Just enjoyed a nice glass of wine with a pretty decent pizza…which reminded me of the great privilege Jesus gives to wine every day during every Mass said throughout the world…which reminded me of a piece from issue 6.1 of Envoy:
When my wife and I first met, she was in the wine business. No stranger to the finer things in life, myself, I took her to an Irish restaurant and bar on Third Avenue in New York on our first date—a place that boasted a selection of no fewer than seven wines.
I’ll never forget being handed the wine list that night. Short thought it was it might as well have been written in Aramaic. Never before had I navigated a selection of wines in the presence of a woman who knew wine. The only thing I was confident about was that my standard routine of thoughtfully examining the cork and pretending to know what that first dribble out of the bottle was supposed to take like was NOT going to fly.
After several very long seconds, I turned the choice over to Mary Ann and had a dating experience most men only dream about having. She saved me money! Declaring every selection wildly over-priced, she suggested that we forget about ordering wine.
What a woman!
Now, don’t take that story to mean that every wine with a reasonable price is worth drinking. There is such a thing as too cheap to possibly be any good.
For various unpleasant reasons, I once spent a lot of time consuming large amounts of a particular jug wine. I had long since put it aside when Mary Ann came along, but the damage had been done—not to my liver but to my tongue. I couldn’t have told you the difference between a cab and a Tab.
I shiver at the sight of those jugs nowadays. In fact, I shivered that very shiver in the sacristy of my parish church recently while preparing to serve as lector for Mass.
There it sat, that familiar old jug, its noxious contents having been poured out for use at Mass.
What about truth in advertising? I thought. About the closest that stuff comes to being the work of human hands is when somebody puts it on the shelf at a liquor store.
I was so appalled that I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind as Communion approached. How could I possibly receive properly when I was certain to wince while drinking from the chalice?
And what about poor Jesus? I only had to drink the stuff. He had to transubstantiate it. Nice way to treat our savior.
Eventually, I approached the altar, took the chalice and drank. The reality of what I was doing struck me at the same time and I didn’t wince. I experienced an unexpected sweetness and turned back toward my pew, startled.
It was like Cana all over again.
As is his habit, God had done something great with something lowly. At the moment of consecration that wine was turned from something graceless into something full of grace. Its not-so-subtle flavor was still there—but it was eclipsed by the sweet sacrifice of the Eucharist.
Changing that wine into himself was an incredible act of humility for our Lord. Of course, changing a bottle of even the finest wine into himself is every bit as humble.
I only wish I could have been within a light year of such humility that day. My gripe, of course, had more to do with my past failings than with the quality of the wine. But instead of shoving my insignificant personal meanderings aside to bask in the glimpse of heaven that Holy Communion offers, I chose to indulge myself in a pointless riff on cheap wine.
But hey, what’s the point of being a cradle Catholic if you can’t act like you belong in a cradle once in awhile?
Did you know that there’s a Catholic rapper? I didn’t know that there’s a Catholic rapper, but apparently he’s a very nice guy, and he needs our prayers.
That got me wondering what other uniquely Catholic entertainers there are out there—specifically comics (as an alleged writer of humor, it’s a subject that interests me).
But then I remembered that my friend, Patrick Coffin (host of Catholic Answers Live) recently interviewed a guy named Carl Koslowski.
I’ll leave comedian/comedienne count at 2-and-2. Perhaps you know of more?
It’s that time of the week when I sit around waiting for two things: 1) to leave for my late-night adoration hour, 2) for some coffee to brew so I can keep myself by from having a Matthew 26:40 experience during my late-night adoration hour.
If you can’t guess what that passage Matthew 26:40 is, you’ll have to look it up yourself.
A few times over the course of my guest-blogging gig here at Pat’s Place, I’ll be sharing some of what I’ve written for Envoy magazine over the years. As this is adoration night, I’m reminded of a column from issue 5.6 of Envoy—it was called “Of Sounds and Silence.”
And it went something like this…
I want to tell you about some beautiful noises and beautiful silences.
The first noise came from a young couple sitting behind my family at a recent Mass. They appeared to be dating—a deduction based solely on the manner in which I had seen them walking toward the church just before Mass. It was one of those glance-at-each-other, where-in-the-world-do-I-put-my-hands walks that makes even veteran adults look like shy teenagers.
I doubt either of them cared much about reaching a destination, but at Mass they arrived, still enjoying each other’s company but forced to join the rest of the world for awhile.
As the first hymn began, they lifted their hymnals and joined in. The girl sang pleasantly, but the guy was at least three pews away from the melody (in musical terms, that’s about two more pews away than Neil Young is on any given occasion). But listening to the guy was beautiful. He didn’t care what he sounded like. He just wanted to sing.
And let me tell you (attention, gentlemen), the lady friend in this equation smiled sweetly on him throughout the proceedings, as they hunted for hymnal pages together. She obviously loved singing in church and appreciated the effort he was making.
Now, maybe this fellow was just using his hymnal as a ploy to get on his lady fair’s good side. To that I say, “Good for him!” Many people have been brought to Christ by the beauty of creation. And if memory serves, this young lady was quite a credit to creation.
He wouldn’t be the first man drawn to Mass out of his passion for a desirable woman, only to discover a passionate faith he never thought possible. If the way to a man’s heart is trough his stomach, then maybe the way to his soul is through his heart.
The second noise I want to tell you about started out funny before it became beautiful. At Communion one Sunday, our organist launched us all into a spiritual.
Few things are funnier than a church full of white suburbanites making their way through a black hymn, but we actually did ourselves fairly proud (even if we did sound a little like the Pat Boone Chorale singing the Mahalia Jackson Songbook). And the noise was beautiful. There was sincere worship going on during that hymn—in no small part because spirituals are so wonderfully singable.
Now, for the beautiful silences.
The first one happened on All Saints Day at a church near my office, when the celebrant miscalculated the length of his chasuble and knocked over a full chalice while raising his hands.
His reaction was great. Judging by the face he made, and the way he clenched the offending hand into a fist, I think he was desperately trying to avoid slipping a few decidedly un-liturgical words into the Mass.
Father recovered just fine, but not before a far more interesting recovery happened among the pews. When that chalice fell, there was a gasp in every corner of the church, followed by a few seconds of very telling silence.
As held breaths were released, you could just about hear the collective thought, “Thank God, it was still only wine when it fell.”
I’m sure I could have found people to disagree with me on any number of things Catholic in that church, but the thought of the Real Presence spilling wasted onto the altar registered as universally terrible to a diverse gathering of sins ad daughters of the universal church.
That was nice.
You know what else is nice? The silence I was enjoying while contemplating all of these occurrences recently…in the presence of Our Lord during Eucharistic adoration. It’s the most beautiful silence you’ll ever hear.
Go there soon. Bring all of your own random experiences and ask the Lord to make sense of them, to show you himself in them. You’ll be surprised how many spiritually significant things happen during what seems like very, very ordinary time.
“Founded by Jerry Usher, creator and former host of Catholic Answers live, Vocation Boom is intent on creating a culture that’s open to the priesthood, clearing the path to discovery, and unlocking minds and hearts to God’s special call. Made up of a group of passionate advocates dedicated to supporting the priesthood as a life’s vocation and mission, Vocation Boom is a global support community. It’s a place where youth and young men can find answers, encouragement, mentors and friends to aid in the discernment process and beyond. Vocation Directors, priests, and educators will also find an online community that provides the tools they need to cultivate those called to priestly life. Candidates can determine their specific path – diocesan or religious priesthood and, within religious priesthood, to which charism they are best suited. Even family and friends of men with a calling can find the resources that they need to support their loved ones’ choice to become a priest. VOCATIONBOOM.COM is dedicated to fostering a positive perception of the priesthood and culture of priestly vocations.
In this “Year for Priests,” the theme is, the priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus. But the Holy Father himself has quoted the wisdom of St. John Vianney, patron saint of priests, saying, “The great misfortune for us parish priests is that our souls grow tepid.” VOCATIONBOOM.com is a new source of inspiration for this spiritual numbness as it simultaneously helps young men answer the call and let their voices be heard. Log on to discover the first step in a leap of faith! Show your support of the priesthood by becoming a member today, www.vocationboom.com!”
A tip of the cap to Jerry and his latest new media initiative. The BOOM has begun!
Trinity College of Hartford, Connecticut, is out with a new study of “Nones” in America.
Nones are adults with no religious affiliation. Apparently most of them, at least in America, are young, politically independent men of…and it hurts to type this…Irish ancestry.
As they say in the Vatican, “Oy!”
In my youth, “Irish” and “Catholic” rarely appeared more than two or three words from each other. It makes me sad to think that so many American families of Irish descent have managed to so completely screw up their catechetical responsibilities.
I realize the less-than-charitable tone I’m taking. There are other factors in play, such as so-called “progressive” elementary education, the inexplicably un-Catholic teachings of supposedly Catholic colleges, and a little thing called “free will.” But I still feel that stronger, sincere parent-champions for the faith, especially among fathers, could help stem the tide that leads one professor associated with the study to say that Nones could make up 25% of the U.S. population in about twenty years.
Perhaps the Irish-ness of so many Nones shouldn’t surprise us. There’s an interesting story that continues to unfold in the land of saints and scholars that points to the legendary Irish propensity for paradox.
I’m not familiar enough with the story to offer an opinion, but I find the situation interesting.
You can read the latest and find links to the broader story here.
A regular reader of this blog responded to one of my posts thinking it was from Patrick, so I thought I’d take a moment to remind everyone that the proprietor of this blog is on vacation for a couple of weeks. I don’t want my old friend saddled with the blame for my banalities. I’m sure Patrick wouldn’t subject you to his exploits in landscaping.
Hmmm. Actually, he probably would.
The only responsibility Mr. Madrid can be saddled with in connection with my musings lies in having asked me to be one of his guest bloggers while he’s away.
I am the proprietor of Envoy’s “Rocking the Cradle Catholic” department, which means I can type 600 or so words fairly quickly (probably no small part of the reason for Patrick’s invitation).
None of that is the wonderful stuff mentioned above. Let’s get to that now.
This blogging thing is hard work, so I’m very thankful to Father Riley (a new young priest at our parish) for his homily yesterday.
It was a particularly great Mass all around. My wife and I were the lectors, something we love doing together. Mary Ann got to read from the Book of Wisdom, which addressed a subject she is currently reading about in her Master’s program. I had the pleasure of reading from The Letter of St. James (my affection for which I mentioned in a previous post). Father Riley then proclaimed Mark’s gospel account of the Apostle’s argument over who was the greatest.
Father followed up with a wonderful homily that weaved the messages of all three readings into a clear and concise observation on the individual’s duty to serve. But that’s not the best part. After stepping away from the ambo, he turned back to address a different subject.
He then proceeded to talk about the sinfulness of leaving Mass early, directing his remarks to all but specifically mentioning parents and grandparents; he reminded them that leaving early is a sin and that by bringing children out of Mass early with them, they are leading those beloved children into sin as well. He went on to suggest that if we cannot spare an extra ten minutes after Communion, our priorities may be highly disordered.
It sounds simple, but I know it took incredible courage…especially since he was speaking during the noon Mass on the day of our local NFL home opener. We made sure to speak with Father afterward and give him an atta-boy, along with our thanks for making such an important point.
And this–after all that–is the basic point I’d like to make today: it’s important for all of us to notice and acknowledge even the seemingly small acts of herosim on the part of our priests.
They have already, in a very real way, given their lives for us. The least we can do is say thanks.
I’m sure I’ve failed to notice hundreds of such acts over the years. My prayer for all of us today is that we will be better attuned to the words and deeds of our priests, and take a few extra minutes to say thanks for caring.
Nine days ago, we received an over-estimated load of topsoil that forced my wife to dig a pathway in order to get out of the garage to pick up our son from school. After a full weekend, several evenings, one vacation day, and all day today–I am please to report that our enormous pile of topsoil is no longer a driveway ornament!
Hmmm. Nine days. Sort of a manual labor novena.
I guess I’m taking the long way around telling you that in terms of today’s blog entry…I got nothin’. But sitting here thinking about what to share with you reminds me of a column about writing by one of my favorite ink-stained newspapermen–Paul Greenberg.
I hope you’ll enjoy it.
I knew I liked Hector Molina…and we’ve never even met. In his introductory post, he mentioned two of my favorite places—New York and St. Louis.
Hector is a native New Yorker who eventually moved to the Midwest. I grew up near the New Jersey mouth of the Holland Tunnel and eventually moved to the Midwest.
Hector now lives in St. Louis. I now bring my family on pilgrimages to St. Louis to stock up on Italian fare.
Hector lives and breathes the faith every day both personally and professionally. I…don’t. As it says in Envoy, I’m a practicing Catholic who still isn’t very good at it but continues to practice every day.
Okay, so the similarities aren’t as spooky as they first seemed. But reading about Hector’s east coast roots reminded me of an Envoy piece I wrote back in the twentieth century. Thought I’d share it with you (especially since the parish festival I went to tonight didn’t yield anything fun to write about as I had hoped it would)….
My wife and I shared a unique liturgical experience, one Saturday afternoon. We went to Mass at the mall.
Don’t bother rereading. It still says, “We went to Mass at the mall.”
There’s a Carmelite Chapel on the Lower Promenade (basement level) of one of the many malls which serve as landscape in our corner of America. One of an estimated dozen or so Catholic mall chapels in the United States, it has been serving consumers’ souls since 1970. A quirky place, it sports electric stained-glass windows inside, and video in the hall for those who can’t get a seat in the often standing-room-only main room.
I assumed people’s reasons for attending that Saturday afternoon Sunday obligation Mass varied widely. For instance, weekend logistics kept Mary Ann and me from getting to our home parish that week. I figured others probably enjoyed the intimacy of the small venue, or the anonymity of worshipping at a crossroads of humanity. My wife, a native of mall country, assured me that the chapel’s main draw has always been brevity.
This had to be among the fastest Sunday obligation Masses ever said in a non-communist country. Barely 30 minutes from start to finish, including 10 minutes of homily, a substantial Communion crowd and a post-Communion “Hail Holy Queen” for various intentions including the conversion of Russia.
You should be able to get through checkout on the Upper Promenade (parking level), as fast as we got through that Mass. I had skid marks from blessing myself too fast. Mary Ann told me the mall chapel once had a Saturday afternoon priest who got your duty done in 20 minutes flat, homily included.
Mind you, that mall chapel is an important place. The priests hear as many as 1000 confessions a month. Their monthly Communion rail can stretch some 1600 tongues long. And, to be fair, those 20-minute liturgies keep my wife going to Mass through an extended season of twentysomething doubt.
Our celebrant that Saturday was a big, jovial priest from Ireland. He was helping out at the chapel during his vacation. This guy led us through the Mass so fast I could have sworn he was praying in tongues half the time. If we’d paused to take a breath during the Creed we wouldn’t have caught up until Communion.
He slowed down exactly three times. Twice for singing: the Gospel Acclamation and the Great Amen. Good set of pipes, too. Probably still trying to prove to his mother he hadn’t wasted his time listening to all those John McCormack records. He also downshifted for a wonderful, insightful homily. Those 10 minutes lost him his shot at the gold-plated brevity breviary I hear the chapel management bestows on its quickest consecraters.
Homily aside, I came away from that Mass winded, cranky and tempted to declare the celebrant disrespectful of the Holy Sacrifice. But, after a careful look into the mirror of the mall, I no longer believed he was. His style made him the perfect man for the job to be done that afternoon – the job of saying Mass in a sad vernacular. He spoke the language of people who want what they want, where they want it, as quickly as they can get it. It’s a familiar tongue to those of us who sometimes allow weekend logistics to disturb our Sunday worship.
Mind you, that mall chapel is an important place. Any conspicuous consumer, seeing the conspicuous words “Carmelite Chapel” on the directory to that very public square, can always find a willing missionary on hand. The priests who service the chapel hear as many as 1000 confessions a month. Their monthly Communion rail can stretch some 1600 tongues long. And, to be fair, those 20-minute liturgies my wife remembers kept her going to Mass through an extended season of twentysomething doubt.
Neither of us, however, is in doubt today. While we hope the chapel stands longer than the mall, piggybacking on the convenience offered by its ministry strikes us as plain wrong. We’ve never been back, but took a lesson away with us: making it known to people that Mass is at the top of your Sunday social calendar is a powerful means of evangelization.
Oh, and I’m afraid the answer is, “Yes.” We did use the occasion of Mass at the mall to return a few things.