I noticed the copy of AIM Magazine on my desk when I arrived. AIM is WLP's music and liturgy planning resource, edited by Alan Hommerding. A previous issue is pictured to the left. In the issue that arrived today (November 29 to February 14), the feature article is "The Entrance Rite: At Your Own Risk," by Fr, Ronald Raab, CSC. I found the article deeply moving. It parallels some of my own experience at my own parish of St. James. Fr. Raab is the associate pastor at the Downtown Chapel Catholic Parish in Portland, Oregon, pictured here.
The parish serves people living in poverty in the downtown area. Fr. Raab's immersion in the lives of the poor has shaped within him a unique and helpful perspective on the Church's liturgy. After having read the entire article, I know that my experience of the entrance rite will never be the same.
Here's a brief excerpt:
"The reverent procession to God's altar is not only for the well-mannered, the prayerful, and the pious. This inclusive procession is a visible reminder that we all come home into God's kingdom, no matter the awkward lives we lead or the cumbersome sins we carry. The cross carried in procession during the entrance rite is the outward sign of the many crosses people carry deep within their lives. The sign of the Crucified leads us beyond our fears about whether or not we belong within the Church. The cross escorts us when we are sidetracked by worldly materialism, our own goals, and the dead end of our greed. The journey to the Kingdom encompasses those strangers who refuse to enter our parish as well as friends who sleep among our judgments and fears."
The entire article is well worth reading. As I read this article, which reminded me of my own judgments and fears, the funeral for Senator Kennedy came to mind. As you probably know, there were people voicing all kinds of judgments on Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley for both allowing a Catholic funeral for Senator Kennedy in his diocese and for actually attending the event. This, of course, was in response to the senator's strong support for a woman's right to choose an abortion. Here is an excerpt of what Cardinal O'Malley had to say about his critics.
"There are those who objected, in some cases vociferously, to the Church's providing a Catholic funeral for the Senator. In the strongest terms I disagree with that position. At the Senator's interment on Saturday evening, with his family's permission, we learned of details of his recent personal correspondence with Pope Benedict XVI. It was very moving to hear the Senator acknowledging his failing to always be a faithful Catholic, and his request for prayers as he faced the end of his life. The Holy Father's expression of gratitude for the Senator's pledge of prayer for the Church, his commendation of the Senator and his family to the intercession of the Blessed Mother, and his imparting the Apostolic Blessing, spoke of His Holiness' role as the Vicar of Christ, the Good Shepherd who leaves none of the flock behind . . . At times, even in the Church, zeal can lead people to issue harsh judgments and impute the worst motives to one another. These attitudes and practices do irreparable damage to the communion of the Church. If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure. Jesus' words to us were that we must love one another as He loves us. Jesus loves us while we are still in sin. He loves each of us first, and He loves us to the end."
Cardinal Sean's words echoed what I read in Fr. Raab's article on the Entrance Rite. God's mercy is proclaimed and praised at the beginning of Mass for a reason. Using the Cardinal's words: "Jesus loves us while we are still in sin." I know that I would be lost in my own life without the assurance of God's mercy. This is what gives me hope; that even while I am still in sin, the Lord Jesus' love for me is still there. Every time I gather for Mass with other sinners, I acknowledge this love and ask the Lord to pull me closer and closer to him, and further and further away from sin.
I can think of no better reason to lift my heart in praise and thanksgiving. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.