Friday, May 15, 2009

Long Time Coming - The Mission Report

It's been a month since the mission and I should have written sooner to let all of you know how it went. My mind has been elsewhere since the mission so I apologize for the absence.

Well, how did the mission go? The actual Wednesday night to Sunday morning went amazingly well. Lots of seeds were planted in the neighborhood, but now the hard part comes. What do we have to offer the people who come to the parish for the first time? How do we maintain contact with the people we met while going door-to-door so a relationship is built and through relationship we bring them to the Church? How do we ensure that "the mission" becomes a way of thinking for the parishioners and is not just something we did for 4 days over Easter? Yes, these are the thoughts that fill my mind now as I look at our after-mission plan and see that it is lacking, if not non-existent. How do we reap the fruits of the mission and water the seeds that were sown?

But, back to the Triduum mission and all we did. It really was amazing. I was gone Holy Saturday and Easter so I can report only second-hand for those days, but Wednesday night to Friday was pretty darn great. If I were to write about everything, this post would be really long so I will try to capture the spirit of the mission in as few sentences as possible.

Imagine about 25-30 missionaries gathered in the church basement. This group was made up of people being formed in the parish through our School of St. Paul, people from out of state who did the Emmanuel School of Mission in Rome for 9 months, and friends and family of these two groups who wanted to join us. So we had this great crew and when the 2 hour evangelization time rolled around each day (Thurs-Sat), I'd pair them up and send them out into the neighborhood armed with a map highlighted with the streets they should visit, mission flyers, and loving hearts. Two hours later they'd return and we'd gather in a circle to share about the people we met and to pray for them. People went out into the streets timidly, but when they returned they were so full of joy at the people they met and the witness they were able to give. It was beautiful.
There were other opportunities to witness to the neighborhood besides the door-to-door evangelization. The surprise story of the mission was the Living Stations of the Cross that we did on Good Friday, 3 pm. I had a motley crew of youth, young adults, and adults to coordinate for this project and what a task it was up until the minute we got started. But then, the Holy Spirit took over and did wonders with our unprepared actors. We started with a group of about 100 people from the parish who joined us for our Way of the Cross through the neighborhood. What a sight we made, this large group of people surrounding a guy carrying a large cross, as we walked past a large city park, an art museum, and ended at a smaller city park. People stopped to look as they drove by. Others from the park joined us for the rest of the stations. When it came time for the crucifixion and the guards tied our "Jesus" to the cross and then lifted him up above the people, it was like we were watching Jesus on Calvary. That was a powerful moment for me. And then, once the station came to place Jesus in the tomb, our "Jesus" was placed on a table and carried two blocks back to the church, where he was laid before the altar. Oh, man, it was so great. In the end, what we do is not the important part. God worked through our weak offering and made it beautiful.

The last aspect of the mission that I would like to comment on is the Triduum liturgies. In my opinion it is very difficult for a normal parish to have beautiful liturgies for the Triduum. There is just so much that goes into them: tons of music, unfamiliar rituals, lots of movement among the people. It's just hard for a standard parish to give the preparation time the liturgies need to be beautiful. Granted, I know every liturgy is beautiful if we could see with the eyes of God, but let's be honest. Good singing helps. Well, I only saw two of the four liturgies (Thursday and Friday), but I think we did a pretty dang good job. On Holy Thursday Fr. Joseph processed in and incensed the altar, which had large candlestick altar candles, something you might see at St. Peter's. We could have been in Rome at that point; it was that reverent and holy. Given the history of the parish and the crazy pseudo-liturgies that were happening there before Fr. Joseph arrived, it was all the more beautiful. That sacred space probably hasn't seen such high-Mass pomp and circumstance in a long time. And while I wasn't there for the Vigil, I heard some people described it as the best Mass they have ever been to, even though it was three hours long with only 4 of the 7 possible readings. There were lots of sacraments received at the Vigil.

Well, there is a taste of what we did during the Triduum mission. If you want to know more, I am more than willing to talk your ear off about it. We will have to look for the fruits, keeping in mind that the Lord shows you just enough to keep you encouraged. With only two weeks left at the parish, my mind turns to Pentecost. We will pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the SSP students on Friday night and then on Saturday we have a time of mission in the park, with singing to attract people so we can invite them to adore the Eucharistic Lord. Hopefully we have good weather.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Prayer needed

News about the mission soon, I promise. In the meantime, please pray for me and my confidence in God's plan. I can think of no other time in my life when my faith has been so strongly tested than it has been the past week or two.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing..." - Ps. 23:1