When I lived in Freehold, I went to 6:30 mass every morning at St. Rose of Lima Church. I did not know anyone other than to say hello as we all entered church. Like most churchgoers, we each had our ‘assigned’ seats, so over the next few months, we all got to know each other as “the lady who sits in the third pew,” or “the man who always smiles at everybody when he walks in the door.” As more months went by, we’d often stop and talk in the parking lot after mass, and eventually we all learned each others’ names. We also learned in many cases when one of our church friend’s parent was ill, or child was facing a tough test, or some big event was coming up as each of us asked the other for prayers.
It was kind of strange, but a very nice feeling, that each of us knew that while we did not know much about each other, we knew that we came together in a special way at 6:30 in the morning. We all knew we could count on everyone of the others to prayer for whatever our special need or intention was.
After another year or so, we decided to carry the friendship further, and to include the priest who was saying mass. So Mary, one of the group, began arranging breakfast at the local restaurant once a month or so. She would make reservations, we would all show up, the restaurant would have a special table set aside for us, and somehow, the number of reservations she made always showed up, though we never let her know for sure we would be going.
Friendships grew stronger among us all as we chatted over coffee and, and we gradually got to know each other’s families, the accomplishments of children and grandchildren, the illnesses each faced or had a family member face. Father would always begin the meal with grace, and then conversation ran wild as we all shared experiences, joys and sorrows.
Then I moved away. No longer was I attending 6:30 mass at St. Rose. Then Covid hit. And the 6:30 mass was discontinued. But Mary managed to get at least some of us together to meet, masked, in a local park, not for a meal, just for conversation and ‘catch up.” When the weather turned cold, we had to discontinue the park meetings as well.
Mary knew we were a special group and missed each other’s company. So she continued to arrange the breakfasts. Only she switched them to lunch in a local restaurant since with the absence of 6:30 mass and more than me moving from Freehold, it was easier to get us all together at noon rather than early in the morning.
It was easy to tell how much we all appreciate it. I came from Atlantic Highlands to be sure to attend, which was not far, considering one of the other regulars who had moved to Pennsylvania continued to come back. We could still share all our joys and sorrows; through Facebook and e-mail we all kept up with each other, saying special prayers for Nick when he was ill, giving great thanks for the benefits Linda was receiving great success in combating her illness, congratulating one of Mary’s grandchildren…who had frequently come to our breakfasts after going to mass with their Grandma….on his great musical talent and Facebook photos of his smiling face while he played the guitar. We toasted with coffee when Judy was in Florida and unable to attend and laughed over Earl’s constant reminders of hod old he was. We were, and are, a special kind of family that warms the heart and brings a smile to a face.
And every year, we have a waiter take a photo of the group, one where we all stand tall, smile, and appreciate the fact that even though we don’t see each other at 6:30 every morning, we have created a bond that ensures we’re all praying for each other, keeping up on each other’s sadnesses and successes, and sharing a love and peace that is so hard to find in the world.
I’m fortunate to be a part of the special 6;30 crowd at St. Rose.