Bells Soon to Ring

Shrine Serra banner

If you’re on the St. Andrew/Roanoke-Catholic campus at 4pm, you will hear the church bells ring. Why? To welcome our Holy Father to our country. All church bells will sound because: the pope, universal shepherd, successor of St. Peter in the Apostolic See, Vicar of Christ—here with us.

At Holy Mass today, we read from the book of Ezra about the house of God, and we sing Psalm 122, about going to God’s house. I know that a homily is hardly the appropriate opportunity to offer you my personal memoirs, but…

Tomorrow I will be at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Twenty-one years ago, I graduated from college on the steps of that house of God. Twelve years ago, I was ordained a priest inside.

I have spent more hours of my life praying in that building that I could ever count. In college, I did a paper on the architecture. I learned how to swing a thurible in there. I chanted the gospel there when I was a transitional deacon. I said Mass there on the first anniversary of my father’s death. I have been a pilgrim there, taken pilgrims there, heard pilgrims’ confessions there, said Mass for pilgrims there.

That building is a great house of God, a stronghold of prayer, high on a hill, visible from great distances. (Like St. Andrews!)

Pope Francis will do quite a few things while he’s here with us in the US. One of the big ones is: He will canonize a saint. A saint who lies in a tomb in Carmel, California. (I visited it in 2014.) An organizer, a builder, a man of enormous love, a patron of seminarians. I have loved Father Junipero Serra for twenty years.

Also, in my twenties, I knew a good number of Jesuits. Pope Francis reminds me very much of some of them, of how they thought and what they paid attention to.

Forgive me. I’m just a little overwhelmed by how one single day will draw together for me so many strands of memory and affection. A little pilgrimage to concelebrate with the Pope, that encapsulates 25 years of my life.

When you reach middle age, you hardly expect so much of your life to come together, in focus, on one single day. May God be praised!

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3 thoughts on “Bells Soon to Ring

  1. May God be praised indeed! It is your love and fidelity to our Lord that make the strands come together so beautifully.
    Sandra
    P.S. I was blessed to get two tickets to the canonization mass, so I will also be there tomorrow (with my beautiful daughter.) We may not see each other, my good and gentle Father, (I will be in SRO, Section E,) but it will be an added joy to once again, after all these years, attend a mass that you are (con)celebrating.

  2. Clearly your Master ( and mine ) thinks highly of ‘ Sandhill Cranes! I am exceedingly happy for you Fr. Mark!

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