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Weekends around our house are usually filled with activity. There’s the baseline dance class, martial arts, teen work schedules, parish service, and of course, Mass. Often, however, at least one or two extras seem to creep into the calendar. Sometimes, the who’s-going-where-at-what-time gets to a dizzying level of complexity.
Coordination is indisputably the lion’s share of what I do. One thing I have learned again and again is that making a good entrance depends a lot on the kind of exit you made just before it. Once we’ve arrived at wherever we’re going for whatever purpose, things are fine. It’s everything that has to happen before we walk out the door that makes us spin. You can’t just have your child show up at a classmate’s birthday party. You have to R.S.V.P., shop for a gift, wrap it, sign a card, and remember to take it along with you. You need to make sure that she’s dressed appropriately for whatever kind of party it is. And, you also have to make sure that your daughter’s music bag is in the car, so you have it when the party ends and you drive your child directly to her piano lesson.
A couple of weekends ago, our family took part in a few very well planned and highly coordinated events. Some of us volunteered at or attended the Boston Catholic Men’s and Women’s Conferences, and all of us traveled to Yankee Stadium as part of the Archdiocese of Boston’s group at the papal Mass. Despite the busyness and long hours involved, the whole time felt a lot like the retreat from our daily lives we all needed.
As we sat together waiting for the pope to arrive, we could all feel the excitement building. The concert that preceded Mass reached a kind of crescendo, and suddenly, many large silk birds were carried out on sticks to “fly” around the field. The pageantry was simply beautiful. Even more awe spread throughout the crowd, though, when a flock of live doves was released, and circled the field several times before disappearing. Just then, the popemobile appeared. Benedict entered the field waving, and the crowd erupted in joy.
It occurred to me in that moment, that heaven would be a lot like that. Hosts of believers would all be gathered in one place. We would be uplifted by music, pageantry; all things beautiful would surround us. Yet that would simply be to orchestrate and prepare for the entrance of the One all humanity had hoped for: the shepherd and guardian of our souls. Dressed in glowing white, Jesus would appear--but not in a “Christmobile” surrounded by secret service agents to protect him. It wouldn’t matter where you were seated, or how powerful your telephoto camera lens was. Everyone would see Jesus face to face. Even more importantly, he would see every one of us as if each one of us were the only person there.
As the Holy Father disappeared into the New York dugout to vest for Mass, my mind flashed back to the Friday evening before at the Boston Catholic Women’s Conference. I suddenly realized that what I had just imagined of heaven had been present there in the form of a eucharistic procession. There, more than 2,000 women dropped to their knees as Jesus, the Bread of Life, entered the main hall. Feeling the wave of joy that comes from the real presence of Christ among us, we responded with song and praise and tears of recognition. This was not merely a piece of bread framed by ornate metalwork. This was and is Jesus, the Lord. Father Michael Harrington and the Little Brothers of St. Francis brought heaven to that hall at Boston College. They did so, simply by assisting Jesus to make an entrance--not only into a venue space-- but into the hearts of those gathered there in his name. They carried Christ there, not just with a monstrance, candles, and incense, but by the power of their own love for him.
God wishes to make such entrances on a daily basis. While we live in this world, it is his desire to draw us into the next. Ultimately, the task we all have in service to the Lord is to do the prep work necessary to make those entrances both smooth and beautiful. We don’t have to plan the event, just coordinate whatever it takes for us to get there. It is our calling to gather his people; to get the word out that he is coming; to let the world know that he is here, and that in the kingdom of heaven he is preparing a place for us.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an author, speaker, musician and serves as faith formation coordinator at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Lynnfield.