#24 — Sacred Gestures

For a long time I felt a little ill at ease when I was attending a Mass and realized I wasn’t doing the gestures everyone around me was doing. On entering the Church, they dipped a finger in holy water and crossed themselves; I didn’t. When crossing in front of the tabernacle, they stopped genuflected or bowed; I didn’t. Just before entering the pews, they genuflected and crossed themselves; I didn’t. When the priest opens the Mass with “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” they crossed themselves again; I didn’t. When they spoke the creed or the Confiteor, I remain silent. When they struck their breast during the “mea culpa” phrase of the Confiteor (at least in Poland), I remained motionless. When they made the sign of the cross on their forehead, their lips, and their heart before the reading of the Gospel, my hands stayed by my side. I stood when they stood, knelt when they knelt, and sat when they sat, but otherwise, I was strictly an observer.

And I felt conspicuous.

At last I began going through the motions, literally and figuratively. What an odd feeling to begin crossing oneself at the age of thirty-eight.

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