I was in my third year of college the first time he played for me. Sitting under a tree at a local park, he strummed the guitar gently, crooning songs of love for God and His wondrous mercy. Three decades later, I’m certain that from the first chord struck, my fate was sealed: A long and happy marriage to this man was in my future.
But not every song expressing love for God belongs in a Catholic church at Mass. I express this as a huge fan of contemporary Christian music. I listen to it every day and am moved by the deep faith that inspires it.
I broach this topic because recently my beloved and I arrived for Mass, ready to pray and worship God. Yet in those few moments before the liturgy began, the people around us — unfamiliar to us as we were seated away from our usual spot — carried on long and rather loud conversations. On the one hand, I’m sure God rejoices that they have come to His house and that they have fellow believers whom they love. On the other hand, once those initial greetings are over, it would be helpful if we could have silence to prepare our hearts for the gift of the Mass.
I write this not to judge or condemn but to point out that there seems to be something missing in some parishes today — an awareness that when we enter a Catholic church, there’s a tabernacle that contains the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
My heart is moved to pray for my fellow Catholics who may not realize that as they sit in church they are in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We know from Pew Research numbers that only about half of Catholics have that awareness. I’m no saint myself, and I pray that God in His mercy will forgive me my many sins, faults and failures.
This brings me back to the opening hymn the day my fellow parishioners were chatting in the pews before Mass. The words of the song were directed at God and the refrain declared He was welcome among us. Meaning, You, God, are welcome here in our church. Though I’d heard the song many times before (and liked it), in that moment, it struck me that singing such a refrain in a Catholic church in front of a tabernacle doesn’t make sense. It would be akin to being invited to someone’s home and, upon arrival, telling your host that he is welcome in his own home!
Let me emphasize that the subsequent hymns were fabulous. God bless all those in music ministry for sharing their gifts with us and helping us worship. The ideal hymns for Mass move our hearts but also express fundamental truths of the Catholic faith. Telling God He is welcome in a particular place is a song you might sing while strumming your guitar under a tree in the park, but probably not before a tabernacle. He is already there.
Every time we enter our church and see the red lamp lit beside the tabernacle, we are in the True Presence of Christ. Let us fall to our knees in humble Adoration, worshipping Him in truth and leaving the friendly conversations for after Mass.