So, we headed out with our Valentines (we sort of compiled a few things into one). It's not nearly the time-intensive result as the Love Jars from last year but, thankfully, I am also not laid up in a cast presently so, time is what it is and we do what we can. I think they turned out well and everyone participated so, ultimately, that's the point.
Next, find a church. We were on the beach outside of Charleston, SC and for whatever reason, it is REALLY difficult to find a parish with daily Mass, especially Saturday. I found one. You know the name, right? Holy Spirit Catholic Church. Hah. I know, right?
Still, despite the most excellent name, I had some reservations. If you don't have time to read the whole history, the parish was established in 1938 by 18 people as a mission church. Over time, however, it grew (good, really!) and now it is a 1,000 seat church for the families of the area and visitors from all over the United States and the world.
Oh, man. Really? I am on vacation from the giant church. Can I have a more intimate experience? Still, it was the only parish that had Mass that morning so, up and out we went.
Thankfully, DH, who (I think) now goes along to see how it all plays out, was very encouraging in my doubt. We pull up to the church, about 2 minutes late, and it is completely dark. Ug. DH goes to the door and there is clearly no Mass there. So, as we're driving out, we see another woman pulling in and we follow her. She gets out and I ask about Mass. "Oh, she says, daily Mass is held there..."
So, we scurry up the steps with our new friend and try to find the quietest place for Mr. G who, sick with the flu, is not that thrilled about any of it. Um, did I mention that it had 7 half pews on each side? Tiny, tiny church. We did our best and I offered up a lot of mortification for the next half hour. The homily was worth it all. The priest, who turned out to be the monsignor pastor, was an amazingly gifted speaker and put everything into perspective...how Mark shows the depth of Jesus's love for his people; not willing to send them away unfed while Genesis reminds us that after Adam and Eve left Eden, God guarded the Tree of Life with a flaming sword. God knows us and he loves us anyway!
The tiny one had spent enough holy time when Communion was over so I headed outside for a short bit. DH told me the priest stopped and said, "oh, I hope they aren't long...it's cold out there". We did come back in and he welcomed us warmly.
The outpouring of joy that came from the little ones passing out valentines was much like it usually is at our parish but to an even greater degree. We were travelers from a far-away place and we brought valentines to share! All the people there were so gracious and loving. It turned out that the pastor was one of 9 brothers and one sister (God bless her - she had 7 of her own!) and we spoke to him quite a while about the blessing of children and the future of the church. After three-days journey I was fed to bursting...the love of God shown to us from such a simple gesture was amazing. (and even heartbreaking when the priest told my little son that was his first Valentine in 25 years). Thank you, Holy Spirit for such concrete reinforcement.
Being "warm" for us, the kids immediately headed out to explore the grounds, including a beautiful outdoor path with Stations and a grotto to Our Lady and St. Joseph. I linked back up with my new friend who pointed the way to us at first - she was now walking her dog. We talked a bit and, just so I wouldn't forget my favorite newest Valentine (even though I didn't do anything tangible like, duh, send a card), the Holy Spirit provided another nudge. When I asked her about her dog..."Oh," she said, "this is Toby" (Immediately I remembered and prayed for my sweet, sick, love of a godson....sweet T - which, being in South Carolina, should have come to me sooner!)
I guess this is a long story to say, if you feel called to show God's love to others but anxious at the same time, please follow the call. The Holy Spirit is waiting to bring your love to bear and multiply it tenfold (we had enough Valentines to give every person one...#3 said, "why did we do that since some of them live in the same place?" Of course, so that person can pass one along to someone else. Ripples, my friend. Evangelization can take place person-to-person and face-to-face not just via Twitter! I think we would all be surprised how far it would travel if we just started with one other person.)
I pray your Ash Wednesday is the beginning to a most fruitful Lent. We are blessed!