Church hymns, the organ specifically, drew me to St. Paul’s. I’m not a religious person, but most people say that, don’t they?
The soft voices sung something that blended into the music, words lost in pitch. My fingers wrapped around the cold brass handle. I opened the heavy, wood doors. Warm light filled the foyer. The ushers smiled and allowed me to pass. Most of the pews were empty. I dipped two fingers into the huge, gold basin of holy water at the back and made the sign of the cross. I was raised Catholic, but that was the first time I’d entered a church in ten years.
I chose one of the back pews. The priests didn’t seem to notice. The choir stopped. The lead priest went on with his sermon. “Jesus is the way to God. Jesus is God.”
The sparse parish recited something, mumbling. I mouthed random words. The parish stood. I stood late. The parish knelt. I knelt, waiting for the chorus to sing again. I didn’t have to wait long.
Soprano voices soared and tittered like birds. Altos and tenors carried the accessible notes, the ones the parish sung back. The bass held everything together, held me together. Music touches what sermons can’t reach, a deeper spirituality.
Nothing brought me into that church that day. Everyone I loved was alive. No one was sick. My life had no troubles. But I needed it. My soul lacked something. Those hymns pulled me up higher, made me stand taller, gave me a reserve of strength that I would need. They helped me a year later when I lost my grandma, the real Catholic in my family. She had almost become a nun. We were supposed to go to the theater together that summer. Plans change.