The other day I went to noon Mass, Confession before. Around the responsorial Psalm, a woman arrived late, sat in the pew behind me, and immediately started rummaging through her purse, crackling, unzipping, dumping, rearranging. My God, I thought in my usually humble and contrite way, Shut UP already!

Of course she did not. And as my blood pressure began a precipitous rise, I suddenly realized that her external compulsivity exactly mirrored my inward compulsivity. The real reason I wanted her to shut up was that she was interfering with the loop that had been running through my sleep-starved brain almost since I’d woken that day.

“Should I go to Trader Joe’s after this, or do I have the strength? Maybe I should just stop at Time Market. But I want that soft blue cheese that they have at Trader’s Joe’s. Would the one up on Campbell be closer or should I go to the Grant Ave. one? Maybe I should just have crackers and cheese and take a nap. But no, I’m out of milk and eggs, too, so then I’d have to go tomorrow and I’ll obsess about that and what if I don’t sleep again tonight?”

Lord have mercy indeed. Compared to me, the woman behind me was QUIET.

I love when stuff like that happens. My heart opened to her, another suffering soul. Maybe she was checking the US Open scores on her phone, another thing I personally had been obsessing about for the past week.

And then about three seconds later, she quit rummaging around in her purse.

Hosanna in the highest.

15 Replies to “THE MYSTICAL BODY”

  1. Mary Anne Konizeski says: Reply

    I love this. It’s so me. Every day this is me although my obsession is Starbucks.

  2. Philippe Garmy says: Reply

    I’m all smiles and grins, Heather…been there…done that…and was ultimately humbled, thanks be to God!

  3. How I can relate to this! Both the inner gymnastics of my mind leaping from one thing to the next (and for me, usually self scolding, “pay attention for crying out loud!) and then the “Lord have mercy, could you keep it down!?” inner frustration towards those around me making a a ton of racket. If I had been in your shoes that day, I might have been thinking, “I wonder if Father will stick around to hear another Confession”. Thanks for making this connection for me. And yes! Enjoying the US Open. Was cheering on Brooksby last night to defeat Djokovic…..but my cheering was not enough.

  4. Wow! This is wonderful! There’s hope for me. Usually, when it happens to me I’ve just been to confession and confessed how easily distracted I am during Mass, during prayer. Then, I start obsessing about the fact I’ve just been to confession and fallen into the same trap not 15 minutes later. Aaaaggghhh!!

  5. Monique Rivett-Carnac says: Reply

    Hi Heather
    It reminds me years ago when I attended my first silent week-end retreat at the Grey Sisters in Ottawa. The floors were so Spic & Span you could actually see yourself in them. These sisters glided on these surfaces but we sure didn’t.
    Before we left for Ottawa. A good friend mentioned to me that it would be best to bring running shoes and a wooden or plastic rosary, which I did without questioning
    Well, the click clack of high heal shoes and the metal rosaries coming out from purses resonated all the way to-the chapel and back for the whole week-end.
    I felt like a pious mouse trying not to lose my silent momentum. It was annoying, and I had to practice all week-end not to make eye contacts with these city slickers who not only made a lot of noise but walked on these slippery floors at a lighting speed
    It dawn on me that these women were busy business women who needed to pray as much as I did in silence these convents were not build for long term visitors but for religious sisters with black shoes with very quiet sole ( souls )

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      I so identify, Monique! I went through a period when I went on tons of retreats, to monasteries, abbeys, convents…took me about ten years to realize that EVERY SINGLE TIME I conceived at least one huge resentment toward a fellow retreatant, priest, monk or nun…how dare they mess with my “holiness” and “contemplative heart?” When I die and come face-to-face with Christ, I sweear the first thing we’re both going to do is fall into each other’s arms laughing…

  6. bettytroppyahoocom says: Reply

    i don’t know how you do it, but you hit the nail on the head!! You write what I think and feel! What a gem you are! Thank you!

  7. bettytroppyahoocom says: Reply

    Well anyway, I loved your little essay today! You write what I think and feel! Thank you so much!!

  8. Betsy Acciani says: Reply

    I love when stuff like that happens. My heart opened to her. You are THE BEST at revealing little episodes that resonate. I read this column and am so satisfied, and so ready to carry on with my life and its suffering and my part in making others suffer. It is the Tragicomedy of the Cross. Thank you, Heather.

  9. HEATHER KING says: Reply

    How wonderful to wake to these comments! I am not alone! It never ceases to amaze me: the deeply unqualified people, in my case anyway, who Christ chooses to follow Him! I’ve been to Trader Joe’s AND the farmer’s market so I should be all set for groceries and can perhaps attend a bit more closely this week at the Holy Sacrifice of our beloved Mass. Thank you all so much!

  10. Do you have insomnia from time to time? I do. Kind souls assure me that just lying down is almost as good as deep sleep. I will believe these kind souls.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Ha, from time to time would be putting it lightly! Yes, definitely–I wake up automatically every morning between 5 and 5:45, no matter how little sleep I’ve gotten, and if I’m anxious, which is basically all the time, I’ll go to sleep early enough but wake around midnight or 1…I’m used to it and just muddle through the day–it seems to come in cycles…yes, lying down in the afternoon definitely helps and I can sometimes take a little nap then, too. Basically I just don’t want to miss anything! So my nervous system is geared kind of high–maybe yours is like that, too–anyway, yes, let’s listen to those kind souls–

  11. I was crying reading your essay and the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem from a few days ago, and then this essay made me laugh out loud Thank you, dear Heather!! I have missed reading your jewels! For some reason, I keep signing up for the emails but something is getting in the way of them arriving. Glad I made the trip to your site today. You enrich my heart!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh Julia! I write from EWR Termincal C–headed back West today–we are probably a stone’s throw from one another as we speak. I’m so glad Hopkins’ goldengrove unleaving struck a chord–little did he know when he wrote it that people the world over would remember him and “It is the blight man is born for; it is Margaret you mourn for” each year when October rolls around….May the good Lord bless you and keep you–prayers always for your singing and your brave and beautiful path…

  12. This is Julia the opera singer.


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