The Long Way Home

March 30, 2020

The church down the street from my house: St. John the Evangelist, Pittston PA

I began to pull away from the new age and occult in May of 2017 and was almost immediately drawn toward Christianity.  Most of my previous Christian experience had been with the Catholic church. I was unsure about Christianity at that point in time so I decided to ask God for a sign.

I prayed a lot that week and on Saturday, the 22nd of May, 2017, I prayed more.

The next day I went to the flea market. I had passed up the ATM and had eight dollars on me, which was much less than I usually brought. But I didn't really care. It was raining. A slow steady kind of rain that promised to continue all day. I wasn't sure that the market would even be open.  If it was, I reasoned, there wouldn't be a lot of vendors and probably very little to buy.

When we pulled into the parking lot I saw that I was right about the vendors.  The large open area that was usually full of tables and tents was practically empty. The few vendors that had set up were spread out and the gravel lot was full of puddles.  But we decided to put on our slickers and give it a shot.

One of the first things I spotted was a chalkware Blessed Mother. For some reason I couldn't really explain, I'd been wanting one of those big old Mary statues for some time. Over the course of the last two summers I'd kept an eye out. But all those I'd seen were chipped or expensive or both.

The one in front of me that day was almost two feet tall and without any significant damage. So I was surprised when the woman on the other side of the table said it was mine for five dollars. It wasn't really my style but I liked the blue of the cloak and the graceful curve of Mary's neck. I bought it without any negotiation.

 A little further on, I saw a cold cast bronze St. Brigid's cross that had been made in Ireland. I asked the vendor the price and he said a quarter. And then, when I couldn't find any change, he refused my dollar and insisted I take the cross for free. I was happy that I was able to tell the seller a bit about St. Brigid and what she had done so long ago in Ireland. And I started to get a good feeling about the day.

The next thing I saw was a bright silver crucifix shining through the rain,  When I got close I could see that it had a glass holy water font and a place on either side of the cross for candles.  I thought that the seller would probably want at least ten dollars for such a nice item but she didn't. She wanted three. So I got the crucifix too.

On the long damp ride home, I realized that I had bought three Christian items that had all been meaningful to me at one point in my life.  I understood that I had gotten them all on an unlikely day and for a surprisingly good price. But what struck me most was that I had bought them for the exact amount of money that I had with me.

So I considered it sign. And decided that I should give Christianity another look.

I started with a church tour of several local churches and ended up at a evangelical church that was not a good fit and then joined another protestant church that was. I didn't spend any real time thinking about the Catholic church I had visited in the early days of the church tour or the fact that each of the items I bought that day were Catholic in origin.

Except that now, three years later, I am.

Over the last couple of months, I was mostly without transportation.  Getting to the new Protestant church I had joined was impossible. And then it occurred to me that there were two churches within a short walk of my house and that one was actually just a block and a half away.

So I walked down the street and went to mass for the first time in what seemed like forever.  And the next week I went back.  And then, because I wanted to receive communion, I went to confession.

Over the few weeks I've been thinking about the spiritual journey I've made and the enormous circle that has brought me back to a place that is , and always was, just around the corner.

The items I received that day at the flea market are gone and maybe there is some kind of lesson in that.  And while I'm not exactly sure what that is, I think it might be that God doesn't want me to be the kind of Catholic I used to be.  Or the kind of person I used to be.

Maybe He wants me to be something new.

My rainy day flea market Mary



Another flea market Mary that I have kind of sadly given away
St. John's complete with spires

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