The Joy of Simple Rituals



Since it’s Mother’s Day, I summoned all the Catholic guilt bestowed on me through generations of Catholic mothers and insisted we all go to church. Nobody else was all that keen on going to a Mass in a language we don’t understand. But since it’s Mother’s Day, everybody complied with minimal grumbling.

We hadn’t been to church since we left the States, and I thought it would be good for us. There would be familiarity in the rituals. We could spend a little time counting our blessings. Our landlord’s granddaughter even let me borrow a Croatian prayer book so I could try to follow along.

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I told the kids they could wear shorts and didn’t yell at the one who refused to put on a collared shirt.

Of course, we were late getting out the door. One kid’s shoes were still wet from playing in the water last night, so a shoe ordeal set us a little behind. I wanted to walk since it’s such a nice day. We showed up to church 10 minutes late. Sarge hates being late.


The pews were already full when we got there. Something was going on. At first I thought it was a First Communion. There were rows of boys and girls all dressed in white. But it looked a little less formal than a First Communion, and the kids looked older than second grade, the traditional age for that Sacrament back home.


It must have been a Confirmation ceremony. And all of the relatives were there to celebrate.

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We sat in the courtyard of the 13th-century Monastery of St. Francis Assisi and watched: well-dressed women in 4-inch heels holding toddlers, aunts and uncles bringing balloons as presents, grandfathers mumbling prayers, restless kids running around.

We could catch a few familiar words and the cadence of prayers, and when an hour was up, my boys knew it was time to wrap it up and go find something to eat. That’s what we usually do after Mass.

It gave me comfort to know families here follow the same routines, say the same prayers and are not all that different.


On our way to a cafe, we passed lace-makers, tourists and kids playing in the streets. We ate food we recognized and talked about our favorite parts of our trip so far.


Days like this doing the same things people have done here for generations ranks up there for me as a simple joy of traveling.

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