Earlier in the week I received a phone call asking me if I'd celebrate Mass at a special time over this weekend so some Distinguished Visitors could attend. They would be traveling Sunday (today), and otherwise unable to worship with a community.
I knew instantly that the only correct answer was, "Yes, Sir."
Not that I mind celebrating Mass, mind you! I love praying with people. I just knew that there would probably be some other -- better -- opportunity to pretend as if I had an objection. It was clear to me that *this* phone call was *not* that opportunity.
(I inherited from my father the penchant for kidding around, a legacy which has not proved much of a boon with certain individuals in the Army. It seems that some Soldiers either were born without senses of humor, or perhaps had theirs surgically removed in order to get promoted.)
Mass time was set for (rather early) Saturday morning. Because of this, as it turned out, a number of other things got rescheduled (but that's really neither here nor there). I was skeptical as to how many congregants would actually show up at that early hour on a Saturday, to be honest.
Over the next few days, I received numerous phone calls concerning the upcoming liturgy. I was beginning to get the impression that some people weren't sure I knew how to say Mass, or something. A Fragmentary Order (FRAGO) was even published, mentioning the occasion, but not the background (i.e., that we were going to have Distinguished Visitors).
Some people, in my estimation, seemed to get rather 'spun-up' as the week progressed, though others were decidedly underwhelmed.
For example, I mentioned this Mass at a Battalion meeting I go to with some regularity, and someone responded, "Early Saturday morning? But it's Super Bowl weekend!"
(Now, what something happening early SATURDAY morning would have to do with the Super Bowl, which begins around 0100 MONDAY morning (our time), is simply beyond my power to comprehend. But it seemed to make sense to the one who said it, so I let it go.)
Quite a number of Soldiers attended the Mass yesterday, as it turned out, despite the early hour and it being Super Bowl weekend. Our Distinguished Visitors wound up arriving some minutes late, so before their arrival I made as if to begin the liturgy in their absence, to the horror of some of those present. I said to the Assembly, "Well it's [time], and I've been told that everything in the Army starts on time, so perhaps we should just begin."
As I mentioned, I love to kid around!
At one point before the Mass, a Soldier who was quite energized -- or perhaps agitated -- had said to me, a bit accusingly, "Well, aren't *you* excited about our Distinguished Visitors?"
I responded, "I'm delighted we're all going to be praying together, and grateful as always for this opportunity to be of service to Soldiers and Civilians. But quite frankly -- and no disrespect meant to our guests -- since I believe that Christ himself shows up every time we celebrate the Eucharist, I guess my definition of 'Distinguished Visitor' and yours might be a bit different."
(Of course it should be clear, given that statement, that I'm NOT speaking officially for the Army, and I wouldn't want anyone to be "confused" about that!)
Blessings and peace to one and all,
Fr. Tim, SJ