Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ordinary Mass, Extraordinary Experience

As several regular readers will know, I often have less fruitful Mass experiences when I travel to West Chester, PA. It is often marked with irregularities shall we say which I am not keen to and some of the parishoners seem less than respectful.

But this past Sunday was different. I attended again St. Agnes parish's 9:00AM Mass and to my delight this Ordinary form of the Latin Rite was extremely nice. A reverent celebration which included some priestly chanting in English and a few traditional hymns. However I don't think those were the reasons I enjoyed it so much, but they certainly helped.

Walking into Church on Sunday I had decided going in to have an attitude adjustment, sit in the front to avoid distraction, and in the middle of the pew so nobody would trip over me after Mass while I made thanksgiving. The reverent liturgy was a bonus.

I guess you could say I decided to meet God halfway on this one. Completely submitting to the fact that I had to attend a Mass outside my comfort zone and that my sourness wasn't going to help, I took personal steps to orient myself correctly. What I found is that he provided - and abundantly.

The true payoff came a little later. Once the Mass concluded everyone got up as normal, started talking, and proceeded to herd out the back. I didn't let it bother me this time, and I was in prime position to ignore it - front and center. Almost all the activity was behind me (I was third row) Once silence had again been restored to its full beauty there were a handful of people also making their thanksgivings. One man approached the Marian shrine to light a candle - another knelt at the old and still existing altar rail to pray before the tabernacle. I continued to make my thanksgiving.

There was an elderly lady dressed with a pink "church lady" hat in the row in front of me. During Mass I noticed her well worn, older looking prayer book. The cover had gold lettering on it that showed a lot of wear. That is the best kind of prayer book in my opinion. She also stayed to make her thanksgiving and we both happened to finish at the same time. Noticing this she turned with a beautiful smile and began to make simple conversation with me. Very short but very pleasant. You could just see the love of God radiating from her simple demeanor and bright smile. On my way back to where I was staying I couldn't help but relate this old woman to St. Ann, the Grandmother of Our Lord. On her feast day last Thursday I heard a priest relate Ann to our own grandmothers saying "Grandma is the love department. (of the family)" This short experience is now an example in my mind of the love between Grandmother Ann and Our Lord.

My personal payoff for submitting to God was a brief connection with perhaps one of those unnamed Saints who go through life living the faith daily but never get a church named after them or a feast on the Calendar. Needless to say my opinion of St. Agnes parish has been upgraded by not only me personal attitude but also the faith of some of its parishoners.

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"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton