Last evening I celebrated Mass for a small number of the Great River Teens Encounter Christ community. There were around sixty people in attendance, fewer than what I expected, but good nonetheless. You can never been too sure of the turn out for a cancelled weekend. Many faces I recognized, many I did not, and there were many who had neither met me nor seen me before but somehow knew me nonetheless through mutual friends.
It is a humbling thought to realize that my reputation very often precedes me, and has since my college days. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but it does save time with introductions! Seriously, though, I wonder if we fully understood how many people already know something of us because of what others have said about us - more often not through slander but truthful statements - how we might change our attitudes and the decisions we make. It is, I think, a call to a deeper and more pure love, to love with the love of Christ himself, as our Holy Father continually reminds us. It is a call to truly be, as St. Clare of Assisi says, the mirror of Christ.
The Mass itself - even though celebrated in a gynmasium because the chapel cannot normally hold all those who attend - was quiet (even with several babies and toddlers), moving and beautiful.
Most of the music was of a "praise and worship" style but was so very well executed it truly was prayerful and truly united those gathered. It reminded me that Gregorian Chant - may its revival be soon! - does hold the pride of place, as it were, but other forms of music are pemissable, as well, and fitting from time to time.
The music played last night was not overpoweringly loud and the people actually sang the songs together with the choir. My typical experience is that the "band" performs while the people stand there paying little attention becuase the quality of music is poor and they don't like the songs anyway.
The music last night actually seemed to fit into the Liturgy, rather than my common experience of feeling as though I - as the priest - only happened to be present to do something when the "band" was not doing something else. Such was not the case last night and my deep gratitude goes out to the choir.
I can safely say that this is a most unique community, one truly focused upon and blessed richly by the Crucified and Risen Lord. It was a great joy to be with them again last night and I eagerly look forward to being with a larger group of them again soon, though I know not when that might be.