I traveled for business today and landed early enough in the day to find a church where I could hear evening Mass. I walked for fifteen minutes, found the building, and then tried all of the wrong doors trying to get in. Someone noticed me, and I was welcomed, then ushered in. This is an urban church, surrounded on all sides by skyscrapers and all of the attendant noise and activity of a large city. Inside: candles and the altar. The choir chanted the entrance antiphon and the liturgy began. It was strange being the obvious outsider for once. They stand, rather than kneel, during Communion. The music was different than what I’m used to. But none of this really mattered, because the Mass is the Mass is the Mass. It is always and everywhere the same.
The homily focused on Amoris Laetitia, and then segued to today’s Gospel, John 10:27-30. Father allowed that pastoral imagery was somewhat lost on him, but then he related an experience he had as a young man: traveling to Paris for study and taking a day-trip to see the cathedral in Chartres. The cathedral, he said, reminded him of a great mother hen, roosting among the town and gathering it to herself like a brood of chicks. Chicken analogies continued for awhile, but they worked, and it was a lovely homily.
We keep chickens at home (for eggs and amusement) and here I had traveled two thousand miles to hear a homily on chickens. If the priest had somehow managed to work in a bee reference, I think I might have fainted. I left feeling better, as I always do. I certainly felt closer to home, even if everyone around me was a complete stranger. Before the liturgy began, a parishioner called for visitors to raise their hands. I did, as did another man from Indiana,
We may never see you again, he said, so it’s important for you to know that you are welcome here, and that this is your community too.
Mission accomplished. God bless you all.