I found that this past week-end, for the first time since my son died at the beginning of September, I felt a longing for church: for worship in community. The first time I had felt that genuine desire in almost fourteen weeks.
One of my friends tells me that it was six months for her.
Another has gone back every Sunday since the beginning, and sobs through every service.
I've been to my own church a couple of times. There is something both reassuring and excruciating in finding the same patterns and music as before, in hearing familiar texts, in listening haphazardly (the best I can do right now) to a powerful sermon.
This past week-end I decided to go to a Saturday afternoon Mass. Three days back at school earlier in the week had taken their toll, and I knew that morning services were going to be too much to manage. What I didn't take into account was that hundreds of Catholics choose to meet their weekly Mass obligation on Saturday afternoon. And I didn't know that the service had been preceded by a parish service day in which 950 people had fanned out across the city to offer themselves to various organizations. By the time they got to the Mass that preceded a community dinner, they were pretty charged up.
So it was all a little too energetic for me. But the sermon and the music both spoke to me, and it was very good to be in a place where people were praying.
I don't know how long it takes before the fit feels right. Time of day, energy level, lighting, liturgy, community. Like almost everything else that we take for granted, the combination of stimulii feels like an assault when we are fragile and off-balance.
How long? Ever?