Church in the valley

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By Ken Begley

Every now and then you need to take some time and be renewed in your walk with God. You need to stop these hectic lives we live and think about the real future. I’m not talking about here on Earth. I’m talking about when you meet God face to face.
Right now Cindy and I are in a little group of 13 people studying our church and its teachings. It’s a renewal program called “Why Catholic?” We get together once a week for six weeks and try to understand our own faith. We basically tell each other what we think on different areas of our church and how we feel about being Catholic. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’ve really questioned if I want to remain in my church. Do you know what I mean? We each have such high expectations of our religion and are many times sad when experiences we’ve had let us down.
I think I see the reason for this doubt.
All churches center on our perfect God, but are run by imperfect man. The result is that you will never find a “perfect” church. The hard part is accepting that fact and not losing your faith in God when man disappoints.
To be honest, I wasn’t too hip on the idea of a study group. I really didn’t know the people in the group much more than to maybe say hello to them at Sunday Mass. I wondered if I would be better off with people I knew better. Yet, unexpectedly my lack of closeness has turned into a bonus. People fascinate me and this is the first time I’m able to hear what these Catholics think behind their smiles when they share their thoughts.
The best part has been that no one seems to dominate in the study. There isn’t a “Wizened Woodsman” teaching the “Junior Woodchucks.” In fact, if you’re quiet then everyone seems even more interested to get your thoughts. So what seems to happen is the one hour of study lengthens out into close to two, but it doesn’t seem that long to me.
Last week we were finishing up our meeting when our organizer, Rita Rust, said “Why don’t we all go to church this Sunday and sit together.” One member of the group said she couldn’t because she played the music at the Manton Catholic Church at 8:30 a.m. on that day. So, Rita said “Why don’t we go to Manton for Mass.”
Everyone agreed.
You know Manton’s only about 16 miles from Springfield, but I’d never been down there. It’s a beautiful little church set in a pretty valley by a babbling brook surrounded by farms. It could be the setting of a country song or a holy hymn in itself.
We got there about 30 minutes before the church service and the regular members were gathering and enjoying each others company. The church inside was lovingly cared for and maintained by some group who knew that this was God’s house, and he deserved the best. Every space seemed to be covered with most blessed images of the Christian faith.
The parishioners said the rosary before the service, praying onto God to let him know that a group had gathered to witness in his holy name.
The service was just about to start as the prayers finished. The priest asked for children to help serve the Mass with him. Two of the prettiest little girls you ever saw ran up to the altar. It was then that I noticed how full the church was. I had thought that there would just be a few old people in the church, but instead it was packed, and there were plenty of children, including a baby that could not have been more than a few weeks old.
The Mass finished and everyone gathered outside  to talk with each other and enjoy the warmth of the sun on that beautiful morning for several minutes. The priest came around to talk with each of us.
I felt like I had walked back in time to a simpler life and felt the tug of not wanting to leave.
Cindy and I were the last to walk away from what seemed to me to be a very holy place.
A beautiful lady named Elaine is in our group. She and her husband had invited everyone back to her house for breakfast. We sat and ate in an unhurried and pleasant time while talking about many things. It seemed so natural though we still don’t know each other that well. It was peaceful, and one of the more relaxing couple of hours that I had spent in the last few years.
You know what I think? I enjoyed the morning so much that maybe I really did “walk with God.” He seemed close. I felt peace for a troubled soul, and it was my own.
Take care my friends.