There’s no appropriate way to tell someone whether or when to attend church, or any other religious service. That’s a deeply personal decision and one I believe individuals should make absent of any outside influence. The command to attend church is nothing more than a way to deliver a deeper message that might be beneficial. Ultimately, what I’m suggesting is that anytime is a good time to take inventory of your heart, spirit and soul.
That moment came unexpectedly for me when I attended a church memorial service to honor my former football coach Tony Ghironi. I’ll never forget it, and it is the reason that I now attend church on a regular basis. Anthony Joseph Ghironi was a great man. He made me and my teammates at Francis Parker school run “gassers” until we dropped, and what we gained was dominance on the football field. We usually won by a big score, and man, was that fun. I played linebacker on defense and receiver on offense. (Yes, everybody played offense and defense during the dark ages, when I was in high school football!) It was Coach Ghironi who taught flocks of young men to “Keep your head on a swivel” and to “Have an idea” when you’re on the field. He gave me confidence on that field — and in life. When he wanted a quick score, he would call "four wide." I would go deep on that play. It was a post route, a sprint off the line, then a cut to the goal post. We would score routinely on it. It was a joy to receive the deep pass and wonderful that Coach had confidence in me to call the play.
Tony Ghironi was an extremely important element in my life because I lost my father when I was ten. I needed a father figure, and he filled that void. So, it was a bit of a stunner when I received email late May and read that Coach Ghironi had passed away.
He was robust and boisterous the last time I saw him, saying hello to people with a loud, booming voice and sharing smiles along with quite a few jokes. The note said that there would be a memorial near my home. St. Joseph’s Cathedral is a 15-minute walk from where I live, so there was no reason for me to miss the Mass for my beloved coach. It had been years since I’d entered a church. I was baptized into the Episcopal church and attended fairly regularly as a child,but stopped going not long after my father died. I’ve also felt a spiritual calling, never made church a priority. The feeling as I entered St. Joseph’s was strong and profound. That cathedral is truly glorious, and I immediately felt glad to be there. The service included stories about Coach that caused me to shed tears. There I was, in church for the first time in years, releasing so much pain. I cried because Coach had passed, but I also found myself shedding tears for some anxiety I’d been holding which enabled me to connect strongly and emotionally to this beautiful experience.
It did not matter that I was an Episcopalian and my awakening was happening in a Catholic church. What mattered was that I found myself in a house of worship and was reconnecting to my spiritual self. It needed an awakening, and now I’m finding a growing sense of peace inside me as well as inner strength to handle the many challenges that life presents to me. Sunday has more meaning now than ever. My church experience has enabled me to replace the discomfort in my soul with a healing spirit that feels protected. It’s quite extraordinary and I’m thrilled to be heading down this path of self-exploration. So go to church, or a temple, or the beach, or any other sacred place where you can be in touch with your soul and reward yourself with love.