Angels flying all around me was my first view from the pew when I made my first Communion. That is what the nuns told us would happen if we knelt up straight, folded our hands and remained very quiet. I actually felt I could see the angels all around me. Thank you God for that view from the pew.
As a few years passed, I felt a longing for something more in my life. I remember one Christmas wondering what was missing as my mother and I sat in front of the tree, after family members had left, and our home was quiet. I had a great mom and dad, a wonderful and caring big brother and I had been blessed with everything I wanted for Christmas.
So what was missing or what was I searching for? I vividly remember looking at the nativity set under the tree and wondering if I was being called, even then, to a deeper understanding of the story of Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit.
My next view from the pew was when I was married at age 19, and the priest asked if we heard the doves cooing in the steeple during the Mass. Was that truly the Holy Spirit witnessing that he would be with us? I think it was.
After several years and four children were born, my husband was approached by a school friend who asked us to join the Christian Family Movement (CFM). I remember my husband asking him, “What will we get out of it?” and the friend said, “It will change your life.”
After CFM, we both made a Cursillo Retreat, and that was the beginning of my searching more in depth for my savior. A few years later, our lives changed dramatically as I was told that my husband had only nine months to live. What was I to do? I had six children by then, and they needed a father and I needed a husband to help me raise them. I remember praying “Dear God I need your help,” and of course, his presence was with us.
As I watched from the pew at the funeral Mass for my husband and father of my children, it was through tears that I saw my children take the gifts to the altar. Four years later, I married a man who was brave enough to marry a woman with six children. Now it was a new view from the pew. After a number of years attending Mass with me every week, my husband went through RCIA and became a Catholic. All my Bible study friends of many years attended the blessing of our marriage. It was a special occasion. God is so good!
After a two-year illness my husband died recently leaving me once again alone at Mass as at my first Communion. I am thankful for my Christian and Catholic faith. What I now view from the pew is my God and savior — who has been with me all of these years — on the altar and also on the altar of my soul.
Through the Christian Family Movement, Cursillo, Ministry Formation, Children’s Liturgy, the Gift Program, Christ Renews His Parish and numerous Bible studies, I thank God for all of my views from the pew. I am reminded of what St. Augustine said: “There is a heart-shaped hole in every man’s heart that only God can fill.”
Doris Kotheimer Biel Herter is a parishioner of Holy Trinity Church, Louisville.
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