Sunday, July 20, 2014
A Peaceful Oasis
About two weeks ago, one of my dearest friends paid me a visit to celebrate Fourth of July. We took a road trip to Pharr, Texas, to visit St. Jude's Parish and Shrine. The experience was extraordinary.
For several weeks, I have been experiencing so much pain and sadness on many levels. For a while, it almost seemed as though this trip would never come. But, when my friend stepped off the escalator, I felt such joy.
The joy hit its zenith when we got to Pharr and spent time with the Oratorians, the priests who serve St. Jude's. Their charism is very liturgical. They bring to reality the beauty of the sacred liturgy, as taught by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Almost immediately, I began to experience a profound peace.
We had Mass in the Extraordinary Form. One does not need to have a hand missal to follow along. All one needs is a heart and soul willing to take in the beauty of this form of the Mass and a spirit eager to unite itself in prayer with the celebrant. I cried, but, it was not because of the profound sadness that I had been experiencing prior to the trip. The tears were more of a release. It was a deep sense of interior peace that I had not experienced in years. After Mass, we spent time with the Oratorians and the seminarians. They radiated joy. Even the parish pets were joyful.
On Sunday, we returned to St. Jude's for Mass. This time, I experienced the Ordinary Form in Latin (readings and homily were preached in the vernacular, in this case English). The chants were in Latin as well and Mass was celebrated Ad Orientem. Two children were going to receive Holy Communion for the first time. It was the first time that I had experienced the liturgy as Vatican II really meant for it to be. I had been in a liturgical desert for so long that this particular liturgy was a most welcome oasis. The chants were familiar as were the prayers. Even the first communicants and their families were praying. The Gospel reading was particularly applicable to my situation: "Come to me all who labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest." The Lord knew my deep struggles and led this weary black sheep to a place of refreshment. In the homily, the celebrant talked about how the Lord continues to give us strength for our trials and tribulations through the Holy Eucharist. At the Offertory, we sang Jesu Dulcis Memoria. Everything was new and yet familiar. During the Eucharistic prayer, I cried again, more tears of joy flowed. I prayed with all my heart, asking the Lord to please stay with me and help me through my trials.
After Mass, I paid a visit to the outdoor shrine. It was silent and peaceful. People brought their concerns, struggles and troubles to St. Jude. I joined them, lighting my candle and asking the holy Apostle for his assistance.
Before dropping my friend off at the airport, I thanked him for coming and for giving me the opportunity to experience such profound peace. After his plane took off, I drove back to Pharr. I met up with the Oratorians and thanked the Fathers once more for the profound experience.
Like St. Peter, I did not want to leave Mount Tabor. I did not want to face the trials and tribulations that awaited me in Laredo. But, the experience remains engraved in my heart and in my soul. A few days after the trip, I was dealt a very difficult blow and yet, what I experienced in Pharr is sustaining me. Yes, I have been frustrated because of this precarious situation, but, something happened to me at St. Jude's that I cannot explain.
The Oratorians, with their love and gracious hospitality, gave me the opportunity to experience the beauty and the majesty of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. They proved Pope Benedict's point about the importance of beauty and are celebrandi in the sacred liturgy. I know that I have to contend with liturgical messes down here; however, I know that I have a welcome respite from the madness just two hours away.