Love bonds us together

Two weekends ago, I had the pleasure of attending Mass at St. Rose of Lima’s Catholic Church, in Gaithersburg, Md. We had had a family function, and Sunday morning we went to my daughter-in-law’s parents’ parish church. While there, the reality of the Catholicity (or Universality) of the Church became so very obvious to me.

The Mass, no matter where we are, the rituals, the liturgy is always the same, providing us that comfortable feeling of being home. No matter what Catholic Church we attend, we know that the liturgy will be familiar to us. The readings and Gospel, the structure, the overall theme is similarly celebrated throughout the world. This sameness is not one of dullish repetition, but of the singular beauty of a belief, universally believed. However, the one thing that will always vary from community to community, from church to church, is the manifestation of these beliefs in song.

The beauty of the Mass is always there for us to be wrapped-up in, to allow us to commune with our God, to humbly give thanks. However, the choice of hymns, the participation in song, the reverence of the people, the feeling of joy manifested by those worshipping their God, these did so much to help people, even out-of-towners feel the closeness of God in that church. We go to church, and too often, it is almost something that is endured. We speak of the Sunday Mass in terms of, “the nine thirty”, or the “eleven o’clock”, much like a train schedule. We have taken something so beautiful and tried to transform it into something mundane, something commonplace.

Each Sunday, we attend, we participate, and we celebrate the Eucharist. For one short period, we can step away from the maddening pace of this world, and kneel before our God. Like Thomas, we can raise our eyes to the elevated host and say, “My Lord and my God”. If we really believe that God is Love, then the bond of love that we have for each other shows clearly what is meant by the Mystical Body of Christ. We are joined with each other. We feel each others’ pains and sorrows. Each person that we come into contact with is a manifestation of Christ, Himself. We cannot love Christ and not love each other. This attitude of love, of concern for others, we bring to church, each Sunday. No, better said would be: we, who are connected with one another, in love with one another, concerned about one another, we ARE the Church. And if we are dissatisfied with the Church, we are dissatisfied with ourselves.

I would be remiss, if I did not say something about the Church of St. Rose of Lima. If I were a movie critic, secretly evaluating churches, I would have to rate St. Rose of Lima’s Church as 5 of 5. I don’t know what impressed me more, the thoughtful layout of the church, the beautiful utilization of a huge tree for both the altar top and pulpit, the baptismal area with its flowing waters, or the soft banners hung high above, pictorially depicting the flames of the Holy Spirit. But, all of this beautiful symbolism would be meaningless without the most beautiful aspect of this church, the people who were present. Their devout attitude was reflected in the harmonious singing of both congregation and choir. The spirit and bonds of these people make this church an exemplar to be held up for other communities to emulate.