Sunday, October 5, 2008

What I Should Have Said

Homilies are a time for the parish to connect with the Pastoral leader. On a college campus, the priest presiding over a mass has the once a week opportunity to instruct young adults on how to conduct themselves the other six days of the week, such that they live lives of moral clarity and value.

The priest at my campus took his job seriously. He worried about being accessible to the infinitely distractible 18-21 year olds who were newly away from home. Diligently, he sought inspiration from the world around him, to link scriptural passages to modern day life; to make the muddled brains of possibly beer fogged co-eds see the relevance of God’s spoken word to life in the 21st century.

Because the mass was held just five doors down from my room, it was ridiculously easy for me to make it on time, and to celebrate with more than a plurality of people I liked. It seemed an ideal arrangement.

The first week. After reading the Gospel, our priest, Fr. T. started talking about walking about the Notre Dame campus and approaching the Athletic Convention Center, affectionately known as the ACC. A concert was planned for that Saturday and he had watched the workmen unloading speakers and lights and staging equipment.

“You know…, Life’s kind of like that, we are preparing for the big event. And all of our preparations lead up to that moment.”

“Okay. Yeah…” I went back to my room and diligently checked off in my head…went to mass, fulfilled weekly obligation.

The next week. I just had to give this mass a chance I told myself. There were people here who I knew had rock solid faith lives. We were at a university dedicated to Our Lady for crying out loud.

The homily began. “I was walking along the campus the other day. I saw a car packed up with suitcases.”

I waited for the line of relevance between the Gospel and the sermon. “…You know, life’s kind of like that. We pack up our stuff and carry it around with us, like that overloaded Volkswagen beetle.”

The image of our sins being loaded into a car for our cosmic road trip through life…it was a bit of a stretch. Maybe homilies weren’t his strong suit I told myself. To be fair, I’d give it a month.

The next week. Some liturgy students thought that perhaps we needed some jazzing up of the mass and so they tried “Clown ministry.” When the girl welcomed us to mass wearing a red rubber nose, it took restraint not to physically recoil.

When the priest tried to explain that her attire was a sign of her faith and willingness to be a fool for Christ, I struggled morally to keep from screaming. But my friends were here and singing in the mass so I told myself, the liturgy is the liturgy and “This I Believe,” and that the Eucharist mattered more than any of the window dressing. I also wondered if I had to go to confession for the mocking commentary that kept popping into my head.

Three weeks had been, while memorable and I will grant, the homilies have stuck with me now for 24 YEARS, like subsisting on Dominos Pizzas spiritually speaking. The priest even had me doing it…equating everything in my entire college experience with spiritual merit, real or otherwise.

This time, I dragged my non-church going at the time boyfriend (now husband who makes sure we get there on time no matter what and even use the envelopes that match the actual date) as an independent observer to determine if I was being overly critical. I prayed desperately there would be no people wearing extraordinarily oversized red shoes and ball noses to greet us.

Mass began with a Latin hymn this time, and I wondered if the ultra traditional beginning was in response to perhaps congregational psychological distress over the inclusion of circus attire for ushers. Maybe the priest was trying a potpourri approach to liturgy, trying to hit all different levels of spirituality by having each Sunday a different style of mass. My brain came up with multiple explanations to mollify and explain away the first three weeks. I convinced myself it was all a hyper over reaction in my head.

Until the homily.

“I was walking on campus the other day…”

Oh no.

“And I saw a little squirrel.”

No. No. Please no.

“And I had a few peanuts in my pocket.”

Bring back the clowns…trapeze artists…Volkswagens…anything…

“And the squirrel was hesitant. He came forward a bit, and then he held back. You know…we’re kind of like that. Life’s kind of like that. Life’s kind of like that squirrel…”

I know I stayed for the rest of the mass. I even shook his hand at the end and thanked him for saying mass. But I went to a different liturgy from then on, opting to frontload by taking care of it on Saturday night after football games or putting it off until 10pm on Sunday when I’d need a study break.

Two dozen years later, I finally know what I should have said at the end of the mass to Fr. T.

“Have you considered taking a road trip?”

1 comment:

MightyMom said...


well, maybe you just had tooo much sleep on Sat night...cuz those sound like GREAT homilies to ME!!

(I'm a little sleep deprived)

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