I should mention that I'm not trying to say that the
Mass that is most meaningful to me is the RIGHT Mass. A wise professor
of mine pointed out that conservatives do just that... they work to
conserve what has been. During this week's Mass I felt a strong kinship
to the pre-Vatican II conservatives who might be longing for the Mass of
their youth, because I am longing for the Mass of mine. That's all.
I went to Mass the other night to kick off the Year of Faith, and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Vatican II. I was starting to get excited to learn more about the Council, which is directly shaped my faith and my life in the church since I was born. We invited the priests from our local area to come and concelebrate, and asked them to advertise the Mass in their bulletin (and, we called that "collaboration"- it wasn't, and I'll write more about that in another post). We had a smattering of priests participating, and about 50 people sprinkled throughout the pews of our giant church.
It was, as we joked about afterward over coffee, less than "scintillating". I love the Mass, although I do confess to feeling a little out of step with it since the new translation. We had invited the local Bishop who has been named to be in charge of the New Evangelization, and ordered cool prayer cards to hand out. In short, and without pointing fingers, the Mass was overall (in my opinion) a joyless experience. It was somber, not celebratory, and... even a little boring. I struggled through it.
As I sat there in the last pew, camera poised to catch anything great that came up, my mind wandered to other Masses that have imprinted in my memory. Memorable Masses.
I remember gathering for Mass with our parish priest at Bradbury State Park after climbing around the mountain all day on a youth group trip. There were probably only 10-20 of us there, but I was transfixed by the priest's words, the readings, and the community in the midst of God's beautiful creation. I remember sitting on boulders in a circle and sharing Communion with my peers.
I remember being given the opportunity to plan Mass at Catholic Leadership Institute back in 1986. Each small group had a turn planning the Mass for a night during that week, choosing the readings, the Psalm, and the music from scratch to reflect what we had done that day, and to connect with our little community. It felt so moving to seek out inspiration from the Word of God for our peers, and to be given the opportunity to minister to each other through the liturgy. The music was scrapped together with whatever shreds of talent happened to be present in the group, and sometimes the readings were less than polished. But it brought us closer as a group of leaders and as a community every time, without fail.
I remembered being with my friend Ann-Marie at a Good Friday Mass, sensing her start to cry as the story of Christ's Passion was read.
Another Mass I witnessed from the back pew of my parish, celebrating an anniversary of Cursillo. The large crowd was packed in the front of the church, wanting to be near each other and near the altar. The music was imperfect but that crowd sang their hearts out, because each song was meaningful to them as worshipers and as a community. It was breathtaking to see their earnest and expressive faith.
I guess I've been to Mass thousands of times... I've forgotten a lot of them, which is natural, I guess. I remember more important Masses and moments than I could write about here. But I can see a thread that connects the Masses that have stayed in my heart- these were liturgies that reflected the community, bonded us, responded to our individual and communal needs. They were Masses where my God-given gifts counted and mattered. They were Masses where I knew the people around me. They were Masses that acknowledged my existence and my importance to God and His church.
My weekly experience at my own parish fits those characteristics, and I'm afraid that I am one of the very few blessed in that way, these days. But to get to that point, it has taken hard work on my part. It's work I'm willing to do and work that the Church might really benefit from encouraging among all its members.