At this point in time the visit of Pope Francis to the United States is history. He has returned to the Vatican. He has concluded the Synod on the Family and will be departing soon on another papal voyage.
There are many memories of Pope Francis’ visit. The Anchor published some of the impressions of those who had the occasion to be present at one of the sites of his visit. There are many souvenirs that have been sold, memorabilia purchased, photos shared and keepsakes treasured.
His many discourses have been published, reflected upon, prayed about and recorded for future use. Many photos have been seen, in the public forum and personally by those who were able to be present at one of the sites of his visit. Those who were fortunate enough to shake his hand or share a personal word also have photos that serve as a memorial of that historic and special moment.
Those who met him in a public way may have a Rosary he gave them to use in prayer and to treasure for the years to come.
All was well-organized and synchronized by the Vatican, the United States government, and the archdioceses that welcomed him. The nunciature in Washington and the nunciature for the United Nations played their part in the success of his visit. Needless to say the police, firemen, emergency personnel and many others also contributed their time and talent in assisting in the historic visit of Pope Francis to the United States.
Of all the venues that hosted the Holy Father, the ones that most impressed me were the Masses. The Masses took a lot of planning. Not only were the texts of the Mass to be chosen, but also the readings, the music, the readers, the distribution of Communion, concelebrants, etc. The masters of ceremonies from the Vatican and local priests and deacons flawlessly executed their duties in such a manner that it all went very well.
Months of preparation for the booklets to be used, the vestments to be worn and the logistics for the seating and Communion stations were needed. They are to be commended for their wonderful work.
One of our teachers from All Saints Catholic School, sponsored by St. Mary’s Parish, attended the 7 p.m. Mass at St. Mary’s on the Sunday following the papal visit. At the end of the Mass I welcomed her publicly and told her I regretted I could not produce the crowd that she had experienced the week before, but that it was the same Mass.
I had that same feeling as I celebrated the evening Mass the same day the pope had celebrated it in Philadelphia. It was the same readings, the same Mass and Christ was present.
Mass is the same regardless of the place, the time, the size of the congregation. The music, or lack of it, the flowers, or lack of them, do not change the nature of the Mass.
Mass on Sunday is a gathering of the faithful. Many people in church can make it more uncomfortable for some to pray. At times parents who come to Mass with their children may feel self-conscious if the children make a noise. I am always pleased to hear a child cry in church. It signifies that the parents decided to have the child. It means they are bringing them to church to introduce them in the proper living of the faith. It also demonstrates that I and others still have the gift of hearing.
Some Catholics will attest that attendance at daily Mass can be more prayerful. The congregation is smaller, there are usually no time constraints and, in most parishes, the daily Mass communicants form a little community. They pray for and care for each other. This is much easier to do with smaller numbers.
Perhaps you might consider going to daily Mass during the week. Even if you cannot go every day, one or two days a week can make a difference in your prayer life. While each Mass is the same and has the same effects, you may find the quieter atmosphere more conducive to prayer. Give it a try.
Since November is the month dedicated to the remembrance of the souls in purgatory it might be a good time to begin attendance at daily Mass. You might want to choose a day each week to go to morning Mass and pray for the deceased, especially the deceased of your family. You will notice a difference in your life, a good one.
Anchor columnist Msgr. Oliveira is pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in New Bedford and director of the diocesan Propagation of the Faith and Permanent Diaconate offices.