This morning I went to 8 am mass. We joke that this is the “old people mass” because many of the people there are elderly. I went alone, kids were still sleeping and Dave was playing soccer. I sat in front of a man around my dad’s age, I have known him since I was a kid. We acknowledged one other with a polite hello and mass began as normal.
During the second reading, as we were sitting down I noticed a man enter the church and walk down the center aisle to a pew where two young girls, (college aged it seemed,) where sitting. They seemed to recognize him as he joined them. I took notice of him because he walked in so late for mass. I shouldn’t judge, but it always bothers me when someone arrives late for mass and then walks down the center aisle instead of just sitting in the back where it doesn’t make a scene.
As Father Mitch began his homily, this man stood up, walked down the center aisle with both arms in the air as if he were praying to God and walked straight up to the altar, up the stairs and turned around to face the congregation. He stood there for about a minute like that while everyone at the mass looked at each other uncomfortably wondering what was going on. Politely, Father Mitch asked him to return to his seat and the man responded, with his arms still raised in the air “I do not like buildings” (or something to that affect…I may have his words mixed up.) He said it slowly and meaningfully. At this point, probably less than two minutes had passed, and the ushers seemed to be getting ready to head down the aisle to remove him but it was just so out of the ordinary, I don’t think anyone knew quite what to do or what was going on. We were all looking at each other as if expecting someone to do something. Finally, he stepped down off of the altar and walked slowly back to his pew. He barely sat for a moment when he got back up and walked back out the same way he had sauntered in but this time with his hands high in the air.
Father Mitch made light of it, causing nervous laughter in the crowd but it was very unsettling. Especially when I noticed the two girls who he was sitting with walk to the front of the church down a side aisle and began whispering to each other for a few minutes. I am not sure how many people noticed that, but I know the people around me did because we were more focused on them then on the sermon. Then, the two of them quickly headed down that aisle and out the doors of the church. Seconds later, a young man dressed all in black with his head down headed down the opposite aisle next to the section I was sitting in and also left.
My hands were shaking. I wasn’t sure if I were cold or nervous or both but I couldn’t get them to stop. All I could think about was how often I have practiced code red/yellow drills in school. I actually felt confident that I’d know what to do, but what would all of these elderly people do if something really was wrong. I could run, evacuate if I had to, but would they be able? When I go home, I told Dave and the boys that I seriously sat there contemplating how we’d get out if the doorways were blocked. Would we be able to break through those beautiful stained glass windows? Could these elderly women climb up to get to them? Would I help them get coverage under the pews? My boys and Dave asked me why I wouldn’t just run if it got to that point. How could I ever leave all of those people? It is like my class. I wouldn’t run and leave them behind.
Fortunately, whatever it was that caused this “blip” on my radar, turned out to be nothing. Everyone was fine. Nothing happened. Everyone was safe. It rattled me a bit though. It just makes me so sad that we have to even think this way. That the thought even crossed my mind. I am NOT an alarmist. Things like this never bothered me before but there is just so much craziness out there these days, you just never know. There were many people at the mass. Was I the only one thinking this way? Have I been conditioned to think this way? I hope not.