Sunday, June 24, 2012

At Home Away From Home, In An Unfamiliar Parish

My younger son and I are in Bedford, New York, visiting with my parents and with my sister and her children, who live next door. My family only recently moved to  Bedford and for me, something is so powerful about attending Mass in an unfamiliar place.

I spent today with my son and one of my nieces, playing Scrabble and then having water gun fights and swimming. After a long busy day, I then drove a mile down the road to St. Patrick's Church with my son for the 5:30 Mass.

Except for the monseigneur, who was a priest in my childhood parish growing up, my son and I didn't know any of the 200 or so souls in the sanctuary. A lot about the church is different than the parish we now attend; the music was contemporary, the pews were filled with parents with multiple children and the celebrant, Fr. Joseph Domfeh Boateng, spoke beautifully, but with a Ghanese accent I had to work to follow.

Despite my dislocation, I felt right at home. The ultimate reason, I suppose, for feeling at home is that we Catholics believe in the Eucharist and that no matter where we travel, if we attend a Catholic Mass, we are privileged to partake of Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

Because of this belief, we are expected and honored to go to Mass every Sunday. And so the sight of a gray-haired mother in a sundress and slip-on sneakers and her 12 year old in summer shorts and flip flops was not unexpected or unwelcome.

I could sense the families attending Mass were happy to be there, that they were full of joy to be there. In his homily, Father Boeteng reminded us that we Christians are to be like headlights to friends and family, to all we encounter in a culture that has fallen apart. Because we struggle every moment with sin, he said, it is important to remember that we are not here only for ourselves and our selfish agendas, but to be a loving Presence, much as St. John the Baptist, whose feast we celebrate today, understood he was called to lead others to Christ.

 "He must increase, but I must decrease."


  1. One of the many beautiful things about being Catholic - the universality. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Amen! This is a great post. I too find great joy in this one universal aspect of our faith. May we pray to keep this uncompromised and forever unified so that we as Catholics can always be "home away from home" wherever the Eucharistic Celebration is taking place.

  3. When I backpacked through Europe at age 25, this is exactly what meant the most to me in every country. Although I did not understand the language, I understood perfectly the Mass, and the Church made my feel at home, less homesick. Same words, same Jesus, direct Continent.