The parish church we have been attending for three years now and where Simeon is an acolyte recently decided to begin the process whereby it might become a basilica. There are many benefits, both spiritual and earthly, that would accompany such an honor and so I understand why our good pastor decided to do this.
The process, however, naturally requires that our parish be in line with all the norms established by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops for the celebration of the Liturgy and reception of Holy Eucharist. I say "however" because, while our parish has been in conformity with these norms in almost every respect, there was one thing we had retained from the days of old: the communion rail. I know of one other parish in
If you had asked me, before all this, if the only reason I attended this church was because we received communion kneeling, I doubt I would have said yes, but somehow now that the privilege was gone, it was that much harder to accept the bad music and other aesthetic annoyances, however minor. Suddenly, I found myself at Mass thinking far too much of the choir, myself and the people around me, and far too little of Christ and the Sacrament I had come to receive.
So, when a good friend mentioned... that a local shrine is undergoing restoration, has dedicated itself to its patron, St Anne, and to all mothers everywhere, (don't miss that link, it's worth reading) brought in an amazing choir and chamber orchestra, acquired (in an almost miraculous way) the most beautiful statue of St Anne instructing Mary, is looking to draw in new families, and is soon to receive the biggest and most impressive organ from Boston to New York City itself... we went.
I don't know about you, but I do not levitate at the drop of a hat. I am weighted down by cares innumerable. Whenever I have a few moments of silence, my mind automatically begins making lists; lists of grocery items; lists of chores to be done; lists of vices to be overcome...lists, lists, lists. I cannot escape them easily.
Again, I do not know about you, but I have a hard time seeing things clearly. I see what is immediately before me and cannot seem to lift...my... head... to see what might be beyond. I am forever mired in my own muddy cares, focusing upon what is lacking and what... must... be... done!
So, to stand in St Anne's Shrine as the trumpet blared announcing the Gospel, to listen to the angelic choir singing Vivali's, "Gloria" as we processed for communion (to receive standing by the way), to hear the words of the Gospel pronounced so clearly by a priest so obviously devoted to Christ, to see the beautiful artwork... restoration underway... and the stations of the cross in French, to gaze into the beautiful and life-like faces of St. Anne and Mary...all of it; it transported me.
I truly and honestly (even easily) could "lay aside all earthly cares" as it is sung in the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. And what a lightness I felt! It was the same liturgy, the same sacrifice and sacrament offered at the other parish, but the beauty of this Mass softened my heart and prepared me to wait, with eager anticipation, for the next wonderful thing that might come. The beauty disposed me to hang on every moment, every word, every motion, and glean all I could of the truth and love offered there. The beauty made it easy for this "Martha" to lift her head and see life in the light of eternity.
It was not an unfamiliar feeling. I had experienced similar tastes of heaven at Mass before, but it seemed it had been so long since I had experienced it for the duration of the Mass and on account of its beauty.
And I had resolved that morning, that even if I could never again, in this life, experience the joy I had felt, at least I would always remember having felt it. And remember, too, that I would feel it again in the life of the world to come, and at that time, I would want to look back and be proud of how I had pushed on in the blindness between now...and then.
* * * * * * * * * * *
For those of you who may be scandalized by our seemingly shameless parish-hopping, I apologize. The truth is, neither of these churches is the parish of our zip code. The parish of our zip code is a very tightly knit community that always seems to do its best to make us feel unwelcome. As a sheep in the Church and not a shepherd, I do not feel it is my responsibility to remain in this parish and try to change its ways. I would most certainly remain in this parish and attend Mass there every Sunday if the lawful authorities in the Church required it of me in obedience, but they do not.