Busted Halo

Matt Weber seeks the sacred and the spiritual in his 20s and beyond.

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March 26th, 2013

God Is in the Air


god-in-air-imageI was sitting on a train heading to New York City as the sun gently rose on an eager Boston morning. My eyelids were drooping, yawns were frequent, yet I was happy as a clam; reading my book in the quiet car, excited for three and a half hours of peace. A few minutes into the trip, we made our first stop and a nice woman sat next to me. I describe her as “nice” for a few reasons: 1) she smiles and nods as she asks to sit next to me; and 2) she is wearing a hat. I have found in life that a great majority of adult female hat wearers are warm and friendly. So, quite unscientifically, I was pleased to be sharing my morning travels to New York with a smiling patron of haberdasheries.

As I began to crease the binding of my book once again, with few cares in the world, a sharp, fruity and metallic smell entered my immediate atmosphere. It sent chills up my nostrils and began a slow, uninvited descent into my lungs. Whatever it was, it was borderline intolerable, and a smell that could not be unsmelled. My nose took notice and a few more peripheral smellings confirmed my hypothesis: The nice hat lady enjoys supporting her local perfumery – and may in fact be far too generous with her application of perfume.

Seconds felt like minutes, and minutes felt like hours as I felt my nasal cavity burning and my lungs crying for relief, yearning for a whiff of nontoxic air.

I know Matthew chapter 7 definitely applied to this Matt (me) on my journey to New York City — yet I doubt at the time, an evangelist from 2,000 years ago thought his writings would be reflected upon in such a smelly scene.

“Oh God, I don’t know how much I can take of this,” I thought. “My perfect trip with a window view and good book is being sabotaged by a putrid smell that reminds me of the combination of melted rubber and mangoes.”

I was so mad at her. “Why this smell? Why so much? Why next to me?” I exclaimed silently. If only I had had negative experiences with women wearing hats, then things would’ve never gotten this far. I couldn’t help but feel this great disdain for her and disgust for her perfume choice.

And then, in a rapid turn of events, the quiet car was suddenly not so quiet. Unfortunately, I too became a contributor to the Amtrak air. You see, the night before I had eaten a delicious Mexican meal of enchiladas, guacamole, chips, salsa, rice and yes, you guessed it, beans… and suddenly, “friendly, window seat book guy” was accountable for his own brand of smell — this one less metallic, more organic, locally sourced, yet putrid, to put it kindly.

And so, we both sat equally miserable next to each other, with our competing smells dueling for their share of a poorly ventilated train car. Passersby winced, conductors ducked, and “book guy” and “hat lady” politely sat in (near) silence, as the quiet car was now just “mostly quiet” and not terribly crowded by the time we arrived in New York.

If you have made it through to this point in the post, you are likely wondering what in the world is the Catholic lesson hidden in this good old-fashioned flatulence fable? To me, it is in these strange and simple stories that the Bible is most potent. After 20 years of Catholic schooling, an aunt as a nun, a godfather who is a priest, my life is most fully lived through the grace-filled lens of the Catholic imagination.

“Do not judge, or you too shall be judged.”

I know Matthew chapter 7 definitely applied to this Matt (me) on my journey to New York City — yet I doubt at the time, an evangelist from 2,000 years ago thought his writings would be reflected upon in such a smelly scene. However, it is the beauty and timelessness, applicability and sensibility, of our religious tradition that allows the learning of a lesson in such an otherwise mundane throwaway moment. Integrating the wisdom of the Catholic Church experience with the minutia of one’s life is so critical to the deepening of one’s faith — that, and contributing to the canon of new evangelists with one’s own verse: Matt 1:1 — “Thou shall not eat beans before long train rides.”

For more humorously holy stories, check out Matt Weber’s new book Fearing the Stigmata (Loyola Press 2012) or watch him on CatholicTV. Matt promises his next posts will not involve gaseous emissions.

The Author : Matt Weber
Matt Weber is author of Fearing the Stigmata: Humorously Holy Stories of a Young Catholic's Search for a Culturally Relevant Faith (Loyola Press). He hosts the weekly Catholic TV segment "A Word with Weber" which airs internationally to more than 10 million viewers. He serves as the new and social media officer for the Harvard Graduate School of Education. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattweber_.
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  • Pat

    I enjoyed your post Matt…and I’m definitely going to check out “Fearing the Stigmata”…peace and good

    • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.weber.5688 Matthew Weber

      Thanks Pat! I appreciate it!

  • EBOD

    Love this!

  • http://www.facebook.com/podmandan Daniel Smrokowski

    Great post, Matt! I enjoyed the humorous (and gaseous) story in the beginning and found the Catholic lesson inspiring.

    • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.weber.5688 Matthew Weber

      Thanks Daniel! Glad you liked it!

  • http://twitter.com/ruthlesspal Ruthless Dramatics

    Matt–is this story in Fearing the Stigmata? I just got the book for my sister for her birthday (she’s going to be deliberately NOT celebrating it on Good Friday) and I’d love to bookmark this one for her because it ought to make her grin as much as I’m grinning. (Otherwise, perhaps I’ll just print this and stick it in as a bookmark!) Thanks for this and all your 3 minute retreat posts this year.

    • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.weber.5688 Matthew Weber

      Many thanks for your kind note. This story just happened to me recently so it is not in Fearing the Stigmata but may make it into a sequel. I hope your sister enjoys the book and thanks for reading my work. It’s much appreciated. Happy Easter!!

  • Mary

    Hysterical and profound all at the same time! Great as always, Matt!

    • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.weber.5688 Matthew Weber

      Thanks Mary! Best to you during holy week.

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