The Mass is the heartbeat of the Church.
We called her Bamas.
She was my dad’s mom. She had a collection of unique accents in her home that I always loved as a kid. Her blown-glass balls sparkling in the windows. Her vintage Mrs. Butterworths jars lining the shelf in the foyer. Her statues of portly friars adorning the living room.
By my favorite was the tangle of brass bells hanging on her door.
Every time we walked in, they clanged a welcoming hello. And every time we left they jangled farewell and come back soon.
Her bells never failed to announce the arrival or departure of a guest. They hung faithfully on her door all the years of my childhood. It was a comforting sound.
It was the sound of home.
After my son Legend was born, there was a flurry of activity in our hospital room. Doctors and nurses had to check everything and everyone. We welcomed a stream of family to meet our precious bundle. Overnight the nurses returned to take vitals on mom and baby, and administer medications.
The next day, the activity calmed down. My husband went home to get a shower and visit our big kids. Legend and I had our first few quiet moments alone together.
I figured it was the perfect time for a nap, so I bundled up the baby and laid him down in his tiny plastic hospital bassinet. He started to squeak and grunt.
So I picked him up. Changed him. Laid him back down.
I tried rocking and feeding and burping him. But every time I put him down: squeak, grunt.
No nap for Legend. No nap for mommy.
I gave in and decided just to snuggle him. I unwrapped him and laid him on my chest. His eyes peeled open and darted left and right. He listened for a moment.
He found my heartbeat.
His arms and legs relaxed. His heavy eyelids drooped closed and he settled in for a long rest. He knew that sound.
It was the sound of love.
The familiar sound of the home he knew for the entire 9 months of his life. The home he’d just evacuated. It was still here for him. I was here for him. He could hear it, and he knew it.
It comforted him.
The Heartbeat of the Church
As I kneel in the front pew of our parish, I’m surrounded by quiet. But the quiet is filled with tiny, familiar background noises. The click of the radiators as they pour out heat. The voices of children whispering to their parents. The creak of the ancient wooden doors welcoming another parishioner.
I cherish the sure voice of our pastor celebrating the Mass. The beautiful choir leading us in song. The ringing bells announcing the arrival of Jesus during the consecration. All the sounds I’ve grown to know and love; they tell me I’m home.
But, even more than these sounds that let me know my parish apart from any other, I love the sounds of the universal Church. No matter where you go, the liturgy and celebration are the same.
The Lord be with you… And with your spirit.
This is my Body… This is my Blood.
Go in peace… Thanks be to God.
The pace of the Mass, the format, the succession, the high point. They’re always the same. No matter how different the parish sights and sounds might be, the Mass never changes.
We recognize the words of the liturgy. They welcome and greet us every week. They comfort us with the word of God. They bid us farewell.
The entire Mass speaks of Jesus’ love for us. When we’re there, we know we’re home. Saints and sinners, all. The rich, the poor, the young, and the old. The joyful, the brokenhearted. All are welcome; all are loved.
Week after week, the faithful are invited to celebrate the salvation offered us through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. We’re invited to take part in the Feast of the Holy Eucharist. To receive our God, and give Him all our love in return.
Whether we’re near or far from where we live, the Mass lets us know we belong.
It’s the heartbeat of the Catholic Church.
It’s the sound of love.
The sound of home.
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