I hesitated to write about this experience, but the material I have is too rich not to share. So here goes.
I met a guy at Mass. Yes, a Catholic Mass with all its refrains, kneeling, hand shaking and singing. I hadn’t even been going to church much this year, but one Sunday morning this fall, I decided to check out what is called a Mass Mob.
Simply explained, a Mass Mob is a trend in some cities (it originated in Buffalo) whereby a historic Catholic church in an urban neighborhood hosts a Mass — wide open to everyone. The Mass Mob typically is promoted in the media but also on its web site. A city church that normally might draw 75 people to Mass on a regular Sunday will enjoy 2,000 or more visitors. These events are one-day cash cows for the still- operating, majestic, struggling churches.
When I got there at 11 am, starting time, all the pews were filled and only a few folding chairs in the back were empty. I plunked myself down next to a guy who appeared to be alone. He said he didn’t think the person who was sitting there was coming back.
The church was beautiful and perfectly maintained. A few times during the well-executed Mass, I exchanged words with my seat mate about the marble alter that I read was shipped on a barge in the mid-1800s to become the altar of this church. The whole church was dripping with craftsmanship.
After Mass (I love saying this), Joe (not his real name) and I decided to take the architectural tour of the church, which led to coffee and conversation in the church hall. After most Mass goers had cleared out, Joe offered to walk me to my car. The conversation continued for a couple more hours as we walked around downtown and ended up getting ice cream. It was like we were following a 1950s courting manual, but we just went with it — meeting at church and strolling on a perfect fall day.
As I got into my car, he asked for my work email. I guess he didn’t want to be too bold asking for my phone number.
The whole occurrence made me smile the rest of the day. I went to Mass with absolutely no intention of meeting anyone and look what happened.
The next day, I got a very nice email at work from Joe. This was followed up with a few long phone conversations. It took about two weeks for us to go out. He lives about 40 miles from me and has a demanding job. My schedule was busy too.
But, finally, on a Sunday afternoon, we met for a movie, walked around town and had dinner. We mused over the Mass meeting, chuckling, not even sure we had that much in common.
We learned more about each others’ pasts. I found out he goes to church about twice a month; he found out I don’t. I learned he doesn’t drink; he found out I do. He told me he’s been single for 30 years. (Red flag?) I told him about me being a widow for almost four years.
It was a pleasant experience, and there’s no telling how or if it’s going to play out. But, either way, I plan to stay open to these surprise encounters.