“Sunday Mornings in Ancient Times” or “Why I Teared up Last Sunday”

by Steve Ray on December 22, 2014

Tears welled up in my eyes — again — at Mass last Sunday. It was not always so. As a former Baptist I used to think the Catholic Mass was a sacrilege and an abomination. How could anyone worship a piece of bread? Really!

However, last Sunday I was overcome with emotion while sitting in an older Catholic church in a relatively poor area of town during a “normal” Sunday Mass. Why? Let me explain.
Dad reading
(Picture: Me on the right with the best dad in the world and brother David after going to Joy Road Baptist Church)

But first I have to take a step back in time to my delightful childhood.

The door of our Baptist church opened and the early arrivers stepped in with well-worn Bibles under their arms and colorful ties snugged up tight around the neck. Children with cute bow ties and frilly dresses were herded in and dropped off at Sunday School. Women adjusted their hats and smiled at all their friends.

It was always the same — enter the church with chattering friendliness accompanied by the organ or piano to set the mood. Everyone takes their place in the padded pews. The pastor steps up to the front and welcomes everyone, especially any visitors. They are asked to fill out the “Visitor Card” in the pews in front of them.

Then we all stand as he opens in a solemn and often wordy prayer.  A number is called out and we all grabbed our hymnal and proved we were real Christians by belting out the song, not just the first verse, but verses 1, 2 and 5.

For the rest of the story, click here.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Terry DeMao July 5, 2011 at 3:09 PM

Great job, Steve!! We are sure going to miss you next month at the Catholic Scripture Study in August!! Wish you could bilocate between the UK and Charlotte!

I still have so many wonderful memories of last November’s cruise in the footsteps of St. Paul! AWESOME!


Jackie Hawk July 14, 2011 at 9:41 PM

This was awesomeness in a box. I’m a 21 year old convert and I went to predominantly Baptist churches growing up, and we often attended the African American ones. I’ll never forget the absolute discomfort I felt growing up in those churches. It wasn’t just something where I found church boring, it was that from the my earliest memory (about age 3) deep down inside (my soul perhaps?) I had always felt a distinct discomfort. Granted as a 3 year old child I didn’t know what that meant. I tried to get rid of the feeling by taking part in church. I was ‘saved’ at 5 years old because I thought it would make things feel right. Actually, while everyone around me kept saying that all you had to do was accept, I had it in my five year old head, for whatever reason, that Baptism sealed the deal, and acceptance was just the preliminary step. My mother had to fight tooth and nail to get me saved and baptised because they didn’t believe that I could make the choice at that age. And honestly, I didn’t consciously make the decision as they would have liked and only said I did to get what I wanted. I didn’t know what was going on. The pastor said come on up and I did, and I figured that maybe I’d feel better. Through the years I participated in youth groups (term sends shivers down my spine), choirs (even though I had to bizarre inability to sing or even open my mouth enough to do more than mumble Amazing Grace during service–that is until I converted, now singing isn’t a problem) and when I was 16 my mother made me be a female usher as our 13 person congregation church (pastor split from other churches, so make the Protestant count= 30,001. But none of it worked. I was even baptized a second time when I was 14 just to make things feel better, thinking the first time didn’t take, thus I felt so despondent. I tried to read the Bible, but that still didn’t help. So from the age of 3 until about 18, I absolutely dreaded Sunday mornings because i knew I had to go where my spirit seemed to turn and writhe in on itself. But I always felt good after church. I was filled with joy and peace then because I knew I did what I had to do. However, I didn’t need to feel joy or that elation that most get from the nearly mass hysteria creating services of shouting, clapping and hand raising. I didn’t need to ‘feel Jesus’ I just wanted things to feel right. I wanted to feel like my soul wasn’t trying to reject some mysterious thing I couldn’t place my finger on. But they never, ever did.
I ran into a crisis of faith when I was about to graduate. I knew that I had to go to church. It was the way to love God. It was the necessary means for worshiping and showing love for God. I knew that absolutely, Sunday worship was mandatory. But I hated going to church. By the age of 18 it was painful to go to church. I’d spend the whole two hours staring at the floor negating and criticizing every single thing the pastor said in my mind, finding it all watered down and meaningless. Not the word of God, but how the pastor interpreted them. And I knew that in college, I wouldn’t have my mother there, forcing me to go. I would have probably bounced around from church to church as my family had always done all my life, but I knew it was a matter of time before I stopped. And I knew that I had to avoid that at all costs. But it was in the nick of time that I was, well, saved.
Its actually funny, when I was 15 I thought that I may have found the right place in Judaism. It seemed right. But, I quickly abandoned the idea when I realized that they were missing a key Player, if you know what I mean. But when I was 18, by a chance encounter with a book I found the natural offspring and fulfillment of Judaism, the very reason why Judaism exists and was established eons ago.
It was when I became Catholic that I knew what rightness felt like. I have never felt such intrinsic rightness. Some times I feel it more than others. Sometimes its just the absence of that discomfort that I knew all my life. But it is right and it is good. While I love the big ornate churches with the organs and stained glass that really get me in the mood, the small kind of plain post Vatican II churches that don’t put me in the mood still provide rightness. Why? Because Christ is there. before I came home, my intent was to go to be with Christ, but He wasn’t there. Maybe in spirit, but not in the Flesh. I was worshiping and loving in a way that Christ did not ask for. And my soul knew it, even if my 3, 5, 8, 14, and 18 year old mind did not. And why this happened to me I don’t know. I’m very slow to conclude ideas about spiritual gifts or being lead or spoken to by God, because as a protestant I heard it so causally thrown around and such things were misused (i.e. God will lead you to a new car! Your spiritual gifts will get you a great 401 K!) So I don’t like to do the whole, ‘God is talking to me’ or ‘my dreams last night mean such and such’ (actually the Bible speaks against following and believing dreams randomly in a book that was ripped out by Luther, so thats probably why dream interpretation was pretty big in some of the churches I went to). But in this case, I know that something spiritual was going on because I could feel it almost physically. I pray that God will do the same to others.
Unfortunately now, because I know the truth, I see the Christian ministries kids with their guitars, bonfires, Bibles and highlighters, raising their hands to rock Christian music and talking about how good it feel to be Christian, and I can’t help but negate what they say in my mind. It only feels right to them because THEY make it feel right. It’s all dependent on a feeling that they create that’s based on emotion and sometimes entertainment. I actually had a friend who said that she couldn’t FEEL Jesus and tried to join a retreat to FEEL Jesus again. Unfortunately the feeling left again and she got into a lot of trouble. not judging her, but I can see where the whole feeling Jesus thing can be dangerous, because what you believe in, and what is right and what is wrong should not be based on a feeling. Its must be based on what Christ wants absolutely. I often hear that they don’t believe in religion, but relationships. Christ gave us the one true religion so that we may have the one true relationship. To ignore that religion seems like a cruelty towards Christ, but they don’t understand.
I love the Church. I love Christ. I can’t describe how much I feel this love because sometimes it feels deeper than I can even actually feel (not much sense, I know). The rightness of the Mass and the physical Presence was a balm and medicine to my aching soul that begged for the the real McCoy. Because I found the Church, I helped to pull my mom along as well. And she has been attending Catholic Mass for about 3 years now. As far as I know, she has never attended the same church for that long in my lifetime. Dear God, thank you for this religion. Thank you for this relationship.
Cool post by the way!

Loren T. February 3, 2013 at 3:16 PM

Thank you greatly Steve from the two Hearts for your much-needed essay on Holy Mass. I will use it when I enter seminary.
Secondly, Jackie Hawk, wow! your long testimonial comment was very inspiring. I love when you said you felt the “intrinsic rightness” for the Catholic faith. If you want even more of Jesus Christ, I would highly recommend you to participate an encounter weekend with the Cursillo Movement in your diocese. If you did already, then De Colores; if not, please consider it because I felt the “intrinsic rightness” as well when I lived the Encounter. Below is the national link for your convenience:

God bless us all!

bob b. April 2, 2013 at 10:56 AM

I was beginning to think it was my age as the reason for me to tear up at Eucharist. I am a recent re-vert, been away 40+ years and have noticed when the Eucharist is presented I have this emotion, for lack of better explanation, wells up in me to the point of tears.

Mark January 1, 2015 at 10:14 PM


As a former Baptist who reconciled this year, I am regularly surprised by how moved I become at Mass.

I explain it to Protestant brothers by reference to this video of a surprise soldier homecoming: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kUkKhRtk8VU

Imagine being the loving spouse and/or child of a fantastic and heroic man. He is famous for all of his accomplishments and sacrifices, but has been away for awhile to lovingly prepare a you a safe place in a world at war.

You well up with pride merely by your association of being his (video: standing and waving).

You are moved to tears even by words that he pre-recorded for you at an earlier time (video: recorded message). This is the love and sense of longing wonder that I had as an evangelical.

But when you realize that the one you love is actually there, and has been there all along, there is nothing to do but RUN to him (video: the surprise). The first time I attended Mass after researching the eucharist, I saw the priest lift the host, and I wanted to Sprint to the alter and hug the bread.

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