Torrey, Utah. Gateway to Capitol Reef National Park. Cattle country. An odd but striking mix of run down farm buildings, tourist trap stopovers and small homes. It’s the desert and vast expanses surround your every step.
A web search revealed the presence of St. Anthony of the Desert Catholic Church just a few miles away from where I was staying. I exited the hiking a bit early to get to the Saturday 5pm, the only Mass offered in the area.
There were 13 of us in the small chapel. I found out later that 11 were from elsewhere. The priest, Fr. Jose Fidel Berrera-Cruz, entered carrying an acoustic guitar, singing the opening song as he walked down the small aisle. We followed.
The Mass was casual, friendly. He asked us questions during his homily, inquiring about our experience of the faith. He described ordination, even mentioning in some detail the permanent diaconate. English is clearly not Fr. Berrera-Cruz’ first language, but that did not matter as I could follow along perfectly fine. I knew the format, the phrases, the moments of the sacrifice of the Mass. As did the other 13 there.
There I was… 2,500 miles away from home in a place that could not be more different from the life I’m accustomed to.
There I was… in a small church in the middle of the desert with 13 strangers and a man who had clearly devoted himself to a life of love, sacrifice and service.
It was sweet. It was warm. It was welcoming. It was familiar.
2,500 miles away.
But I was home.