This is my church, Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Balboa Boulevard in Newport Beach. I have been attending this church my whole life. It was here that I made My First Communion, My Confirmation, was Married to Lou and baptized 2 of my children. Poor Tabitha was baptized in Northern California, but that is where we lived after she was born. As a child I attended CCD classes here on Mondays but my family never really went to church on Sundays. I remember feeling left out during CCD class when our teacher would talk about Mass and the readings for the week. Because I hadn’t been in church on Sunday, I didn’t know what the readings were about and I didn’t hear our priest give the Homily. If I had been in church I may not have been listening since I was a kid, but on Monday’s I would know I had been there. I have always disliked being left out, or uninformed. That is why I decided as a young child I would go to church every weekend with my kids if I ever had kids.
So I won’t lie and say I immediately got to church after Tabitha was born but very soon after. Once we moved back to Orange County, Tabitha and I started going to church every Saturday night at 5:00 pm with my grandparents. It was always such an adventure. We would pick them up at their condo at 4:45 pm and my Popa would immediately start complaining about church before we even got there. ” Hope we get a parking spot, hope that Priest doesn’t talk forever, hope no one takes our back pew!” Oh, I loved that and miss his griping. Lou was a salesman at the time so he worked every weekend so Tabitha and I spent our Saturday nights with her great grandparents. Once we got to church we always had to sit in the back because Popa wanted to make a quick exit after Communion. Once we got back in the car he would continue his negative mantra about the Mass. Popie would always reprimand him and say ” Be nice, John, the girls don’t want to hear you complain!”
After church it was off to dinner. We had several choices, Coco’s or Mimi’s. Coco’s usually won our vote, but our Coco’s on 17 th street eventually closed and Tabitha after years of attempts, finally convinced Popa he would like Rubie’s. She was so thrilled the first time we went and he actually liked it because she knew we would then get to eat at Rubie’s every Saturday night. After my grandparents both passed away we changed our routine to attend Mass at 10am on Sunday’s. We now go with my mom, “Nana”, and we always sit close to the front. Tiara has never been able to sit through church so she is usually at home with my Dad or her other Grandma. Tabitha loved the Sunday Mass because sometimes they would need extra help in the daycare and she would volunteer her services instead of sit through Mass. The numbers have dwindled and since I no longer force Tabitha to attend Church she chooses to stay home and sleep and so it is only Nana, Trinity and I. That’s OK, because I know someday she will eventually return on her own terms. Nevertheless everyone makes it to lunch at Fashion Island immediately following church whether they attended or not.
I love traditions and I think that is why I love church so much. I love to watch the families grow and evolve. I love knowing when to stand, when to sit and hearing the familiar readings year after year. I don’t volunteer at my church and I don’t actually know many people’s names but I know their faces and the faces of their children and their grandchildren. Many of them remember my grandparents, they know my mom, they know my sister and her kids, they know my kids and hopefully someday they will know my grandchildren. I can pray to God anywhere and he will hear me, but I only feel that special connection and sense of tradition when I am at my church.
I hope you all have a chance to pray in your special place today. Happy Easter.