Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sing, Choirs of Angels!

In case you were wondering, it seems to be the case that Pope Francis would really like Mass at Saint Bernadette.  How can I say that with such confidence?  This just in:
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis baptized 32 children on Sunday, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The celebration took place, as is customary, in the Sistine Chapel.
Included among those baptized by the Holy Father were primarily the new-born children of Vatican employees.
In his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis noted that Jesus Himself had no need of Baptism, but that with His Divinity, united to His human body, Jesus blessed the waters and gave them the ability to be used in Baptism. Ascending into Heaven, the Lord commanded His followers to go into the world to baptize – a command that the Church fulfills even to the current day.
The children baptized today, he said, are a link in the chain; in time, they will return to have their own children baptized. This implies a duty on the part of parents, the duty of transmitting the Faith to their children, so that they in turn can pass it along to their children.
The Holy Father concluded his homily with a special word of affection for the newly baptized children. “Today the choir sings,” he said, “but the most beautiful choir is [the choir] of children” making noise.
So, you see?  He would really enjoy it here at our parish, too, not least because our actual (music) choir is pretty good too – but this is no skin off their nose.
Last week, the eleven o’clock Mass was crowded with guests for the Baptisms that followed.  I know because a lot of people didn’t leave the church after Mass was over.  I then baptized five new sons and daughters of our Father in front of an exultant crowd, many of whom were suspiciously short themselves.  There was a lot of audible delight.    It was just another typical celebration at Saint Bernadette, though.  Thank God.
We have a lot of children in our parish, and a lot of them are at Mass and other events all the time.  This is one characteristic that increasingly sets us apart from other gatherings, which have become increasingly segregated.  More and more places and events are for just one age group or another, either intentionally, or simply as a matter of fact.  There are plenty of events for small children, certain times and places teens gather, but many more for just adults.  Actually older folks (retirees?) are often separated out into their own events and locales as well.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but when do the people come together?
There is no better place than the worship of God.  Since Mass is the bread-and-butter of our relationship with him, if you’ll pardon the turn of phrase, it is the one thing that everyone needs.  But because it is not a class or lesson, it is not graded into age groups. Because it is not primarily a social event, it is not divided into age, interest, or language groups.  In fact, it is not divided into any groups, because it is the unifying event that holds us together with one another, and with God.  That’s why we call it communion. 
I was great to have Father Nick around for a week, not least because he gave me some help with the Masses.  He really loves it here, and is still loved.  One of his (many) famous lines is this: Welcome to St. B., where the “B” stands for “baby”!
There is grace available at Mass; grace that can be found nowhere else, and grace that everyone needs.  Little babies receive that grace in a manner appropriate to them – but only if someone brings them.  Thank goodness so many people here do!  It is just another sign that everyone is invited to the heavenly banquet we share here at Saint Bernadette – not least, Pope Francis.

Monsignor Smith

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