(As a side note, man, has that place changed. Granted, I don't think I've been in a Sephora since...2007...but still, wow. Also everyone there was fourteen. How can fourteen-year-olds afford $60 foundation and $45 blush brushes?)
I had a list of things I was looking for and asked for help. The lady I asked was only a floor manager, who then assigned me a makeup artist - like I said, very different from the last time I was there. The guy who came over to greet me was a very sassy, immaculately-coifed gay man. I explained what I wanted and he was very helpful, showing me a few options, explaining the pros and cons while being conscientious about price points. Suddenly, in the midst of our consult, he stopped me and said "Oh, I love your medal. That's the Blessed Mother, isn't it?" Yes, of course, it was - he recognized Mother Mary on my royal blue medal I bought in Sacré-Coeur, years ago, while on pilgrimage. I explained where I got it, how long ago. He pulled out from his black button down a lovely medal of St. Jude - "he's my guy!" he said emphatically, patting his heart. We went back to the point at hand, connection made.
As I was dallying around the brushes, I was offered a free facial. I agreed, despite not really knowing what a facial was. "Just 30 more minutes, OK?", I fired off to Tom, occupied a few storefronts down at the playground with the kiddos. The lady doing my facial was very kind and we got along great. She was chatting to me about her six children and her grandkids, life, Filipino food, and her boyfriend - who she hates calling her boyfriend because she's a mature lady and it sounded like a teeny-bopper term. Tom walked down as we were finishing up, whereupon Zuzu clambered up into my lap to tell me she was 'a queen!' To which I replied (as is standard in our house), "But who is Queen of Heaven and Earth?" She grinned big and cried "Mother Mary!" My facial lady laughed and said, "hmmm...guess you guys are Catholic!" Turns out she was too, and we chatted about our love for our faith and its firm rules. I had to run, everyone was hungry, so I said goodbye and rushed back.
Back to my real life.
I was struck by the fact that both of these people had a connection to the Church, a connection that was real and living. I don't know whether they would call themselves Catholic, but I do know that despite both of them having an situation that we would not call 'normal' within the Church (a gay man who had a boyfriend, a mother of six with a live-in boyfriend), they were holding onto their faith in some way. The truth is that when someone has a true experience of Love within the Catholic Church, it stays with them - it stays with them and often they hold onto it, no matter what else changes or sways - and I believe it stays with them because they know the Church is home. The Church is home for everyone - the Church holds herself out to be the place we can all come, every single soul on earth, and find refuge and love and hope. You do not have to know the protocol; you do not have to be perfect; you do not even have to be Catholic. The Church is your mother and she will love you as you are - even when her love looks like rules about not leaving your socks on the floor.
I was so glad to be reminded of these truths by these encounters that were sparked by my medal. The truth is, I don't wear my medal every day like I used to - I like to switch it up, wear different items and oftentimes, no jewelry at all, since lots of little hands do lots of grabbing at me all day long. But I should wear it everyday: wear it as a sign that we, the Catholic Church, are waiting to welcome you, people of the world. Every day, in every country on earth, we are still here and we are waiting, and we always will.