A couple of years ago, one of our sons asked if he and a friend could go to a theater on the north side of Chicago on a Thursday night so they could attend the concert of their favorite indie band. What he was really asking was not only if we would allow him to go, but also if we would take them there, wait for them during the concert, and then bring them home. We live in Northern Indiana so without traffic this theater is two hours away. To be honest, arriving home well after 2:00 a.m. (due in part to a one hour time difference) was the last thing I wanted to do on a work night. I fully intended to say no. When my wife and his friend’s mom offered to make the trip together, however, I had no reason to object.
As fate would have it (I could almost see this coming), somehow both his friend’s mom and my wife had to back out of this commitment. So on the evening of the concert, I found myself wandering Chicago’s north side with no particular place to go and five hours to kill. Naturally, I pulled up my http://www.MassTimes.org smart phone app and went in search of a Eucharistic Adoration Chapel so I could put the time to good use.
(If you don’t know what Eucharistic Adoration means, here’s a brief note of explanation. At every Catholic Mass, the bread and the wine become the actual Body and Blood of Christ when the host (bread) is consecrated. Eucharistic Adoration is the practice of taking the consecrated host after Mass and putting it on display so that people can pray privately in front of it. It is a wonderful way for Catholics to spend time with Jesus.)
The church that I found was Our Lady of Lourdes in the Ravenswood neighborhood on Ashland Avenue. Not only did they have a Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel, but when I arrived I encountered an astonishing sight. The Adoration Chapel was actually an indoor stone Grotto, a replica of the Grotto in Lourdes, France, where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a little girl in 1859. Though it did not strike me as a beautiful work of art, it did strike me very strongly as a genuine and sincere expression of deep faith. I stayed there for five hours and witnessed nearly 50 people come and go in that time. It was amazing.
Yet, I was soon to encounter an even more astonishing sight. Over the main entry into the church is a stained glass window installed in 1916 which says:
Parish Motto: One member of every family at Daily Mass and Holy Communion.
I had to read it several times before it sunk in. Their parish expectation was not that every family would attend Mass on Sunday. They had a tradition of Mass attendance so strong that their parish motto proclaimed that a person from every family would attend Mass EVERY SINGLE DAY. In 50 years of walking God’s good earth, I had never seen nor heard of such a tradition at a Catholic parish. For a parish community not only to adopt such an ambitious motto but to go so far as to enshrine and display it permanently in a prominent location of their church is hard to fathom. Who today would dare challenge themselves to be this committed? Who today has this kind of audacity?
With several hours to ponder this, it got me to thinking, “Why should this be so shocking? Were the people of this parish one hundred years ago exceptionally audacious? Or has our Church grown exceptionally lukewarm?”
For two years since this discovery, I have continued to ask myself this question. The answer, if I am to be honest, is clear to me. They were focused. We have drifted. They were sane. We are crazy. If the Eucharist is truly the Real Presence of Jesus Christ Himself, if the Mass is truly what Christ commanded us to do, if the Mass truly contains the spiritual power and treasures that His early disciples understood it to have, if we truly believed what we as Catholics claim to believe, then why wouldn’t we go to Mass every single day?
What the heck is wrong with me? It seems common sense now strikes me as audacity. Something is amiss.