Back to Church

I went to Church today.  I’ve stepped foot inside many churches and religious buildings over the years, but today is the first time I’ve went to an actual church service in who knows how long.  I’m not religious at all: I don’t believe in a higher being and often think religion is more trouble then its worth; sometimes I even think I’m a little anti-organizised religion, though I always think faith itself, regardless of in what or who, is a beautiful thing.  So I can’t really be sure what drove me to go other then the vague idea that church often means community, and that I am rather lonely these days.

Ironically, its a Roman Catholic Church here in Kupres, and since I was raised Catholic and attended private Catholic schools for my entire childhood, in some ways, I felt right at home.  Mind you, the service was in Croatian and I couldn’t understand a single word of it.  Plus there was the fact that its been so long since I’ve heard a service that I also couldn’t remember what the standard responses should have been in English either.  Nevertheless, it felt the same, if you know what I mean; a bit like muscle memory but of the brain.

Travis and I did attended a church wedding back in Denmark, and we were both really excited when we recognised the Our Father being said even though it was in Danish.  I spent this entire service waiting eagerly for the same thing to happen so I could pretend to participate, but either even the cadence of the prayer is too different for me to recognise in Croatian, or they didn’t say it so I was a bit disappointed.  I also didn’t recognise any of the songs, of which there were way more then I recall from childhood masses.  Nonetheless, I have forgotten how beautiful it is to hear the voices of the young and old alike raised in song together, and there were moments when I was nearly brought to tears by the sheer beauty of that.  I’ll probably return next Sunday just for the singing alone; thats the great thing about music, isn’t it?  You don’t have to speak the language or understand the words for it to touch your heart.

As much as I genuinely enjoyed the service, I was glad when it was over because that church was COLD.  I’m talking all coats on, hands in your pockets with the gloves still on them, breath in front of your face, glasses fogged up, cold.  On the way out, I spotted Petra and her family and went over to say hello.  They invited me to join them for coffee at one of the local spots, so it seems that Sunday brunch after mass is a universal thing.  I gratefully accepted their invite, as the thought of returning to the empty cabin and spending another day with my own thoughts wasn’t very appealing.

Petra’s family was warm and welcoming, even if most of them were too shy to attempt to use their English with me.  I don’t judge anyone for this as even when I was fluent in other languages I was always reluctant to speak with natives.  But I do wonder at it a bit, because honestly, their English is wonderful.  And even when it fails them a little bit, one of my favourite parts of talking with foreigners is seeing the truly amazing ways we manage to communicate both within and outside the language itself.  One of my favourite examples from this trip is from the Finnish girls who befriended us in Austria and often spoke of needing “hands clothes.”  Is that not the most perfect and creative way of describing gloves you’ve ever heard?

Eventually I knew I needed to get going because I was sure Wasi would be getting restless in the car.  I had brought him along with me as backup in case I lost my nerve, but am proud to say that I made it through both the Mass and the coffee on my own.  Little steps!

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