Vacation from work, not from Mass

At a recent Sunday Mass in Crawley, England, where I was vacationing, I heard the priest say something during his homily that I have known and has affected me and many others for a long time. He said it is natural to desire to hear the word of God in our own language.
In his homily, Msgr. Tony Barry, pastor of St. Francis and St. Anthony Church (The Friary) in Crawley, said the last time he had heard the Gospel of that Sunday, the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, it was read in French while he was visiting France. “It was not the same as if I would have heard it in English,” he said to the congregation.
Msgr. Barry reflected on Pope Francis’ words on the homily in the Holy Father’s recent Apostolic Exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium.”  Msgr. Barry quoted from paragraph 139: “Christian preaching thus finds in the heart of people and their culture a source of living water, which helps the preacher to know what must be said and how to say it. Just as all of us like to be spoken to in our mother tongue, so too in the faith we like to be spoken to in our “mother culture,” our native language (cf. 2 Macc  7:21, 27), and our heart is better disposed to listen. This language is a kind of music which inspires encouragement, strength and enthusiasm.”
These words made my heart burn because there was a time in my life when I went to Mass but I could understand very little of what was said. That was in 1976 when I came to the United States to attend school at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Going to Mass has always been very important to me but during that time I usually felt that something was missing because I couldn’t understand was what said during the homily and in other parts of the celebration. I continued going to church every Sunday nonetheless and as time passed I could understand better but my desire to be able to attend the liturgy in my native language has never diminish.
The Diocese of Jackson has made a great effort to serve the Spanish-speaking Catholics who have made Mississippi their home. In 1974, Msgr. Michael Flannery, present pastor of Madison St. Francis of Assisi Parish, began to celebrate Mass in Spanish in Rosedale, Cleveland, Aligator, Hill House and Shelby for the few Hispanics migrants living in the Delta.
By Christmas of 1979 a Mass in Spanish began to be celebrated in the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Jackson every Sunday. That Mass  continues to be celebrated every Sunday at 2 p.m.
As the Hispanic population increased in the diocese other communities began celebrating Mass in Spanish. Presently there are 23 parishes and missions celebrating Mass in Spanish and three have bilingual services. Also, to keep the faith alive among those who can’t read English, since 1997 the diocese started publishing a four-page insert in Spanish in Mississippi Catholic which now runs once a month.
The diocesan office of Hispanic Ministry is very active and offers workshops in Liturgy, leadership and a School of Ministry. So, I can say with certainty that our diocese has been doing what Pope Frances preaches in his “Evangelii Gaudium.”
As all practicing Catholics should, finding Mass on Sunday while travelling is challenging but necessary. So, being in England and Ireland with two friends and fellow St. Therese parishioners, Teresa Preuss and Esperanza Velasquez,  we starting looking for a church to attend.
Searching on her iPad, Teresa found a church very near the hotel where we were staying in Crawley, a city 28 miles south of London. The church, St. Francis and St. Anthony, was across from a restaurant where we had eaten several times but had not realized it was a Catholic church!
It is a special experience to attend Mass in a different country and it is even more special when we are invited to serve in it. Esperanza was asked to bring the gifts to the altar during the offertory at the 11:30 a.m. Mass.
The church, as in many churches in Europe, has two small chapels inside where people gather before and after Mass to pray and to light candles.
We had a peculiar experience the following Sunday while we were standing outside the Dublin, Ireland, airport looking for a shuttle bus to take us to a hotel. Suddenly, we heard bells ringing. We wondered from where the sound of the bells’ ringing was coming. We walked around the building and there it was, a Catholic church, Our Lady Queen of Heaven – outside the airport! It was just a one-minute walk from the arrivals terminal  near the parking garage.
It was 11 a.m. and Mass was just starting. We walked in with suitcases in hand  and sat down in the back of the church to worship our Lord, one who is very much in hand when we need comfort and when we need to fulfill our Sunday obligation.
Curious about how their bulletins might look, I found out they are just like many in our diocese, with information about parish life and events. The bulletin of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Church in Dublin, “The Peoples Mass,” includes the Introduction of the Rites and the Liturgy of the World.
We also toured St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the Anglican cathedral of the Diocese of London; and in Dublin we visited St. Patrick Cathedral, the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland, a church of the Anglican communion. Its present building dates back to 1220 and was originally the Catholic cathedral.
At all these places of worship I prayed for three specific matters: for peace in the world, for the well being of my family and friends and for all the people of the Diocese of Jackson. There is a saying that when one visits a church for first time prayers for three specific intentions may be offered and God might grant them. I hope God heard my prayers!