It was a cold Sunday morning, quite unusual for a July. I didn’t get out of bed until ten after seven. We had minutes to prepare for Mass. My brother and I shared a bathroom. He was taking his sweet time, thoughtlessly eating into my own.
I would have five minutes to be out the door, and in the car. Even then, it was not unusual for our family to be a few minutes late to Mass.
Dad had the car out on the driveway by the time I stepped out into the chilled morning air.
“Hurry up.” Dad said. “Why do you always make us so late?”
James, my younger brother, was already in the car. He was wearing some headphones, which were attached to his new Gameboy Color.
“James took all the time in the bathroom.” I complained.
“Then wake up earlier, boy.”
Mom nearly messed up her makeup, with the way Dad peeled out of the driveway, and down the neighborhood streets.
“Slow down.” She said.
“Hell no. We got to make it on time for once.”
I stared out the window at the blurred scenery outside. It was then when I realized my glasses were still in the bathroom. As upset as I was for being an idiot, I shrugged it off; I wouldn’t need them at Mass. There’s nothing to see there anyway, and I usually tuned out all the claptrap and nonsense in favor of my fantasies and daydreams.
Hanging out onboard the Enterprise was far superior to singing “I am the Bread of Life” or “Peace is Flowing Like a River”.
The car stopped quickly, knocking me out of my own mindscape.
“That’s why you’re not supposed to tailgate.” Dad said.
I looked down the road, and noticed the entire street was blocked off. Red and blue flickered ceaselessly up ahead. Although I knew little of auto accidents, it was clear to me that someone had died in that one. It was a three car pile-up; two semi trucks and one subcompact, a vehicular sandwich.
Cops were diverting traffic to side streets, but even then, it was slow going. We were clearly going to miss Mass. Not that I cared; I could easily daydream in the car as I could in the pew.
As we passed by the wreck on the single open lane, I noticed a small family congregated on the side of the road. They were consoling one another. I wondered if they were relatives of whomever was in the blue compact car, which was made even more compact by the accident.
“We’ll go to the noon Mass.” Dad said.
“Is that the Spanish Mass?”
We showed up with some time to spare. We had never gone to the noon Mass before. It always seemed so late in the day.
When we walked into the church, I was surprised to see people standing in line for confession. I assumed that was only for certain events, like Ash Wednesday or for every odd Saturday afternoon.
There were people gathered around the altar, adding some decorations to it, like candlesticks and other stuff. They added crisp, white linens and some green fabrics. I wondered if this was how the Mexicans did things for their Mass. I assumed it was a cultural thing, and thought nothing more of it.
Minutes later, a choir sang from the ill-used choir loft over the front doors. I swore I heard an organ as well, as opposed to the guitars and drums I so lovingly tuned out of existence.
Odder still, was the entourage of priest and servers who ascended the altar steps. They were dressed in a manner I had only seen in movies, or in really old pictures. I was intrigued enough to set my space exploration aside. The priest and servers were on the wrong side of the altar. They faced away from the people, and spoke a different language. I could tell it was not Spanish, but I wasn’t certain what it was, either.
I watched, as did the rest of my family, what transpired before us; some unknown ritual in a foreign language. It became clear at some point that it was the Mass, but not the one that I so gleefully ignored every Sunday. It was a proper ritual, a solemn event, an awe-inspiring and eye opening moment in my life.
It was then when I realized that Star Trek could wait an hour, that I had found something of great interest.
After the service, my parents spoke to a few parishioners about what happened. They explained it was the Latin Mass, not the Latino Mass. They also said that many make that same error, and while some never return, many more return to experience the Mass again.
My parents were hesitant about the whole experience, but I asked them if we could go again next Sunday. This evidently surprised them, as I had apparently shown no interest in the faith (no shock there).
They agreed, and we went again the following Sunday, and the Sunday after that, and so on, until the day I moved out, many years later.
I have never been back to the “Novus Ordo”, as I later learned it was called. I had found something better, which brought me back to my faith.
To this day, I will often pray for that soul who lost his life in the automobile accident. His death brought me to life in Christ, in and though the Mass of all time.