the crowd and simply gotten in line to see what the other people were fussing about I would have seen her.  Had I taken my time and not worried about what my husband and son were doing I would have seen her.

When I realized what a dummy I'd been, I cried.  I felt like such a fool for giving into impatience and missing the very thing I'd gone to see.

This is not the first time this has happened to me; not the first time I've pridefully given an unfamiliar situation a half-hearted effort and bowed out early.  This is, however, the first time I've felt so bitterly the disappointment of trying to be in control.

My husband assures me that we'll go back one day.  Until then, I'll be reflecting on my dumbness, my humanness, and learning to simply let go.

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