On each one of the past 7 Saturdays I have celebrated Mass for a special occasion, four First Communions, two Weddings and one Jubilee. In between there have been the ordinary daily Masses, many Funerals, some Baptisms and the celebrations on Sundays. We also had wonderful Masses marking the end of the school year and graduations. I mention this, not just to explain why I am feeling so tired, but to emphasise that there is lots going on in our parishes at the moment.
Reading back over some of the reports from the parish meetings for the ‘Building Hope’ process I was struck by the great hopes that parishioners have for themselves and others, especially the young. Because the ‘special’ Masses are only attended by those who are invited not everyone in the parish actually gets to see what happens when they are going on.
The First Communions were special because for the first time in two years the family were able to gather, all three generations, grandparents, parents and children. There is something very uplifting to see the pride the senior members of the family have when their own children bring their grandchildren for the sacraments. The children are so serious about their part in this special day and their teachers put extraordinary effort into making everyone feel included. The Communion Day comes at the end of a whole year of preparation and the children’s work books were testament to this.
At the weddings, there is huge joy in the celebration as the couple are surrounded by their invited guests, everyone a precious part of their lives. The actual wedding comes after months of preparation, multiple meetings with ourselves, a rehearsal and then the big day itself. The friends, of similar age to the couple, are rarely with us in church so it is especially good to see them.
Likewise, the Masses in school for end of year, or graduation, each one a celebration of gifts and talent, are well prepared and prayed sincerely. The teenagers are another cohort we don’t meet often at Mass so it is inspiring to hear their participation in word and song.
All of these ‘special’ moments might be the only experience of church that many people are having. I know that’s not perfect and that Sunday Mass is the ‘source and summit’ of our faith, but at least it brings people on the margins into contact with the faith community and we get to make them feel welcome here.
As we celebrate ‘Corpus Christi’ and move on with our reflections about the future of the parish, and the church, we need to keep an awareness of how to resource and support these ‘special’ moments along with the regular liturgies each day.