Christine and Liz came with me on Superbowl Sunday!!
We walked into the Basilica and all I could think of was that this was a “Throw Back Thursday” kind of deal. I felt like I went back in time maybe 75 years!
The church was beautiful in that traditional, elaborate, ornate kind of way. There were paintings, decals, intricate decorative painted designs on the columns, big arches with meticulously painted colored layers, statues, candles, Latin words and songs, Gregorian Style chanting, a railing in front of the altar, a pulpit raised high above the people, and an altar that faced the crucifix. The opening songs were led by the Latin-singing cantor from a balcony, the pews were filled with people singing in Latin following along on a weekly bulletin type of sheet, and the priest had his back to the congregation during the consecration. It was a “throw back” moment!
The priest said a nice homily, but honestly, I was on such a visual overload I really have no recollection of what he said. However, when Communion came, I saw Fr. Stephen DiGiovanni come out from the back area to help serve the people. As some people went down the side aisles to wait their turn to kneel at the railing and take Communion by mouth, Christine, Liz and I went down the middle so that I could take Communion from Fr. DiGiovanni. As I got closer, I could see the younger man I used to know from my teen-aged years. Many years have changed us both! And then I knew his voice as he looked me in the eye and said, “The body of Christ”. I almost couldn’t say “Amen.” I suddenly was a bit overwhelmed and a bit emotional as I returned to my pew with Christine and Liz.
It was my personal “Throw Back Sunday” moment. How many times had this one man given Communion to me, personally? How many times to others? Probably a half a million times or more he has passed Christ to someone else to nourish them and show God’s love.
Today, it hit me. I was 15 or 16 or maybe 17 all over again. Fr. DiGiovanni did not recognize me, but I recognized him. It would have hit me even with my eyes closed. It was his voice that spoke to me. Yes, he’s older, and a little greyer, but his voice hasn’t changed. I felt like he was talking to the girl inside of me, not the 50 year old woman whose hands took the host from his. It was weird. It brought me back to a time and place, not as ancient as the environment of the church would suggest, but to a time of fondness and love. In my mind, he had always been nice to us kids at St. Joseph in South Norwalk and to me, personally. In those teenage years, when no one is totally comfortable in their own skin, Fr. DiGiovanni, conveyed a fun kind of inclusiveness to all of us! He had such a nice way about him. Today, his voice still held that kindness.
This weekend, God brought me to three people; three people who helped shape who I am as a woman in some way. Mrs. Haywood trusted me with her kids, Elsie helped shape me to be a good teacher, and Fr. DiGiovanni helped shape me to be a good Christian. All of them have been examples of Christ in some way or another for me.