I recently moved to Des Moines, Iowa for my two year internship in Radiology. Up until now I’ve been going to school in Fargo. There’s a lot of differences that I’ve noticed between the two cities, neither of them better or worse.
Today I had one of the most bizzarre experiences of my life. Before I begin however, I would like to make the following disclaimer: Des Moines is a lovely city and all of the people that I have met thus far have been very welcoming 🙂
My faith is the most important thing in my life. Being raised Catholic, I wanted to be sure I found a Catholic church to go to in Des Moines. Earlier this week I located a cathedral in town and decided to try it out. So, bright and early this morning, I put on my Sunday best and headed off to worship. Little did I know my adventure had only began.
I arrived early at the cathedral, wanting to ensure a parking lot in the unfamiliar town. I waited until someone else went into the gorgeous vine-covered building so that I would know where to go. As I followed them in I realized that there were very few people in this enormous church!
I wandered down the hall and found myself awkwardly being gawked at by a red haired teenage boy of about fifteen years. I quickly ducked into the women’s room for a hair and makeup check. All good there, I continued on my way. I hurried past the gawker and was immediately approached by a woman in a white choir robe. She vigorously shook my hand and inquired who I was and where I was from.
Was it that obvious that I was new?
As I walked down the hall I saw rooms full of desks, sofas, and children’s toys. Finally I found the chapel. Home sweet home. I breathed in the familiar smell of insence and took a seat alone in on of the pews.
As time got closer to the beginning of mass, I realized that generally everyone was sitting in one area of the church… an area that I was not sitting in. Just one more way to point out that I was new in town.
That and the fact that I had not gotten the memo to wear pastels today.
At about two minutes to mass beginning a few moms came in with young children and sat down relatively near me. At least now I wasn’t sitting all alone in a sea of empty pews.
As the mass started I realized that there were only three other people there my age; a married couple and the deacon. This shouldn’t have taken me by surprise, but for some reason it did for a college town.
For those of you that haven’t been to a catholic mass, there is a point in the mass where the priest pauses and everyone shakes hands to wish each other peace. You shake hands with everyone around you and say ‘peace be with you’. Well, at this point in time during mass today, instead of everyone shaking hands there was a mad rush and everyone came towards me!
The congregation must have been only about 30 people, but was it really that obvious that I had never been there before?
I was all the sudden overcome by handshakes and pats on the back and questions about why I’m in Des Moines, where I’m from, what I do, what my name is, and how old I am. Someone even ran out into the commons area to grab a welcome card for me to fill out my contact information!
Eventually the priest had to calm everyone down and continue the mass. However, my embarassment was far from over.
This church performed communion in a way I had never seen before. They released groups of people one at a time to go up to the pulpit, to kneel in front of the priest and deacon and receive their communion. When my turn came I was so nervous I had no idea how I got from my seat up to the pulpit. Then, the only open place for me to kneel was right in front of the deacon (and might I say he was not unattractive).
When the priest brought the cup to my mouth I took a small sip and tried to bring the cup back down. However, he continued to tip the cup into my mouth. I ended up with a giant mouthful of incredibly strong communion wine… right in front of the deacon!
I’m pretty sure at this point my eyes were bulging out the front of my face. I couldn’t spit out the wine, but I couldn’t swallow it all at once. I swallowed it as quickly as I could, smiled politely at the deacon who at this point was looking at me strangely, and then I proceeded to hurry down the stairs and back to my seat.
The rest of the mass went on fairly normal until we were asked to pray for our loved ones that were sick or dying. Normally, you would think that this would be a time for quiet reflection and prayer. Apparently this rule does not extend past the midwest. All the sudden, in the middle of my quiet reflection, I was jolted out my seat by the loudest most abrupt soprano opera singing I had ever heard!
The clambor of me falling back to earth and into my pew disrupted at least three other people around me!
After my heart rate fell back to normal, I was able to focus on the rest of mass.
Once mass was over I was going to turn my welcome card into the basket in the back of the chapel.
Apparently that’s where I went wrong.
The second the priest bid us farewell, a lady in the pew in front of me grabbed my hand and continued to introduce me to people. She said “I’m just going to be your mother hen today! Do you need some water, or coffee, or a cookie? You look like you need a cookie, look how skinny you are!”
Meanwhile the gawky fifteen year old redhead continued to gawk with his huge blue eyes, while I retold my information everyone inquiring within earshot.
Finally, I was able to escape out to the parking lot, avoiding cookies, meetings, and possible adoptions.
I don’t mean for any of this to sound bad in any way, in fact it cracked me up!
All I can think of to say is: welcome to Des Moines, Bailey