This week, by some mysterious movement of God’s grace, I participated in a holy hour at my church. As a community, we celebrated our strong faith, prayed together, and voiced our pain, concern, and love for one another. The church was packed in this visible sign of our communion with one another. No angry outbursts were made, no demands for justice nor cries of outrage. This was a profound, beautiful, act of unity and faith.
For those of you that don’t know, my parish has been a focus of media attention during the recent grand jury reports in Philadelphia. Our pastor is the “first member of church hierarchy” to be named.
It struck me, as I knelt in the pew reflecting on the joyful mysteries during our communal rosary, that this beautiful bond of community was made stronger simply in the ways in which all of our senses were made holy and tangible.
The visible sign of grief, mourning, and penance in the black robes of our priests. The breathtakingly beautiful monstrance on the altar.
The smell of the incense as the altar was blessed.
The hopeful, lovely sounds of the cantor who led us in song. The voices reading scripture, leading a reflection, offering intentions. The believers joined in the words, “Lord, hear our prayer.” The sound of the men’s voices as they led the rosary for us all.
The touch of the rosary beads as we joined our voices saying the Our Fathers, Hail Mary’s, and Glory Be’s.
These are difficult times for our parish, and really, the entire church. As in any crisis, I think it is easy, sometimes, to forget the things that ground us in our faith. In her wisdom, our church has hundreds of years of tradition, and thousands of pages of explanation, and dozens of experts to describe the “proper” way to celebrate, mourn, pray, recite, listen, participate, gather.
Having been a participant in this holy hour, I can confidently say that all of these years, pages, and experts were not necessary. Two or more were gathered. And Jesus was with us. And it was very, very good.