I don't' know if I ever feel more Catholic than I do a mid-day Mass. Outside of consistently still flubbing the "Holy Holy Holy, Lord God of Hosts" (it just doesn't roll off the tongue like the older version did), I know all the moves, and could do them with my hands tied behind my back (except, I am thinking, the sign of the cross. I could still do the sign of peace because at daily Mass we don't shake hands. We wave. Even if the person is right next to you! I think it's an old-people thing). I went to this Mass once after having been up half the night at a Hospice vigil and was feeling exhausted- bleary-eyed and snoozy and a little drunk-like. But still, I knew all the moves, and kneeled and sat and prayed almost automatically. I remember finding that comforting- knowing all the moves and what to do and how to say it so reflexively made me feel like a part of the whole.
Today, on the other hand, a man walked in just at the beginning of the Homily. I heard my Catholic spine whisper "doesn't count if you're not here for the Gospel!" He is a regular at this Mass, I've seen him before. I watched him take a seat and pull out his rosary beads. The chain was broken on them, so they hung in a long line instead of the usual loop. He sat through the rest of the Mass fiddling fretfully with his broken beads, and whispering. I leaned in a bit to hear what he was saying/praying and heard: "Maryyyy- full of grace the Lord is with thee blessed art thou among women and blessed is Maryyyy.... full of grace, the Lord is with thee..." over and over. He whispered these wrong prayers, wrongly, on his wrong rosary, through the homily and liturgy of the Eucharist. When we stood up to pray the Our Father, he stood up too, and whispered his wrong prayer. At one point, he crunched on a mint- I wondered at first if he was eating one of the beads from his rosary- either way, it's wrong; we're supposed to fast for an hour before Communion. When communion time came, he filed up to the front, received, and then went to stand by the door. When the priest was finished serving communion, the man walked out.
He did the whole thing wrong.
But my heart, my heart was breaking for this man- not pity, not even worry- just love love love. I imagined that Mary, hearing her prayer said wrongly, over and over, must feel so moved by his whispers. I don't know his story, where he comes from or where he goes when he leaves our little chapel, but I know he keeps coming back, keeps whispering Mary's name, keeps receiving Christ. I pray someday that in my standing and kneeling and sitting and waving at my neighbors and praying along with the crowd, I can do it as rightly as this man does.