Published on May 13th, 2013 | by Ryan Kraeger0
There I Am Home
Home has never been a place for me. I have been so many places in my life. I have a special nostalgia for the farming country of Upstate NY, especially in the Summer, and the Fall. And the Spring. And the Winter. That’s because I grew up there, and I guess in a certain sense that makes it “home.” But I use the word “home” about a lot of other places as well. Home has been apartments, houses, other people’s houses. The barracks have never been home. America is home sometimes. Sometimes Washington State is home, sometimes New York State is home. Sometimes the whole east coast is home. Depending on the context, home can be a very ambiguous word in my lexicon.
The reason for this disparity is, as I said above, I have never associated the concept of “Home” with a place. Home is more of a concept, and even in some sense a feeling. As much as my inner wordsmith dislikes using such a word for something so nebulous as a feeling there really is nothing else for it. When I am home I feel relaxed. I feel like I belong. I feel whole and at rest. Perhaps it is a good thing that I can feel at home in so many places, but it is never the place that is the home.
Or perhaps Home is not a feeling, so much as the things that I have those feelings about. Home is always ever two things, in my life. When I speak of Home (with a deliberately capital ‘H’) I am speaking of either people that I love, or a Catholic Church. Having traveled quite a bit and lived in many different places, I have made many friends on both ends of the country. Sometimes it feels to me like I can never truly go home, because there is no place that unites all of those people. My Tacoma/Puyallup family would be missing if I were on the East coast, and on the west coast my related and pretty much related family would be missing. When I have leave and I go to the east coast I don’t have time to visit my NY family, and my VA family, and my SC family. Home for me would be some scenario where all of those people could be gathered together for Mass, and then a huge pizza party afterwards. When I travel overseas it is not America that I miss (cheeseburgers, the mall, fast internet and all that) but the people. My friends. And when I am in a non-Catholic country I miss the Mass.
In a similar way that I have home all over the place in the people I love, I have also been to many different Catholic churches and seen many different liturgies. Some hold a special place in my heart (shoutout to Our Lady of Good Counsel in Verona, NY; St. Mary’s in Greenville SC; and St. Francis Cabrini in Lakewood WA) but at all of them there is Jesus in His Sacramental Presence. There I am at home.
It is amazing where you can find a Catholic Church these days. Just google “Catholic Church in Kathmandu and a link for the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption will appear. Since I happened to find myself in Kathmandu, with a google machine handy, I did such a search, and for the price of an outrageously expensive and more than usually dangerous taxi ride, I was able to get to the Church thirty minutes before the 9:00 A.M. Sunday morning Mass. (In Nepal, Saturday is the day off, it being a Hindu country, so Sunday is the first day of the work and school week.)The Church in her role as educator.
I fell in love with this Church right away. Kind of like the Church I attended in Thailand, there was a strong blending of western and Nepali art and architecture. (The Navajo church I attended in Arizona was a different story. That was straight up Navajo. The only western influence was the English language, and I felt like even that was merely a concession to the priest, who spoke no Navajo.) The Church can assimilate seamlessly into any culture and give it rebirth from within if it is not hampered by overzealous ministers. I think that even the most vehemently anti-Catholic regime or hostile government or culture will not hinder the spread of the faith one half so much as her own ministers will when they insist on too narrow a view of what the Church is.
But I digress. I spent some time wandering around the outside of the Church and School buildings. Kathmandu is a large, loud, dirty city. The church was located, not in Kathmandu proper but in another city called Lotpuri, which is separated from Kathmandu by a river filled with trash. The streets around the church complex are narrow enough that two taxis cannot pass in them. The church grounds are surrounded by a brick wall with concertina wire on top of it part of the way around, and a security guard at the gate. He made me leave my backpack at the guard house. I had a laptop, Samsung galaxy note, passport, and about 80,000 Rupees ($920.00 US [Long Story]) in it. I was, therefore, a bit hesitant, but he promised to watch it. I figured, you know what? God’s got this. So I left it under St. Isadore’s protection, taking only my passport. St. Isadore is a favorite of mine. Remind me to tell you about that sometime.No Shoes inside. You will notice that my shoes are covered by a touristy white hat which I bought to keep the sun off my touristy (and balding) white head. I took a surreptitious picture during the Gospel. Does that make me a bad Catholic?
There are no pews in this church. There are some plastic lawn chairs along the side aisles, for the old people, but where the pews would be in the body of the church there are only rows of much compressed red cushions. Parishioners are expected to sit or kneel on these cushions. I am actually quite good at sitting cross-legged, but that was a bit rough on the knees. Totally worth it though. I enjoy praying cross-legged. I can see why Zen practitioners often meditate thus and at the risk of being branded New Age or (horrors!) a Liberal! I have often thought that it might profitably be used by Catholics as well.
One consequence of not having pews is that when it came time for Communion, people simply made a beeline straight for the Eucharist! Back of the church, front of the church, whenever and however they liked, they came. It may not have seemed orderly, but it made sense to them and I am sure it made sense to Jesus as well.
And it was the Mass! Apart from any novelty, irrelevant to any strange customs or eye-attracting art or architecture, above and beyond and infinitely deeper than all of these things (yet at the same time in and with and through all of these things) it was the Mass. The God of the Universe saw fit to arrange my schedule and travel plans to make it possible for me to visit Him in the Mass. It bears out what I have said on this blog before, brings it home, (pun very much intended) that God wants to give Himself to me far more than I could ever want to receive Him.
Praise the Lord all ye lands!The old lady on the right in white sat cross-legged for the entire Mass except the standing and kneeling bits. It took her literally fifteen seconds to get back to her feet after Mass. And we Americans feel imposed upon when we have to kneel during the Consecration!? I also loved the fact that as she very, very slowly made her way up the aisle after Mass, all the children came running to her for her blessing. I probably should have done the same, and just didn’t know it.