Good Sunday morning to all.
It is very early here in Chicago. Yesterday, I arrived back here in Chicago after a wonderful New England weekend with my family. Lobster Rolls, Linguica Pizza, Pasta in the North End, traditional French-Canadian style Thanksgiving Dinner; what a culinary excursion!
Yesterday afternoon, several of us set up the Advent environment at Saint James. Very simple. For those new to the blog, my parish, Saint James, is on the near south side of Chicago. The over 150 year-old church building was shuttered a few years ago because of questions about the integrity of its structure. So, we have been worshipping in our Catholic school auditorium ever since. It's a tough place to decorate. Despite its architectural beauty, the windows are filthy, there is built-up grime in many places, the paint is peeling, there are gym mats hanging on some areas (the building was used as a gym for P.E. classes). Despite all of this, worship in this less-than-ideal space is wonderful. God, who calls this Catholic people together in this place, makes it all very holy. God's voice echoes throughout the space as we lift up our hearts and voices in thanksgiving and praise. The hands and feet of Christ are hard at work as the parish's food pantry serves somewhere between 1500 and 1700 families per month. And the Holy Spirit infuses a genuine sense of hospitality throughout the place. We are not a sterling assortment of Catholics. We just all come there to be fed and to feed.
In a few hours I will be in the second row (in my usual spot) for the 9:30 Mass. I will have my nose in the worship aid for most of the Mass. Newly translated words will begin to take root in my Catholic heart and voice. I have been preparing myself, the parishioners whom I love, and thousands of others across the United States for the past five years for this particular moment. I know I will cringe this morning when the prayer after communion is prayed; it's just a wrong translation. I know I will stumble on phrases that are unfamiliar. I know that I will feel a sense of loss for what has been familiar for most of my life. My hope is that these newly translated words will translate into a renewed effort at Saint James to take care of God's least ones.
When I look back at some of my Catholic experiences, I do gain some perspective. In the early 1980's, while still a seminarian, I traveled to Peru for a third world immersion experience. I remember going to Mass in a very crude "building." There was no flooring material; just dirt. There were crude benches upon which we sat. There was a locally crafted crucifix that emphasized the suffering of Christ to an extraordinary degree. And then there were the people; poorer than poor. Their smiles, their joy, their pain, and their sorrow are forever etched into my heart's memory. They had nothing. And they had everything. They owned nothing. And they owned more than I could ever attain.
Folks, as the new translation of The Roman Missal, Third Edition, begins to take root, let's not forget what we heard in Matthew's Gospel a few weeks ago about these "least ones." If you have never made the connection between Sunday Mass and Catholic action, take this time of transition to make that connection. Let's not "just sit there" and analyze newly translated words. Let's seize this opportunity to do what Catholics do: "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life."
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.