May 29, 2020

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Let the Holy Spirit nurture joy in our hearts for the Eucharist

Sean GallagherPhilip was overjoyed when he ran to me. A bright smile shone on his face. He was so happy that his arms waved back and forth and he couldn’t stop jumping up and down.

My 10-year-old son wanted to share with me some news that fulfilled a great desire of his heart: to worship at Mass once again in our parish’s church.

On May 18, we received a call from our parish in which we were offered the chance to take part in Mass the next morning. It was to be the first day on which weekday Masses could be celebrated according to the plan for the resumption of the public celebration of the sacraments in central and southern Indiana.

But no more than 25 people could come to the Mass. That was because our parish is in Marion County, which, at the time, had a stay-at-home order related to the COVID-19 pandemic that restricted the size of indoor religious gatherings to that size.

So, our parish set up a fair system to offer as many of its members as possible the opportunity to come to Mass. Members are randomly called and given the chance to attend a particular Mass. Once they give their answer—accepting or declining the offer—their names were put at the bottom of the call list.

Our family happened to be called for the first public Mass in the parish in more than two months.

Hearing that we had the chance to worship at that Mass was wonderful for me to hear. But seeing my son Philip so overjoyed at the opportunity may have made me even more glad as a father.

My wife Cindy and I have tried through the years, with the help of God’s grace, to nurture a love for our faith in our five sons. So, it was a joy to see that love shine forth so enthusiastically in Philip.

Now I can’t say that he embraces the faith so well in all aspects of his life. On our way to Mass the next morning, Philip and one of his brothers squabbled a good bit. But it’s no different from me. I certainly have daily struggles in living out my faith more completely.

Seeing Philip’s joy in knowing he could finally return to Mass, though, was a poignant illustration of what our Lord taught his first disciples, that “unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3) and “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Lk 18:16).

Philip and all of us have been prevented from coming to our Lord in our churches for the past two months for a good reason, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Now that our state is starting to open up again and Catholics are beginning to be able to participate anew in the Eucharist, the source and summit of the life of the Church, may the Holy Spirit nurture in our hearts the joy that overflowed from Philip’s heart at the chance to share in so great a gift.

May the Holy Spirit, whose coming upon the Apostles in the first Pentecost we celebrate this weekend, come anew into all of our hearts so that we may value more consciously and joyously each Mass that we’re given the chance to worship at.

And may that Holy Spirit bind us ever more closely to our brothers and sisters in faith who, because of their age or medical condition, cannot yet join with us before the altar of the Lord. May all of us soon be able to share in the joy of the Eucharist that I saw shine so brightly on Philip’s face. †

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