Below is the story I wrote yesterday and could not post. When we got back to our hotel in Assisi this afternoon from a magnificent day in Loreto, my wifi issues were resolved and I therefore am able to share this with you. Teresa and Kelly and I spoke of this amazing Mass on her Monday radio program, in case you tuned in to that yesterday.
I will do what I can later this evening (or more likely tomorrow) to bring you the story of Loreto and some of the photos I took of this astonishing shrine! The church itself seems to be a shrine to house the shrine of the Holy House of Mary – much as the cathedral of Cologne was built as a stone reliquary to house the reliquary of the Three Magi.
Monday, November 13, 2017
I am writing from Assisi where I arrived only a few hours ago and, in less than an hour, will meet Teresa Tomeo, Kelly Wahlquist and the women of WINE – Women in the New Evangelization – for a get-acquainted dinner.
It has taken me well over an hour to get the computer up and working. I still cannot access wifi so have no idea of how or when I will be able to post this column. I’ve decided that prayer, not worrying, will be the only route to take in coming hours and days!
HOURS LATER…..Well, that dinner have long passed but stay tuned as I have a marvelous story to tell.
A SUNDAY TO REMEMBER
I want to tell you about a Sunday Mass I will never forget. And that’s probably true of everyone who attended the 10:30 Mass yesterday at St. Patrick’s in Rome, the new home to Catholic Americans and English-speaking Catholics in Rome.
I arrived at about 10:15 and met Brother Daniel Griffin, who will soon be ordained a Marianist deacon, who frequently helps out at mass as an acolyte, Eucharistic minister or lector. He was scheduled to be a lector that day and I to be Eucharistic minister but he suggested we change as he wanted to help the priest who would say 10:30 Mass – a certain Fr. Whelan from the Gregorian University whom Fr.Greg, our rector, had asked to say the 10:30 Mass in his absence from Rome.
I am usually a lector and was quite happy to oblige, and prepared accordingly, studying the readings and preparing to carry up the Book of Gospels when Mass began and we processed in.
I was near the sacristy so could greet people as they arrived – Ambassador Callista Ginrich was there, as was her husband Newt, Teresa and Kelly came to this Mass, parishioners I knew and some I did not were all in attendance.
As the minutes passed and the clock said 10:30, there was no sign of Fr.Whelan. Fr. Post, who had said the 9 am Mass, had already left for Marymount school to celebrate the 11 am Mass.
Soon it was 10:35, then 10:40 and I told Daniel we should make an announcement explaining the delay in the start of Mass. Neither of us had a phone number for Fr. Whelan and in the meantime, the parish secretary had gone to the Maryknoll house to see about the availability of a priest.
At 10:45 I went to the ambo and announced that the priest scheduled to take Fr. Greg’s place had not yet shown up and we were trying to see if another priest was available – thus the delay, I suggested we all say a few Hail Marys as we tried to remedy the situation.
As I was walking back to the sacristy, a sister whom I’ve seen on several occasions, pulled me aside to say there was a Jesuit priest in their small group – perhaps he could help. She introduced me to Fr. Nicholas and he and I then went to the sacristy where I introduced him to Bro. Daniel. I learned in the meantime that Fr. Nicholas (whose last name I do not know as I write!) was a student at the Biblicum University.
Father was a little worried as he said he was from Indonesia and spoke some English but had never said Mass in English in public. We told him not to worry, that St. Patrick’s was a wonderful, caring, welcoming community. He was also concerned about not having a prepared homily but we suggested he announce this and say we could just remain a brief time in silent prayer, reflecting on the Gospel and readings.
We then processed into the church as the music began. Everything proceeded normally, music, the readings, responsorial psalm and it was time for the Gospel when, all of a sudden, a new priest appeared on the scene, walking humbly to where Fr. Nicholas and Daniel were standing, they all spoke briefly and, in a nanosecond, we learned this was Fr. Whelan, Fr. Greg’s original replacement for Mass!
Fr. Whelan read the Gospel and gave a delightful homily, explaining his lateness and saying his homily was composed in the taxi coming to church. He spoke on what he called the theme of the day’s Gospel, about being alert to when you were called to a task, about not being late when the Lord called. He said it was the perfect Gospel for him and us – that day – a Gospel about being prepared and not being late. His Irish accent was enchanting and, of course, Fr. Whelan was forgiven on the spot by all present.
Mass proceeded normally and at the very end, Fr. Nicholas, who had stepped in so well, so immediately, so wonderfully to preside at Mass, told us again that this was only his first ever Mass in English in public – you can imagine the applause!
By the way, we discovered to everyone’s great amazement and amusement that Fr. Whelan was one of Fr. Nicholas’ professors! I can imagine the conversation in coming days and weeks!
The two priests were in the vestibule after Mass and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many handshakes or hugs or words of thanks as I saw yesterday by the parishioners and visitors who attend St. Patrick’s.
It was a God-given moment Sunday. A lesson the Lord wanted us all to learn – that we must trust in Him – always!
I was worried before Mass about how to help people if we did not find a priest. Could we have a liturgy of the Word and use previously consecrated hosts for communion! I had no idea what to do – I only knew I wanted to help. I should have just said, “Lord, as usual, things are in Your hands!”
Things were in His hands yesterday, they are as I write these words and they will be tomorrow, for each and every one of us!