Opinion: It had been years since I had entered a church. Here’s why I never miss a Sunday service now.

Harlan is a financial planner who lives in Little Italy.

There’s no appropriate way to tell someone if or when to go to church or any other religious service. This is a deeply personal decision and I believe individuals should refrain from outside influence. The command to go to church is nothing more than a means of conveying a deeper message that could be beneficial. Ultimately, what I’m suggesting is that anytime is a good time to take inventory of your heart, mind, and soul.

That moment came unexpectedly for me when I attended a church memorial service honoring my former football manager, Tony Ghironi. I will never forget it, and that is why I go to church regularly now. Anthony Joseph Ghironi was a great man. He raced me and my Francis Parker school teammates “gazers” until we gave up, and what we won was dominance on the football field. We usually won by a big score, and man, that was so much fun. I played linebacker on defense and receiver on offense. (Yes, everyone played offense and defense in the Dark Ages, when I was in high school football!) It was Coach Ghironi who taught herds of young men to ” keep your head on a pivot” and to “have an idea” when you’re on the field. He gave me confidence in this area and in life. When he wanted a quick score, he called “four wide”. I would go deep on this play. It was a post road, a sprint off the line, then a cut towards the goal post. We regularly scored on it. It was a joy to receive the through pass and wonderful that the coach trusted me to call the play.

Tony Ghironi was an extremely important element in my life because I lost my father when I was ten years old. I needed a father figure, and he filled that void. So it was kind of amazing when I got an email at the end of May and read that Coach Ghironi had died.

He was sturdy and loud the last time I saw him, greeting people with a loud, booming voice and sharing smiles with quite a few jokes. The note said there would be a memorial near my house. St. Joseph’s Cathedral is a 15 minute walk from my house so I had no reason to miss mass for my beloved coach. It had been years since I had entered a church. I was baptized in the Episcopal Church and went there fairly regularly as a child, but stopped going shortly after my father died.

I also felt a spiritual call, I never made church a priority. The feeling when I walked into St. Joseph’s was strong and deep. This cathedral is truly glorious, and I immediately felt happy to be there. The service included stories about Coach that brought tears to my eyes. There I was, in church for the first time in years, releasing so much pain. I cried because Coach had passed away, but I also found myself shedding tears because of some anxiety I had been holding back, which allowed me to connect strongly and emotionally to this beautiful experience.

It didn’t matter that I was an Episcopalian and my revival was in a Catholic church. What mattered was that I found myself in a house of worship and reconnected to my spiritual self. He needed a revival, and now I find a growing sense of peace within me as well as an inner strength to face the many challenges that life presents to me. Sunday makes more sense than ever.

My church experience has allowed me to replace the discomfort in my soul with a healing spirit that feels protected. It’s quite extraordinary and I’m delighted to embark on 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.

Martha J. Finley