16 March, 2008

Palm Sunday

My Palm Sunday began with a stark contrast to the antiphon I breathed at the opening of morning prayer:

An immense throng that had come for the festival exclaimed,
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!
(Translated from the Italian.)

A great crowd, indeed. I stood alone in the doorway of the local parish church, taking shelter from the rain, reading Morning Prayer. Why? There was no Mass, and every door was locked. At ten-thirty in the morning, both sidewalk and road lay deserted.

If I deciphered a sign on the door correctly, this parish is one of a community of three parishes that alternate masses. I stood at the threshold of St. Theresia's church, which had their mass the evening before; St. Rochus had their mass this morning. Sts. Peter and Paul have no mass at all this week. If I had found this web page last week, the story might have been very different.

This sounds strongly like a consequence of the dismal numbers of recruits to the priesthood in certain parts of the world. The parish itself is a nice building in a somewhat Romanesque style, with a modern plaster wall. What little I saw of the interior sported fine construction materials. It looked as if it also had a private school for children. Alas, not a soul arrived for this morning's festival.

Dejected, I finished Morning Prayer, surprised to find that I remember the tune to En acétum, fel, arúndo. I returned the book to its protective plastic bag and headed back for the Guesthouse. I passed one or two people walking dogs, and that was all. Quite a stark contrast to the antiphon of Morning Prayer.

Ten or fifteen minutes later, I arrived, prepared my lunch, turned on the tube, and started channel surfing.

The Vatican Mass! I caught everything from the consecration onwards. The choir sang exquisitely beautiful music, most memorably a lovely rendition of Anima Christi, followed by an Italian hymn set to Bach's Passion Chorale (think, O Sacred Head Surrounded).

After the Mass, the Pope said something in Italian that I couldn't understand, on account of a German priest was translating it for the listener. (Can't say I blame him, seeing as how I was watching a German channel.) I only caught a few words here and there. I divined his words on Iraq, which drove subsequent news stories, especially considering the recent kidnapping and murder of an Iraqi archbishop, but I didn't make out these words, which bear repeating:
To recognize God, we must abandon the pride that dazzles us, that seeks to push us away from God. ...[W]e must learn to see with a young heart, one which isn't blocked by prejudice and dazzled by interests.

It occurred to me at one point that it was rather unfortunate to have the Pope's Mass broadcast. I reckon I'd affirm the primacy of the Bishop of Rome quicker than many Catholics, but I've wondered if the centralization of media attentions on the pope and the Vatican, rather than on the sacred activities that go on elsewhere in the Catholic world—and there is an elsewhere to the Catholic world—give undue importance to a Mass conducted by the Pope, and (perhaps) make one miss the point.

The reason I say this is because I caught myself thinking at one point, Maybe I can take my children there one day during Mass. I had just seen a man holding a young girl on his shoulders, and thought how nice it would be for them to receive communion from the Pope.

Then I realized, No! At every mass, no matter where, someone infinitely greater than the Pope is present, and we receive him more intimately than one could ever be with the Pope.

Today, unfortunately, I was able only to stand near this personage, and not to receive him.

No comments: