Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Today I attended EVERY. SINGLE. SCHEDULED. SUNDAY. MASS. All 4 of ‘em. 8:00AM, 10:00AM, noon, and 6:30 PM. I served as an acolyte for the 8:00 AM – by the time it had dawned upon everyone in the sacristy that the scheduled server was NOT coming, it was 4 minutes to the hour, and I scarcely had time to don my cassock and surplus. Fr. Steve graciously allowed me to be a crossbearer, as well, and all in all, my first time serving as acolyte at St. Ben’s was quite successful. Shame that I forgot to ring the bells at the moment of transubstantiation. I got multiple comments from parishioners about that afterward. Won’t forget that again!

I sang with the choir at the remaining morning mass and at 12 noon. Luciano, the Music Director here at St. Benedict, seems very pleased to have me aboard. Hopefully this out-of-tune tenor (me, not Luciano) remembers to give glory to God before himself. One of the more awkward moments throughout the day was when I had to stand during the consecration – I can forgive myself for forgetting the bells, but I CAN’T STAND not kneeling during the consecration. The veil of the sanctuary is torn, heaven and earth are brought together; a new covenant is made between God and man, and the source and summit of Christian life (thank you Pope John Paul II) is made present before our very eyes. I had BETTER show some outward sign that I acknowledge this fact. To neglect to do so would be one of the most profound mistakes one could make. I cringe at the fact that I only could make a head bow. Knowing that many other Catholics in the pews in parishes across the world seem completely unaware of the real significance of this sacred mystery in front of them saddens me greatly. Both as a seminarian and (God willing) as a priest, I will make sure that the Eucharist is treated with the respect and devotion it deserves. There can be nothing as important as this, if the Eucharist TRULY is Jesus Christ. If not, well, as Flannery O’Connor said: “To Hell with it!”

Another poignant lesson I learned today was the importance of courage. Despite my rantings about the importance of the Eucharist, despite how much I insist that every Christian must be willing to do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING for Jesus, there was a time today when I couldn’t even muster the guts to say “hi.” Around 5:00 PM, following an afternoon stroll, I was looking around the church to find the location of the reception immediately following the 6:30 PM mass (which is actually coordinated by a group of individuals from 4 different parishes in the Irving Park/Ravenswood area), where, I was told, the Ravenswood Catholic Youth Group would meet to discuss upcoming summer events. Being a “young adult” myself, this sounded like it was right up my alley, and I was very excited to meet everyone involved. Yet when I entered the church, all I saw were some unfamiliar faces practicing for the upcoming mass. I ignored them because I thought the meeting would be in the parish basement. I went to the basement, and, discovering that no one was currently around, went back upstairs. Rather than inquiring with the practicing choir, however, I decided to “save face” and simply go back to the rectory, where I promptly drowned my regrettable failure to simply ASK A QUESTION in Oreo cookies and video games until the 6:30 mass.

If I can’t muster the courage to simply ask questions, how can I possibly be an effective witness for Christ? Christians say that they’ll die for Him all the time; even the supposedly secularized youth of the country still join facebook groups proudly proclaiming their willingness to die for Jesus, and bulletins featuring similar motifs commonly circulate through the realms of myspace and other social networking sites, as well. I can’t judge the sincerity of the actions of these individuals, but I can say with certainty that my unwillingness to do something simple surely also means that I am unable to do greater things. Scripture actually affirms this message in no uncertain terms in Luke’s gospel: “…the person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones” (Luke 16: 9-10).

Hopefully my attendance at the 6:30 Mass and the reception afterward redeem me somewhat. A certain Fr. Terry, of St. Matthias parish (not the Augustinian mentioned in yesterday’s posting), said the Mass; while I was disappointed in his “look at me!” style of prayer (there’s nothing worse in a priest, IMO), I can see why he is beloved by so many people. He preaches the Word with a liveliness that reminds the other Mass attendees that Christ is the LIFE. He is also very friendly and outgoing – the opposite of the “I-always-look-like-I’m-sucking-on-lemons” priest stereotype that many Catholics seem so familiar with. After meeting him and many others at the reception afterwards, I will be sure to pray for him as he moves out to Holy Family parish in Inverness. May God bless him and keep him safe.

At the reception, I met Greg, a 40-something year-old who, like me, has certain wallflower tendencies at social events (hence how I managed to gather up the courage to start talking to the man!). Turns out he’s recently been part of a workshop for older men interested in the priesthood; he mentioned it to me after I told him of my living situation at the rectory. I know better than to think such a conversation is a coincidence! Here’s hoping Chicago has another “late bloomer” in Greg!

I also met another St. Matthias parishioner who shall remain unnamed. We spoke about rosary devotion. I’m glad to see that this powerful prayer hasn’t died out in the great city of Chicago yet! May devotion to Our Blessed Mother and her Holy Son increase!

I also had the privilege of connecting with Carla and Stephanie, the two ladies-in-chief of the Ravenswood Catholic Young Adults. Looks like I’ll be joining their softball league, among other things. Should be fun, and I NEED the exercise. All in all, a very satisfying and grace-filled day. For tomorrow, when I get a much-appreciated (though perhaps not so well-deserved) break from St. Ben’s, I ask you, O Lord, for the grace of discernment and courage even in relaxation. May I never forget that the way of the cross is the way of salvation. AMEN!

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