I am often asked by the teens I work with what my favorite Mass experience has been. Since I can remember Easter Vigil Mass, the Saturday before Easter Sunday has always had a special place in my heart. As a child, I looked forward to this Mass every year which my parents found ironic since it was the longest Mass of the year and I would often complain that Mass was too long. Yet, despite this Mass lasting over an hour every single year, I found myself attracted to the transition of darkness to light that this Mass beckoned me into. I often found myself wishing that the reality of this Easter Vigil Mass would be a constant experience for me every Sunday, but weeks later the pull I had felt towards Mass on that Saturday evening would fade and I would pick up my tune of “Mass is boring, Mass is too long”.
Sometimes God needs to take you halfway across the world to open your eyes to the reality of Mass. Sometimes He will do it in the moments you least expect it.
It was a Saturday morning in Bologna, Italy. It was chilly and I was bitter that my friend refused to break the Mass fast with me (friends, I really wanted a cappuccino and a croissant). We had traveled late Friday night into this small city to finally visit in person the tomb of St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order. Having both come from a Dominican college, we had learned and engaged in all the stories of St. Dominic with our peers and professors. Finally, we were both going to stand at the tomb that held the body of the man who had so deeply influenced both our lives.
The Church for that Saturday morning Mass was empty except for a few older folks who seemed to know their way around. The windows were starting to light up the darker corners of the large Church with the morning sun. My friend and I made our way to the first pew (despite my protest of wanting to sit in the back #typical). I yawned, hoping silently that mass would progress quickly because even though I was 21, walking into Church I would turn into 12-year-old me thinking about what I wanted to eat after Mass.
And then the Priest walked out and bowed in front of the altar.
This instant of Mass is one I will never forget. I was suddenly transported back to my fond memories of my favorite Mass as a child. Despite the language barrier, I began to feel the beckoning call I had felt before that drew me into the mystery of the Mass, of the transition from darkness to light, death to life. At the consecration of the Eucharist, it became clear to me that it was not the darkness of the Church that I was attracted to as a child at Easter Vigil Mass; it was not the lighting of candles or the beautifully sung Easter Proclamation. All of these led up to the pinnacle of the Eucharist, and that was which beckoned me and called me in a way I had never experienced before. It was in that Church in Bologna that I felt the veil torn from my eyes, and I realized the promise of the Easter season that I loved so much, was really a promise that I participated in every single Sunday. Strip it all away, and still, the Eucharist remains.
To God be all the Glory.