Today, I wanted to share a personal experience I had this weekend. While travelling to visit family, I attended Mass at a parish that I had been to a few times maybe 7 years ago.
To give you an idea of this parish – here’s what I saw. Chairs arranged on a concrete floor (metal folding chairs on the one side). Cinder block walls painted white adorned only with the Stations of the Cross, but not a single stain glass window. An African priest, a Vietnamese deacon. A piano that wasn’t loud enough to fill the space and possibly out of tune, (but, I’m no musician). The choir was sparse and support from the congregation seemed to be lacking. I couldn’t help but reach the conclusion – this Church is dying.
As I’m taking all of this in, my wife leans in during Mass – I’m thinking here it comes. She’s thinking the same thing I am.
She whispers, “This church is amazing! It’s got the bare bones – everything it needs.”
Wait – what?
Mass continues before I can respond to her, so I’m left to mull on it by myself.
It’s not that throughout the course of Mass, I suddenly saw everything my wife saw – but the more I thought about it, I at least began to understand how she saw what she saw.
Where I saw a Church dying, she saw a Church alive. Doing whatever it takes to survive. Where I saw a Deacon I couldn’t understand, she saw a man giving blessings for birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and anything else he could. While I was looking at white walls and concrete floors, she saw the Eucharist.
So many of us (myself, clearly included) go to Mass and get caught up in the music, the priest’s accent, the homily, how comfy the chairs are, and God knows what else.
And we miss the Church. We forget about our Brothers and Sisters in Christ gathered together to celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass – the Eucharist.
Of course, it’s not as easy as flicking a light switch in our minds. But, it starts with not getting caught up in appearances. When we go to Mass, keep open minds. Stop the pessimism when we see our “second-favorite” priest walking down the aisle.
Pray for joy and peace everytime we step foot in the Church.
Be the Men.