Saint Benedict Center's main site is An online Journal edited by the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Richmond, New Hampshire.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Back Home After 40 Years Away from the Church

By Jack Koehler

One day, early last month, my friend Jim approached me at our workplace, and told me how worried he is about the things happening in the world today, especially with this new administration. I simply replied “Jim, don’t worry; whatever happens will happen.” He looked distraught as he told me his fear that the government would take everything he owns someday.

“Jack, how do you keep so calm?” he asked. “Well, Jim,’ I said, “I say the Rosary faithfully every day and I leave everything up to Our Lady. And I also go to Mass every Sunday.”

A couple of days went by before Jim approached me again. He asked me if I could do him a favor. I said, “Sure; what is it?” He said, “I’d like to come back to church, Jack. Can you help me to do that?” “You came to the right guy, Jim,” I said. “I can take you to the abbey where I usually go to Mass.” “Jack, it’s been over forty years since I’ve been to Mass,” he told me, “and it’s time to come back.”

I told him that I go to the Latin Mass, and that I am friendly with all the priests at the abbey in Still River, Massachusetts. “It’ll be like going to Mass as you remember it from forty years ago,” I assured him. “I can’t wait to go,” he said. “What about bringing your wife?” I asked. “No,” he said, “we were married in the Church, but I can’t tell her now.” “Okay, Jim,” I said, “in due time.” “My mother-in-law goes to Mass though,” he was quick to let me know. “All right, that’s good.” I replied, “Maybe someday your wife will come back; let’s both pray for that.”

Jim met me at my house the following Saturday morning. He knew that he had to go to confession, so he was not surprised when I gave him a copy of the Act of Contrition and the Ten Commandments to make it easier for him to examine his conscience and make a good confession. (Actually he had already done the examination.) When we got to the abbey, I brought Jim to the confessional. Father James was hearing the confessions. That was something; Father James would hear the sins and give absolution to another James. One must never dismiss these little signs of God’s goodness and providence!

I sat outside waiting and, even though it took a while, Jim finished in time so that we made the 8:00 Mass, which is always a High Mass at the abbey. Jim followed along as best he could in the missal. He was very happy to let me know that he remembered some of the prayers from when he was a youngster, a long time ago.

After Mass we went to St. Catherine’s House, where the congregation is invited to come and have coffee and sweet rolls. Strolling down the hallway on the way to the dining area, Jim was taking in all the religious statues, pictures, and icons of the Holy Family, Our Lady, and so many saints.

Later, when I asked him how he felt being back in the Church and the life of grace, he said very humbly, “It’s a relief in a way, Jack, but I feel I haven’t done enough to merit this grace after having avoided the Church all these years.” “Don’t worry, Jim,” I reassured him, “just continue going to Mass, learn the Rosary, and wear the scapular, and you’ll receive more and more graces from heaven.” “Thanks Jack,” he said, “I needed to hear that.”

I also told Jim that there are two Masses every morning at the abbey, and confession is available every morning as well. “That’s good to know,” he said.

We weren’t finished yet. “Come on, Jim,” — I didn’t need to prod him — “I want to introduce you to the sisters next door at Saint Anne’s House.” The door was open, so after making a visit in their beautiful chapel, I introduced Jim to some of the sisters. They were delighted to hear his story and told him to come back for Mass. I showed him the sisters’ garden and we continued taking a leisurely walk around the monastery grounds. “Jim, it’s a piece of heaven; there are three chapels all within a five-minute walk, each of them offering the Latin Mass every morning. It doesn’t get any better than that!”

As we were leaving Jim kept saying how good he felt, like a huge load had been lifted off his shoulders. “Well, be faithful in doing your part and it will only get better from here,” I assured him.

It’s been about two months now since Jim went back to Church. I’ve given him some sacramentals, the Miraculous Medal, the brown scapular, and a booklet on how to say the Rosary. He has the Rosary memorized, except for the Hail, Holy Queen.
I noticed my friend has been much calmer at work now and less stressed about things. It must be grace at work because it’s such a drastic change in such a short time. He goes to Mass now at a local church near his home in North Andover, Massachusetts. He told me that they say the Rosary before and after Mass there, which I was surprised and delighted to hear. “That’s great,” I said, adding, “did you know that if you say the Rosary with a group of people you’ll receive greater graces than you would saying it alone?” “No, Jack,” he replied, “I didn’t know that.” Every time I give Jim something about the Faith to read, or a religious item, he says he can’t get enough of such good things.

Just this past week, on May 4, Jim said he went to Mass and there happened to be a first holy communion scheduled. A cardinal from Spain had come to the parish, and he offered a Solemn High Mass that took over two hours. “It was really nice,” he said. Then he informed me that he had the Hail, Holy Queen memorized and all the mysteries of the Rosary. “Good, Jim,” I said, “now you can say it to or from work if you don’t have time during the day.” “Great idea, Jack, I’ll do that.” Then he said, “You know, I didn’t know each day was a different saint’s feast day. “That’s right, Jim;” I said, “Every day a saint is honored on the Church’s calendar and at Mass, and more than one if you count those who are not as well known. Sunday’s specific Mass, however, always take precedence over the feast days of saints, but they can still get a minor commemoration if the priest chooses to do so at the altar.”

“I have much to learn, Jack.” “And you will, Jim, you will,” I said with a smile, “and so will I.”

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