Internal Conflicts on Easter Sunday

Even though I’d sworn off working another Confirmation Mass, I’d still have to face large crowds at Mass and all the internal conflicts that come with them.

The Easter following that fateful Confirmation Mass, our 11:30AM team was up. I’d worked one Easter before, in Wichita, and I arrived that morning expecting chaos and wondering if I’d be up to the task. The was very present that day and the Mass went well. I surprised myself but I knew it was the Holy Spirit working through me. I hoped the Holy Spirit would be with me again, helping me to approach people, be friendly and outgoing, and find seats where it appeared none existed.

But it didn’t turn out that way. Parishioners arrived early and kept coming. The sanctuary started to fill. The extra chairs in the sanctuary had already filled. And they kept coming. People were standing inside the doors, waiting for us to find them seats.

It was next to impossible to tell who’d been waiting longest for those last few available seats in the pews. I sat one family, then the father of another one gave me the stink eye, like I’d skipped him. (The other family was there first!) I tried to put it out of my mind because I had a job to do but it stayed with me the whole morning. Internal conflicts rose to the surface. Be gracious or give it right back to him? Keep plugging away, trying to seat people or flee?

We added several rows of chairs in the vestibule and they all were filled. Once Mass started, the pews were full, the extra chairs were full, the lobby was full and there were still people standing two deep around the perimeter of the sanctuary, the only place where there weren’t chairs set up. Later on, someone told me the fire marshal showed up to check on things. Didn’t see him, I was too busy finding people seats.

No Lord, Not Another Easter Sunday

I prayed that next Easter would be an off week for our team. I didn’t think I could handle another Mass like that. The last time I’d felt so helpless was when I was lost in the woods on my 3-wheeler when I was 15 years old. It was supposed to be a day of joy – The Resurrection of Lord and Savior – but it was a day of stress and failure for me.

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When the schedule came out, my heart sank. Our team was up again on Easter Sunday. How does this keep happening? The parish had added a 9:45AM Mass in the school gym to accommodate more parishioners, but I had a strong feeling it wasn’t going to help much. I expected a crowd very similar in size to the one a year ago. I immediately starting thinking of changes we could make so that I would not be at the entrance, greeting parishioners coming into the sanctuary. That clearly hadn’t worked the year before.

Then it happened…

One of our teammates emailed to say he would be out of town on Easter Sunday. Now what? We needed everybody to be there. His substitute request went unfilled. I emailed the usher coordinator in desperation and asked him to put the word out for additional help. Wasn’t my place to do that since I wasn’t our usher team’s leader. Instead of awaiting the day of Our Lord’s triumph over sin and death with great joy, I dreaded it’s arrival. Maybe I’d get sick and have a way out.

Well, maybe it was those internal conflicts coming up again or maybe it was just bacteria flying through the air but I did get sick earlier that week. Two unrelated illnesses hit at the same time and I missed 2 1/2 days of work because of them. However, by the time Thursday rolled around, I back to work and I knew I’d be in good shape come Sunday.

Internal Conflicts vs. The Holy Spirit

Sunday came and we celebrated Easter as family. As we got in the car I said a prayer aloud to the Holy Spirit, asking for help in my duties and for people to be nice to the ushers. We arrived a couple minutes later than I wanted to but our friends were saving a seat for Jenny and Jack. For me, it was time to get to work.

The church was filling up, right on schedule. We got our section assignments and started making room. I didn’t think about what I needed to do. I just did it. I found every available space I could in my two assigned sections. I seated the parties I could seat. I didn’t concern myself with who had come in first. I approached with fingers extended of how many people I could sit and whomever was paying attention got seated.

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And then…

A woman approached asking for 4 seats. I had a row with 4 open. She and one the children sat and then, following her around the end of the pew, came Mr. Stink Eye himself. He and their other child took their seats on the end. How about that? Redeemed on the greatest day of all to be redeemed!

Obviously I hadn’t let go of what happened a year ago. I hadn’t forgiven, like calls us to. But He stayed by my side and delivered me anyway. How good is our God? Although I heard the message loud and clear that I should not have needed His intervention to forgive, He gave me the one thing I was waiting for anyway – an opportunity to make things turn out right this time.

Although Mr. Stink Eye’s reaction had upset me last year, I was also blaming myself. What could I have done differently to keep that from happening? Jesus showed me there was nothing I could have done. That was who I was then and this is who I am now.

Did things go perfectly that Easter morning? Not exactly. There was a major traffic jam near the cry room during Communion. Parishioners against the wall, converged with parishioners coming out of the cry room and parishioners released from the vestibule. I was in the center of it, holding the cry room door open. I turned it into a four way stop the best I could. Thankfully, everybody who could receive Jesus, did receive Jesus.

Again, the Holy Spirit worked through me. I couldn’t have done it on my own. I don’t have the patience or the courage but with the Holy Spirit I have everything I need. The Spirit took away those internal conflicts and helped me do my job. If our number comes up again next Easter, I’ll know that all I need to do it ask for the Holy Spirit’s help and trust it will be there.

 

Todd K Marsha is a Catholic husband and father living in suburban Kansas City. Through his writing charism he tells the powerful story of his conversion to the faith, his triumphs through God's grace, and his continuing struggle to live a more Christ-like life.

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