Stained Glass Windows

A Catholic chapel. Ornate finery is everywhere. The dark sanctuary has brilliant stained glass windows that light the room with multi-colors. I’m not Catholic, but it’s pretty in here.

I called ahead to see if the chapel was open, I expected it to be closed during a pandemic. The guy on the phone said the chapel was available for private reflection, but not for service. And I had to wear a mask.

So I visited on a whim. I made a long drive to get here. I needed the time to clear my head. I’ve been stuck in my house for 70-some-odd days of quarantine, just like everyone else.

I think the worst part about being trapped indoors is that the only view to the outside world is through a TV or internet device. God help us all.

But this little chapel is filled with peace, which is hard to come by these days.

“You doin’ okay?” asks the janitor. He’s wearing a surgical mask. He is Latino, with a thick accent.

“Yeah. I’m fine.”

I sit in a pew. I am one of three people in this chapel. There is a woman in a pew ahead of me. An old man lighting a candle. Nobody makes eye contact. When you come to a quiet place like this, it’s not for socializing. You come here to… Well, I don’t actually know. Like I said, I’m not Catholic.

The janitor says, “Are you here for confession or reconciliation? You want me to get the Padre?”

“No thanks. I’m just here to think.”

Then again, I’ve never done a Catholic-style confession before. I was raised Southern Baptist. Our version of confession was singing “Just As I Am” for 1,192 choruses then going to Piccadilly restaurant for lunch.

Confession. Sure. Why not? The janitor fetches the priest. My mother would disown me if she knew what I was doing.

The first thing I learn about confession is that it is a remarkably uncomplicated procedure. Basically, you crawl into a sweat box that’s about the size of a phone booth. There’s a privacy screen between you and the priest. And you talk.

I wait for the priest to arrive. I’m having second thoughts. I’m nervous, and I wish I wouldn’t have come. I’m considering slipping out the door, I don’t want to waste this man’s time.

Finally, I hear movement on the other side. The privacy door opens, there is a metal grate between us. It’s amazing what kinds of tiny bodily noises you can hear in this enclosed space. His nose is whistling.

I’m the first to speak. “I’m not Catholic.” I admit this upfront so nobody gets their feelings hurt.

“It’s okay,” says the priest. “Nobody’s perfect.”

Already I like this guy.

I ask, “Do I have to say anything special? Like ‘Bless me Father for I have sinned?’”

“Or we could just talk.”

Then he explains that I can say whatever I want to say, no judgments here.

This surprises me. No judgements? What a concept. This means I don’t have to tailor my words to suit the person listening. I can just tell him anything I feel. So I do.

I tell him I’m worried sick about this world, and sometimes I get anxious about it. Last night, for example, I turned on the news to see riots. Flaming cars, screaming, fighting, looting, and glass storefronts shattered. Sometimes it overwhelms me. Not to mention this little thing called the coronavirus.

I hear nothing from the other side for a moment. Then I hear the Padre clear his throat and say, “Me too.”

His voice is older than mine. This man is 65 I’d say. Maybe 70.

“You mean you’re scared, too?” I ask.

“Sometimes. Yes. This is scary stuff.”

This is not what I expect from a priest. I guess I expected him to instruct me to say 129 Hail Marys and to eat fish on Fridays. But there is only silence.

“Are you wearing a facemask, Father?”

“Yes. Are you?”

“Yes.”

Awkward quiet.

“Do you know what I think?” the priest says. “I think that we’re both very blessed.”

“Why?”

“Think about it, we’re alive, and healthy, it’s beautiful weather. I rode my bike six miles this morning.”

Nobody speaks for a few moments. I’m too busy thinking about what he just said. All I can come up with is, “I feel sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”

I don’t know. I guess I’m sorry for my fellow man, and the atrocities we’ve committed. I’m sorry that children are frightened to live in this world. I’m sorry that some people hate other people. I’m sorry that any human being could harm another. I’m sorry for being selfish sometimes. I’m sorry I can’t make anything better. I’m just sorry all over.

“You and me both,” says the priest. “But do you know what?”

“What?”

“We’re loved.”

More quietness in the booth. I can hear his nose whistling like a mini kazoo now.

If I’m being honest, all I’ve ever wanted was to be loved. Everything I’ve ever done has been a halfhearted attempt to make sure I’m loved. Maybe love is all anyone in this world wants. Maybe if there were more of it, there would be less to be sorry about.

“Thanks,” I say.

He chuckles. “Don’t thank me.” Then he prays a short blessing with lots of three-syllable words. It’s pure poetry.

“Just so we’re clear, Father, this doesn’t mean I’m Catholic now.”

“Of course not,” he tells me. “But you are a child of God. So am I.”

And make no mistake about it, so are you.

89 comments

  1. Melanie Levy - June 1, 2020 6:55 am

    Thank you, Sean. You ARE loved…

    Reply
  2. claudia kennedy - June 1, 2020 7:15 am

    It’s nearly three in the morning. I am world-weary. Scared and sad. All I have to say, Sean, your words made this soul feel comfort. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Linda Broyles - June 1, 2020 7:30 am

    Thank you so much, Sean.

    Reply
  4. Judy - June 1, 2020 7:42 am

    Yes we are – all children of God. And we are loved in an amazing way.

    I read the words to a song today that made me think…one part of one line says “I won’t have to cross the Jordan River alone.” Such a promise that no matter what, He is waiting for us to come home. Because He loves us so much.

    Reply
  5. Deborah Lockard - June 1, 2020 8:10 am

    You hit this one out of the ballpark Sean. Sincere thanks, Deb Lockard

    Reply
  6. Sharon lawson - June 1, 2020 8:18 am

    Thank you. I needed your words this morning.

    Reply
  7. Jackie Simm - June 1, 2020 8:25 am

    It’s 3:22am & I cant sleep because there is so much on my mind, but after reading your words I am smiling. Thank you!

    Reply
  8. Ann - June 1, 2020 10:30 am

    Amen!🙏🏻

    Reply
  9. Keloth Anne - June 1, 2020 10:33 am

    A sleepless night and your words brought a heart warming smile and moments of comfort. Thank you and know you (and Jamie) are loved.

    Reply
  10. Heidi - June 1, 2020 10:48 am

    Once again, another non sleeping human. My heart is so heavy with all this. It makes me feel like we are never going to be the same again. So thank you for easing this heart & mind a little. I might need to become Catholic.

    Reply
  11. Amy - June 1, 2020 10:58 am

    Thank you Sean!

    Reply
  12. carol0goodson - June 1, 2020 11:13 am

    This is wonderful, and I admire your courage in going to Confession when you aren’t Catholic. Yet. Consider that God might be calling you to His Church. I converted in 1982 and it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. You absolutely ARE loved, and you channel that love to others through your words. God bless you. +

    Reply
  13. topdock - June 1, 2020 11:13 am

    Sean, you have a way of warming my heart.

    Reply
  14. Diane - June 1, 2020 11:23 am

    It gets to me too. Thank you…knowing I am not alone helps.

    Reply
  15. Steve - June 1, 2020 11:39 am

    Very nice

    Reply
  16. Ed Link - June 1, 2020 11:46 am

    Thanks Sean, spot on. Take care my friend

    Reply
  17. Christine Gardner - June 1, 2020 11:49 am

    Thank you for sharing THIS.

    Reply
  18. Donna - June 1, 2020 11:57 am

    Your words have helped to heal my troubled soul – it is such a blessing to know that we have God who loves us in spite of ourselves. Thank you.

    Reply
  19. Jan - June 1, 2020 12:01 pm

    You have such a wonderful way of putting my thoughts into words… After a long night of prayer and tears as I watched the insanity on my silent TV, this was just what I needed and wanted to say. Thank you, Sean and God bless you.

    Reply
  20. aleathia nicholson - June 1, 2020 12:27 pm

    This was a big comfort with all the scary stuff on the morning news.

    Reply
  21. Pamela Williams - June 1, 2020 12:35 pm

    Beautiful. Pure and simple love. Thank you for this piece on this day.

    Reply
  22. Sam Keichline - June 1, 2020 12:36 pm

    This is beautiful. And true.

    Reply
  23. Sandy Fopiano - June 1, 2020 12:41 pm

    Thank You, Sean, for today’s message. I feel the same !!! God Bless You !!

    Reply
  24. Deb Canter - June 1, 2020 12:47 pm

    Thanks Sean. As a former Southern Baptist who is now Catholic, this piece was exceptionally special. Catholic
    churches frequently provide beautiful, quiet, peaceful, reverent spaces where the presence of God is very real. I’m glad you found such a space with a wise and kindly priest. God bless you – and yes, you ARE loved.

    Reply
  25. Jo Ann - June 1, 2020 12:55 pm

    Others before me said my sentiments exactly. We sure need God’s love & to know his presence these days. God brought you to that special place to that wise man. I hope we all feel better for his words & advice.

    Reply
  26. Sharon - June 1, 2020 12:55 pm

    I missed my quiet time this morning to get more sleep. I need more sleep because I’m having some minor surgery tomorrow. I’m scared because of a lot of stuff, the virus of course, my town has declared curfews because of the violence, we don’t seem to get it how to treat each other and I’ll be unconscious tomorrow! I’m old and I’m worried and I like your word, sorry, I’m so sorry things aren’t different! But I read your post, I heard a whisper of His voice, I cried a little. As long as people like you and the priest and maybe me are worried and sorry and praying, I know hope. Take care and as my family says, Keep your circle tight!

    Reply
  27. Larry - June 1, 2020 1:11 pm

    Getting down to basics. We are loved. The world is filled with hate. We all need God and each other. We must discern right from wrong and defend the right.

    Reply
  28. Richda McNutt - June 1, 2020 1:12 pm

    This is beautiful, Sean, and so appropriate. I’m not Catholic either – but I often wish I were. There’s a beauty and a comfort in the Catholic religion that is often missing in others.

    Reply
  29. Sherri Stroud - June 1, 2020 1:20 pm

    I needed this message today! Thank you!

    Reply
  30. Ann - June 1, 2020 1:25 pm

    Your writing is so beautiful and this message is especially touching. God is good all the time.

    Reply
  31. Felina - June 1, 2020 1:33 pm

    Amen to this! Wonderful and much needed post. Thank you Sean!

    Reply
  32. Marilyn - June 1, 2020 1:33 pm

    Thank you for a beautiful message and thank God for that priest. He sounds like one in a million for his wise answers.

    Reply
  33. Michael - June 1, 2020 1:48 pm

    Thank you, Sean. This was much needed. Also, I literally snorted at the “Just as I Am” comment. I’m not Baptist, but Southern, so much is the same.

    Reply
  34. Marc Beaver - June 1, 2020 1:52 pm

    Wonderful, Sean. “Nearer is He than breathing and closer than hands and feet.”

    Reply
  35. Nina Horn - June 1, 2020 1:52 pm

    Loved this Sean, and just to hear those special words that reinforce, that you are loved! Have a great week and stop watching the news! Hugs Nina

    Reply
  36. Glenda Hinkle - June 1, 2020 2:03 pm

    We are all loved by our God. Catholics aren’t all stuff shirts like the non-Catholics like to portray. Quiet time in prayer is so important. I’m so glad you had this experience. Try it again, I think it will grow on you, Sean!!

    Reply
  37. Diann - June 1, 2020 2:11 pm

    Well this is just what I needed this morning- didn’t really want to cry but I am and it’s ok because they’re not sad tears , just tears of lent up emotion. Thank you for your thoughts and stories through these rough days.

    Reply
  38. Devon Smyth - June 1, 2020 2:19 pm

    Beautiful words of comfort…”you are loved.” Thanks for this today!

    Reply
  39. angie5804 - June 1, 2020 2:23 pm

    Was this Saint Rita Catholic Church? My nephew just became a deacon and he is serving there right now.

    Reply
  40. Jim Thomssen - June 1, 2020 2:26 pm

    Sean, youare loved brother. I’m sorry too. My .eown is burnig and places I worked at have been destroyed. I may live 1504 miles away from thee now but it’s still home. My niece had to run away from her house, and hopes it’s still there to return to. Violence only begets more violence. I don’t know what to do to make things better. I’m sorry too.

    Reply
  41. Phil S. - June 1, 2020 2:42 pm

    Great message, Sean. Good words for all of us. As you expressed your feelings to the padre, I thought to myself, “That’s exactly, precisely, no doubt about it, how i feel, too.” His responses were spot-on as well, especially when he said, “We are loved.”
    Now, go home and hug on that lady who loves you and those dogs who appreciate you.

    Reply
  42. Phil S. - June 1, 2020 2:45 pm

    Jim, just read your comment and have said a prayer for you and your niece and your homes and businesses,

    Reply
  43. Anne Arthur - June 1, 2020 2:50 pm

    I sooo understand. Yes, we are all children of God, our only source of peace and quieting heart. 22 years ago, I converted and became a Catholic. I felt it was like coming home. I love its soul soothing sacraments. Happy to know that you got an inkling of such peace.

    Reply
  44. Michelle Condon - June 1, 2020 2:50 pm

    Thanks, Sean. I really needed to hear this today.

    Reply
  45. Dianne - June 1, 2020 2:58 pm

    Thank you for this. Made me cry. And I’m not Catholic either. Bless you

    Reply
  46. Jo Ann B. Thompson - June 1, 2020 2:58 pm

    I read your column every day, yet have never commented, until now. Yesterday, virtually, my church congregation celebrated Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. To us. Through us. And through your beautiful words this morning. Now an Episcopalian, I, too, grew up Southern Baptist, and we also sang what seemed like 1,192 verses of Just As I Am – that brings back mostly fond memories! May we all ponder your words and keep those thoughts and feelings close in this world today. You and the good priest had some of what I call Divine Inspiration. And thank God you did. Keep writing, my friend. God’s blessings.

    Jo Ann

    Reply
  47. Dale Kyle Head - June 1, 2020 3:17 pm

    ❤️💕❤️💕 You hit the nail on the head with this one! Thank you.

    Reply
  48. Ron Camarda - June 1, 2020 3:21 pm

    Hi Sean! Come visit St. Monica 1858 in Palatka Florida. We survived the Civil War, 1918 influenza, Orange Freeze, Economic disaster, WW I & II etcetera… Our food pantry stayed open and we were able to coordinate with other denominational outreach during these crazy times. Before the pandemic, we invited the homeless to our free Sunday brunch in-between our masses. The church was dedicated in 1899 and still alive. We are hoping to attach bathrooms I the future… but it is in God’s time. We just painted our church and brought out our beautiful stain glass. I once did a homily focused on “YOU ARE LOVED”. You helped me to be a better priest. Peace, Ron Camarda

    Reply
  49. Gordon - June 1, 2020 3:22 pm

    Your words are perfect for this day and this time, Sean. Thank you!

    Reply
  50. Robert M Brenner - June 1, 2020 3:40 pm

    All Ican day is that was beautiful ❤️ Bob

    Reply
  51. Charles Garrison - June 1, 2020 3:52 pm

    This is beautiful, in theses troubling times. Thanks!

    Reply
  52. Ala Red Clay Girl - June 1, 2020 3:53 pm

    As a cradle Catholic I can tell you there is no peace like that after having gone to Confession. A Protestant counselor once said that Catholics going to Confession receive for free what others pay thousands of dollars for – absolute peace of being forgiven.

    Reply
  53. JAMES W NEAREN JR - June 1, 2020 4:08 pm

    Lovely.

    Reply
  54. Becky Souders - June 1, 2020 4:30 pm

    Beautiful. Thanks.

    Reply
  55. Linda Moon - June 1, 2020 4:46 pm

    I will resist the urge to reply here with a 10,000-word M.Div. Thesis. I’m not Catholic, but their beauty draws me to God. Beauty and God help to clear my vision of the world. Just talking does, too. The Catholic priest was right. All we need or want is love. Maybe that’s too cliche’ when sung by the Beatles, but to know it in fact of God can be life-altering. I’ve got plenty of it for you, Sean, and for lots of other people, pets, and the beauty of God’s creation….imperfect as it all can be. You are loved, Sean….JUST AS YOU ARE.

    Reply
  56. Rebecca J Cotney - June 1, 2020 5:45 pm

    Bless you Sean, you always make me to better & yes you are loved very much.

    Reply
  57. Rebecca J Cotney - June 1, 2020 5:46 pm

    That should be feel better.

    Reply
  58. JoAn Salloum - June 1, 2020 6:44 pm

    I am a life long Catholic and just want you to know you made a better confession than I have ever made! You are blessed and loved.

    Reply
  59. trina - June 1, 2020 6:46 pm

    Thank you for sharing this with us. It truly hit a chord within me.

    Reply
  60. Linda Moon - June 1, 2020 7:06 pm

    P.S. I just danced bare-footed to Los Lobos’ “One Time One Night” {in America}. It made me feel better. You might want to give it a try the next time you’re worried and need a Priest. But I don’t recommend listening and dancing 1,192 times all at once!

    Reply
  61. Deborah - June 1, 2020 7:11 pm

    Sean. I really like this one. I am always amazed at your ability to write SOMETHING everyday. You touch my heart more often than not. I am more scared today too but thank you for reminding me I’m loved. PS I’m not catholic, just catholic light or Episcopalian.

    Reply
  62. Barbara Ames - June 1, 2020 7:55 pm

    Barbara A.-3:50PM – I’m not Catholic but love to visit Churches and Cathedrals and have done so around the world. The beauty of the stained glass and wonderful candles and rays of the sun through the multitude of windows bring peace. I have never been in a totally empty church – always others seeking something. Never have I tried do a confession. But sitting quietly and looking around brings me a wonderfully comfortable feeling.of being cared for – yes, I am a Child of G-d., and Life is Good. Thank you , Sean.

    Reply
  63. Hazel Barber - June 1, 2020 8:36 pm

    Sean, never has there been a time that we need to feel love as we do now. Thanks for pulling at our heartstrings. You are loved!

    Reply
  64. Jenny Gilmore - June 1, 2020 9:02 pm

    Sean, great message and I found your blog relatable because I was raised in Baptist church so many years ago when I first attended a Catholic Service I was very intimidated. I never joined the Catholic church but always enjoyed the service. BTW, the best homily I ever heard was from a nun 😉

    Reply
  65. Martha - June 1, 2020 9:08 pm

    Message to God:
    We are all so very sorry for our behavior.

    Reply
  66. Martha - June 1, 2020 9:15 pm

    I grew up in Temple Baptist Church and Bro. J. C. Murphy would have us sing Just As I Am until someone came forward and surrendered their life to Christ…every Sunday. I later married a Methodist and was converted but lots of Baptist still in my soul.

    Reply
  67. Susan Smith - June 1, 2020 9:46 pm

    Coming from a Catholic……..
    God bless you!

    Reply
  68. Robert Chiles - June 1, 2020 11:08 pm

    That’s as good a sermon as I have heard in a long time. You would make a fine priest. From a (former Baptist) Episcopalian priest.

    Reply
  69. MAM - June 2, 2020 12:19 am

    Coming from another Catholic—God Bless You and you obviously are already blessed. Your writing is always heartwarming and amazing, even when it brings tears. You are a blessing to all of us who read your musings. (P.S. my mother was Southern Baptist and I used to have a column called MAM’s Musings.)

    Reply
  70. Toni - June 2, 2020 12:27 am

    Blessings. Have often sat in peace in a Catholic church and lit candles, though attend services in other churches. God is Love. How I loved singing about How Jesus Loves Me as a very young child. I do not watch the news either. Thank you Sean. I used to teach in Catholic schools sometimes, and lived being with the children weekly as we all spent time in the chapel attending a children’s service. How I miss the scripture classes in public schools. I live in Australia.

    Reply
  71. Rita - June 2, 2020 4:00 am

    Thank you! This is something I really need to read today as I felt the same way. We all are in this together no matter what religion we are , we are all God’s children. You are truly a blessing.

    Reply
  72. Brenda Stallcop - June 2, 2020 1:02 pm

    So moving Sean. You have put into writing so many of my own thoughts. Thanks from a Catholic in Indiana.

    Reply
  73. mike - June 2, 2020 2:50 pm

    Thanks for sharing these words. I think they express what a lot of us are feeling.

    Reply
  74. Barbara Kirker - June 2, 2020 3:05 pm

    Excellent as always, Sean. My background is much like yours. I had to laugh about the number of choruses of “Just As I Am” and I can hear them in my head, especially a sweet little lady singing alto in a loud voice. At least she was on key! I look forward to your column every day. Keep up the good work, young man!

    Reply
  75. Alice Roose - June 2, 2020 4:22 pm

    Dear Sean this is so beautiful i am sorry too for all that is happening right now i wish i could do something but all we can do is pray!thank you for all your stories Sean i love you Gob Bless you

    Reply
  76. Barbara Wilson - June 2, 2020 8:28 pm

    “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love”. Let’s continue to show God’s love by our actions. Thanks, Sean for this post. I think most everyone has felt the feelings you’ve related but we (Christians) have hope & confidence that God is in control.

    Reply
  77. Sandi - June 3, 2020 1:17 am

    This is lovely. Makes me want to visit a local chapel. The nose whistle made me LOL 🙂 what a sweet story and wise words from the priest. Thanks for sharing

    Reply
  78. Harriet - June 3, 2020 2:25 am

    I love all these comments.

    Reply
  79. Christina - June 3, 2020 5:05 am

    Truly, the only thing that matters. What a powerful experience!

    Reply
  80. Marsha Roberts - June 3, 2020 7:39 pm

    Do you sound anything like Sam Elliott? That’s the voice I hear as I read your words. Words that are wonderfully written by the way. Thank you for your wisdom!

    Reply
  81. Mary - June 4, 2020 4:18 pm

    As always, words of wisdom, yours and the priest’s. God is love regardless of how you worship him. I do miss direct contact with my fellow Christians.

    Reply
  82. PhDude - June 4, 2020 7:46 pm

    I love you, Sean. That is all.

    Reply
  83. Kathleen - June 8, 2020 2:38 pm

    You can contact your nearest Catholic Church to inquire about the Catholic Church. There is a program called RCIA. The purpose of the RCIA is to learn about what the Catholic Church believes and teaches. After going through the program, you decide if you want to become Catholic. Blessings and prayers for you. 🙏🏻❤️🙏🏻❤️🙏🏻❤️🙏🏻

    Reply
  84. carol0goodson - June 8, 2020 3:03 pm

    Sincerely hope you will check out RCIA as Kathleen has suggested… you have nothing to lose, and it might change your life in the most wonderful way imaginable. At least it did mine.

    Reply
  85. Michelle Harris - June 25, 2020 11:23 am

    I liked that

    Reply
  86. Melinda - July 10, 2020 3:31 am

    What a gift you were given! You bring light to many dark days! Thank you! (I was born Baptist and became Catholic 40 years ago. I have come to realize God doesn’t care about our “denomination”, He just cares about our faith and what’s in our heart!)

    Reply
  87. FFHW - July 10, 2020 3:14 pm

    I was reared as a “city” Southern Baptist, but I had family N a rural area we visited, so I was exposed 2 that facet as well. As a young adult l “converted”, or as I explained 2 my very proper Southern Mama, I “came home”, ‘cause the Catholic Church is the ORIGINAL Christian religion, all others emanated from its roots. So I can relate to this post on several different levels. I also think it is especially pertinent for what we R experiencing & must cope with today. Thank U for sharing. Because my parents instilled tolerance & respect as I grew up, I have always had friends of different beliefs from all over the world. Through I grew up N a mid-size Southern town, I have lived as an adult all over this country – the far west coast, the Midwest & the northeast. N addition I’ve travelled extensively N a lot of Europe. People everywhere share some commonalities as well as regional uniqueness. My experience has taught me that usually what U offer is what is returned 2 U.

    Reply
  88. Nancy - July 10, 2020 3:31 pm

    I grew up Southern Baptist too. We sang Amazing Grace so often I didn’t want to hear it one more time. Now I like it again. One year I went to a Catholic funeral and a Buddhist one. They were different, but the sentiment was the same.
    I like your drawings too. They’re simple but poignant.
    Have a blessed day.

    Reply
  89. Janice H Spivey - July 10, 2020 11:50 pm

    Thanks

    Reply

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