Earlier this September I celebrated the Eucharist with a parish in neighboring city. It was part of the Mission Co-op Plan, a national Catholic program that aims to deepen awareness of the Church’s mission in the hearts and minds of parishioners. At the same time, this program raises funds for the Church’s missions—both foreign and domestic.
Over the years this pastoral work has always been an interesting experience, both when I was ministering in the Philippines and when I was in the United States. Begging and teaching and worshipping all rolled into one.
A beautiful note card arrived this week from the city I had just visited. I was surprised that it was from one of the altar servers. Apparently the kid did something while at the altar during Mass. His parents apparently demanded that the boy write an apology for his misconduct. I do not know what he did, and the youngster made no confession, but I figured that this was a teachable moment. So I wrote a note addressed to the parents and to the youngster saying:
“Serving at Mass is a big responsibility. It is good that you apologized for conduct that was not proper in the eyes of your parents. I know you will do better in the future.”
Just looking at the labored, printed strokes on the card gave me the sense that the kid was trying.
I recall how my father and mother told us not to do anything that would embarrass our family while we were serving Mass or singing in the parish choir. That was in the 1950s. Back then we had to wear a suit and tie to church. Sunday Mass meant we had to dress in our Sunday best, shine our shoes, make sure our hair was combed, our hands washed, etc.
There was an air of formality about church. Today, church customs and dress tends toward the casual, if not the downright inappropriate. I guess it is because there are so many more Sunday activities—from youth sports, to movies and a gazillion other things.
A few weeks ago I listened to a parent as he complained about his teenage son. There was a family argument about going to Mass on Sunday. The boy informed his mother and father that he never wanted to go to a church “where they wear costumes.” The father laughed as he remembered that his son was dressed in his marching band uniform when he delivered his personal declaration of independence.
I have tremendous respect for couples who dare to raise children in this era of glaring contradictions. I must say that my week-end visit to another city and parish reaffirmed my faith in a God who takes great delight in us, God’s crazy kids.
Photographer: marilynv, PhotoXpress