I’m excited to welcome Seth Haines as our first guest writer in the “One Good Phrase” series. I discovered Seth’s writing via his wife, Amber Haines (who has some of the sharpest, most lovely words around). When he co-curated Mother Letters with Amber, I was happy to find out he blogs as well. And the man appreciates a good poem! You should follow him on Twitter at @sethhaines. Thanks for being here, Seth.
The son of a Catholic father and Southern Baptist mother, I was raised a bit of a spiritual mutt. That is to say, although I considered myself Southern Baptist in practice, it was my lot to attend Catholic school for the majority of my formative years, and thus, to attend the weekly ritual known as all-class mass. As if my lanky frame and pock-marked face were not enough, my distinct misfit status was highlighted by the Sisters of Mercy’s public pronouncements that I should refrain from sullying the holy water with my under-aged protestant fingers, or signing myself in the name of the Trinity, or attempting, even for one sullen second, to enter the eucharist line.
It was my lot to sit in the utmost middle of the row, so as to not hinder the ingress and egress of those communion with body and blood when the time drew neigh. So, at the begining of each mass, I excused myself as I tripped over the knees of those who sat, or the calves of those whose knelt penitently, asking God to forgive them their trespasses. These were my exercises of weekly embarrassment, the constant reminder that I was foreign.
As I grew to embrace faith, though, I began looking forward to our weekly mass, if only for one reason–the passing of the peace. It was an egalitarian moment, a moment wherein the priest offered us all (including the most protestant of the lot) the peace of Christ. It was a brief moment of rest in the middle of an otherwise outcast experience, a reminder that the peace of Christ is the great equalizer for all followers of the Way.
I think back to the passing of the peace, and it seems especially poignant these days. The world is awash in turmoil. The news reminds me of the children who lay eternally silent, the ones slaughtered by men without peace. I avert my eyes, search for an outlet but find only vestiges of violence, or scintillating sexuality, or marketed materialism. I retreat inward, hoping to find a quiet corner, but it’s there, too, this turmoil that is endemic to the hearts of men. But in these moments of unrest, I remind myself of Christ’s words, the ones he knew that we, sons of thunder as we are, needed most–”Peace I leave you; my peace I give to you.”
I am a wayward heart, no doubt, and the search for peace is sometimes ellusive. But as best as I am able, as simply as I can, I leave you with my one good phrase today. May it be a safe place for you, as it has always been for me.
Peace of Christ be with you always.