Monday, June 22, 2009
This weekend I enjoyed some time relaxing, sleeping late, going to the movies and hanging out with friends. On Sunday morning I decided to try going to Mass some place different and used www.masstimes.org to find a Catholic Church. After scanning over the choices I decided upon the 9:30am Mass at St. Benedict the Moor parish in the north end of Omaha. The Mass noted that it included a Gospel choir so I knew I would be in for a treat. I grabbed my fellow Manchester seminarian Kyle and I was off. After going a round about route with the GPS we arrived on a small run down block in one of the worst sections of town. From the outside, the Church looked in pretty bad shape. However, I did notice there were a ton of cars lined up along both sides of the street. As we were walking in we also noticed a police car parked out front, which is never a good sign. Not thinking much of it however, we kept going. As we entered the Church we passed several older dignified African-American women with giant hats making there way into the Church at the same time.
As expected we were two of a handful of white people in the place, and stuck out like a soar thumbs. The church was pretty well filled and the choir was beautifully singing in the way only a Gospel choir can. A few moments later the police officer we had previously seen outside, made his way in and went into the sacristy. About five minutes later the deacon came out from the sacristy and announced the start of Mass would be delayed ten minutes. Not sure of what would come next I nervously awaited his explanation. He declared "Mass will be delayed this morning because Father's car was stolen from the parking lot during the previous Mass he celebrated. The police are here to take his report." Immediately I knew that that was not a good sign when the priest's car is stolen from the parking lot during Mass. Good thing I do not own a Toyota Camry, the number choice of car thieves, oh wait....
A few minutes later Mass started and was beautiful. There was a beautiful sense of community amongst all those present, and it truly exemplified the way every parish community should be. The rigidity that sometimes accompanies people attending Masses in New England was gone and instead there was a sense of togetherness. There was a true sense of the joy of Christ all around us. The sign of peace lasted ten minutes and most everyone made there way around the Church to meet and welcome us. During his homily Father preached beautifully about Father's day and the importance of fathers. He also addressed many of the serious challenges facing the African-American community today, and did so in a very direct, but loving manner. I left St. Benedict's refreshed and filled with the Spirit. It was a great morning indeed!
On a side note Father did take the car theft in great stride. He joked, hardly missing a beat, "they did not get much, I feel bad for them. I had a 1992 Oldsmobile with 220,000 miles."
One thing that did strike me was what happened after the final blessing. Everyone sat down and the deacon read the announcements. Then they invited any guests to stand and introduce themselves. After this they had people who wanted to announce birthdays and make announcements stand up and do so. For the next ten minutes people stood up to announce birthdays of family members and those they cared about (in a very prayerful way as most of whom was recognized were not in attendance- aunts, uncles, grand kids, etc..). Other people recognized their fathers (Happy Father's Day dad!), their kids for honor roll, etc.. It was beautiful and solidified my experience all the more. Off to bed it is 12:30am and I know the morning will come early.
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