Monday, April 21, 2008

The Washington, D.C. Papal Mass

Having posted nothing since Holy Week, I now seem to have a great deal to talk about, including the Papal Mass last Thursday at Washington Nationals (baseball) Stadium. My husband and I were fortunate enough to be chosen in our parish lottery, so we had the privilege of celebrating mass with the Holy Father (and some 46,000 of our fellow Catholics). It was a glorious spring day, the likes of which tend to be rare in Washington, where the weather can turn from winter to the tropics in short order. It had been cold here, in fact, before he arrived last Tuesday. Even the dogwood trees popped into bloom last weekend, almost on cue!

April 7 marked our first anniversary since being received into the Church, and what a great way to celebrate what has been perhaps the most significant year of our lives. Pope Benedict played a not-insignificant role in my conversion, after all, as I alluded to in my conversion story:

One of the defining moments for me in this journey was the day that the white smoke appeared from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel a little over a week after John Paul II’s death. When then-Cardinal Ratzinger appeared on the balcony a few minutes later, I knew beyond doubt this is a church that is not captured by the spirit of the age. I had read enough of the current Pope’s writings to know then that the Church would be in good hands, and I think I knew even then that I would not remain a protestant much longer.

Since then, I have come to admire this man even more, and his visit to the U.S. has only reinforced my conviction that the Church is in very good hands.

Back to the Papal Mass: I was impressed by many things, not the least by the sheer size of the event. Hats off to the organizers for pulling off the feat of serving Communion to that many people and ending on schedule. It was also encouraging to see the vast numbers of young Catholics who are evidently enthusiastic about their faith. The legacy of JPII lives on, I think.

The Pope's homily continued, as expected, the theme of his visit, "Christ Our Hope." He noted that "Americans have always been a people of hope," from the very beginning. He encouraged us to build on that legacy and to meet today's challenges with the hope found in God's love. He said that he had come here to proclaim Christ's resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit. That same Spirit, he said, calls us now to constant conversion as we work to renew the Church in the U.S. He mentioned the need for better Catholic catechesis, and the need to restore a genuinely Catholic culture, founded on faith and reason – both subjects near and dear to my heart. His comments about the sexual abuse scandal were, I thought, extremely gracious. His words and his actions during his visit were received in the intended spirit of healing by those directly affected by the scandal, especially the abuse victims with whom he met privately at the Vatican embassy.

Perhaps the one sour note of the mass (please pardon the pun) was the music. Much has been written on the subject already in the Catholic blogosphere. It certainly leaned rather heavily toward the let's-celebrate-us variety of liturgical music, including a heavy dose of multilingual and multicultural mush. There were occasional periods of relief--Mozart's Ave Verum, for instance, or Veni Creator Spiritus. All in all, it was rather embarrassing, especially given all the Holy Father has written and said on the subject over the years. I understand that the services in New York were something of an improvement in this regard, but I haven't yet read any very thorough accounts.

Please feel free to comment with your impressions of this event – or other aspects of the papal visit – whether you attended or not.


3 comments:

Maryellen said...

Glad to see you posting again.

How wonderful you were able to attend Mass at the Stadium! I can only imagine the glory of it all.

I am too fragile to travel, but several women from our parsh went. They hope to put together a presentation with slides and their commentary for the parish.

We were pleased with all we saw on TV. The love of God shone through Papa Benedict in the way he greeted people. I have loved him from the moment he stepped into view on the balcony. He is truly teaching the ancient faith.

A belated welcome to our Holy Mother Church. I want to come back again and take the time to read your conversion story.

Amy said...

I was also at the Papal Mass - awesome! Enjoyed your blog as usual...-Amy

Casondra said...

Great work.