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Meeting at Mass

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As my community celebrated Mass Oct. 16 in our chapel here in Culver City, Calif., a young man was marrying the love of his life during a wedding Mass at a parish in Staten Island, N.Y. The groom's parents have been friends of our community in New York for 35 years, and I have known them since Josh was a little tyke. We asked our chaplain here to celebrate the Mass for the intentions of the happy couple.

During the preparation of the gifts, several thoughts and memories gathered within me. Some may take a mental break during this brief waiting period and allow distractions to tussle with the will to pay attention. It happens to me! But in this moment, time fell away.

I recalled the last Catholic wedding I attended and how impressed I was again with the rich catechesis formed by the readings, prayers, and the ritual itself. Do young Catholics getting married understand their covenant, sanctioned by God's promise of grace to live their vocation? Are they able to take all this in? Are they ever invited to go back and contemplate this liturgical experience in times of trouble?

Then I thought about something I read just this past week about the Catholic Jews of Amsterdam who were rounded up and killed in Auschwitz in 1942 in retaliation for the letter of Archbishop de Jong protesting the Nazi's persecution of the Jews. One convert wrote about her preparation for baptism; her sponsor had immersed her in the liturgy. The liturgy became her life.

Just a few days ago a Catholic author from New York, whom I met on Facebook through mutual friends, stopped by and we had a wonderful, far ranging conversation. She spoke of her passion for the liturgy, her current ministry, and how it was the daily liturgy at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York in the early 1990s that brought her back to the church.

I think it was Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr, who said that one day, when you really listen to the words of consecration at Mass, you will profoundly understand what Christ has done, and you will weep.

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The opening prayer of Saturday's Mass commemorated St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), the Visitation nun whose private revelations about the Sacred Heart of Jesus have become so meaningful to Catholic spiritual tradition. It reads in part: "May we all come to know the love of Christ, which surpasses all human understanding, and be filled with the fullness of God."

At the very same time my community and I celebrated liturgy in California, the literary and real encounters of this past week were with me as Josh and his bride conferred the sacrament of matrimony on one another. Across years, miles, and vocations, we met at the Eucharist. I wept.

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