A Memorable Mass

by Randell Labio

North Texas Catholic contributor

World Youth Day pilgrims from the Diocese of Fort Worth stand in front of the Chair of St. Peter after celebrating Mass in the basilica. (Photo by Chris West)

Now that I have returned home from our pilgrimage, I cannot help but pause and reflect on the many experiences we had during the two weeks we were in Europe.

Since we had Bishop Olson with us as well as some priests and seminarians, they made it a point for us to have Mass each day of our pilgrimage. Some of these Masses were quite memorable because we were able to have Mass at significant churches and shrines, especially in Rome.

By far, I think the most memorable Mass for me was at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. Not only was the basilica exceedingly breathtaking to behold, but we had the rare opportunity to have Mass at the altar of the Chair of St. Peter. It is the main, non-papal altar at the back of the basilica. Above the altar sits the actual chair used by St. Peter himself when he was Bishop of Rome. The relic is enclosed in a sculpted gilt bronze casing. For our clergy, I am sure they were simply in awe to be able to celebrate Mass in such a place and at such an altar.

Randell Labio

For me, what made this Mass memorable was my frustration at this Mass. I know that sounds crazy, but I was somewhat frustrated at hearing multiple other Masses going on during our Mass. Though it was early morning when we had our Mass, other groups were using the various altars throughout St. Peter’s for their own Masses. Since St. Peter’s is breathtakingly large, sounds and voices seemed to carry and echo throughout more noticeably. I could tell that there were at least two other large groups having Mass based on their singing of Mass parts, and I found it challenging to focus on our own Mass especially during the readings and Bishop Olson’s homily.

Despite feeling frustrated, I strived to focus on our own Mass. After reflecting on this some more afterwards, I realized how awesome and beautiful it was to hear multiple Masses being celebrated. Why? Because it's a reflection of the Church as a whole. Masses are being celebrated all the time around the world, and I never really have opportunities to appreciate that fact since I'm rarely in situations where multiple Masses are happening at once at proximate locations.

Although it took me getting initially frustrated at this Mass at the altar of the Chair of St. Peter, I now have a better appreciation and experience of the universal Church. Having Mass with multiple other Masses going on at St. Peter's helped me appreciate how Mass allows us to encounter Jesus Christ as His Body, no matter our cultural backgrounds and time zones. Mass is Mass. It is the highest form of Christian worship.

Randell is a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Keller. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Young Catholic Professionals Fort Worth Chapter, and volunteers as an acolyte, reader, and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. He also teaches high school youth as a catechist.

Now that I have returned home from our pilgrimage, I cannot help but pause and reflect on the many experiences we had during the two weeks we were in Europe.

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