by Angela Batie
I was a little out of sorts during Holy Week, as travels to my home in Tacoma from St. Louis and a weekend filled with wedding preparation tasks left me feeling busy and stressed. I approached Easter mass in my home parish with a bit of remorse that I hadn’t felt able to fully enter into Holy Week, yet I was overcome with a powerful experience of hope as our community processed to the baptismal font for a renewal of our baptism. I saw Sr. Marilyn, a second grade teacher and part of one of the 19 religious communities that has just been selected for a visitation as part of the Vatican inquiry into American women religious and I wondered how she was feeling. As we walked forward, the words “bring the children without might” from Come to the Water caught in my throat as newspaper headlines spread word of another wave of abuse reports. Yet, I also watched children with rumpled Easter shirts untucked skip to the font, elderly women hold each other up as they ascended the steps, people greet each other joyfully, grasping hands and smiling. The community was alive. I was filled with hope that this Church is broad enough to contain all these experiences, all these feelings of suffering and hurt and joy and connection, united in the mystery and miracle of Jesus’ resurrection.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus appears in a dark, locked room filled with terrified, grieving people and says, “Peace be with you.” He shows them his wounds, and says it again. “Peace be with you.” Being Catholic means that, even in the darkness of the trials of our Church, Jesus can find a way into that locked room and share his message of peace. As I shuffled to the baptismal font, it was as if I was witnessing Jesus there among all of us, offering his peace. Death doesn’t win. Just as Jesus brought new life and hope in the midst of suffering and death, so too can he bring peace and home in the midst of the darkness of scandal and hurt that plagues or Church now.
The question that seems to continually arise in the stories in From the Pews in the Back is, “Why do I stay?” It has been a popular topic for many, and friends have filled my inbox with links to stories by others who also grapple with this question. Sometimes it is hard to articulate my answer, but in the midst of liturgy, in moments like these where the Holy Spirit seems so undeniable, the question in my heart changes to, “How could I ever leave?”
Angela Batie realized during Easter Mass as she cried inexplicably and sang harmonies that no one else was singing that she is becoming her mother. She (Angela, not her mother) is a campus minister in St. Louis and has an MDiv from Yale.