The air is heavy with noise: countless people laughing, singing, and whispering prayers. The air is cold but at the same time filled with supernatural warmth and expectation. The air is…well frankly, there’s not much air at all; most of the space is taken up by 20,000 + people who are squished together as they wait for the ceremony to begin. No, they are not waiting to get in to a Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift concert. Nor are they waiting out in the cold to get in to Wal-Mart on Black Friday. No, these 20,000-plus people have gathered for the Eucharistic celebration commemorating the infinite mercy of our God and Father.
I had the privilege of being part of the Mater Ecclesiae choir that sang for this incredible celebration. It was a little more than slightly intimidating to stand in front of that many people, including multiple video cameramen who would make it possible for millions more to watch the Mass from their homes. And yet for some reason, I wasn’t that nervous. I was too excited thinking about how our participation in the liturgy, as the choir, would help thousands of people to pray this event, and not just sit idly by and watch it.
The Mass began and all was going fine. The choir was sheltered from the wind by the walls of the outdoor shrine, but unfortunately the roof blocked the precious sunrays that spilled across the rest of the crowd outside in the field. Also, because we were singing and knew we needed to look professional and that the cameras would be on us, we couldn’t dress quite as warmly as the rest of the population. Needless to say, by the end most of us had at least one frozen body part. But the fact that we were quite cold did not diminish our enthusiasm, because we knew that, it being Divine Mercy Sunday, we could offer the cold for those who most need the mercy of God in their lives right now.
The music was beautiful and we didn’t have any major mishaps, but I think the most impressive part of the whole event was Holy Communion. The lines seemed endless; after we ended Mass and began the Divine Mercy Chaplet there were still some priests out in the field giving the Precious Body of Christ to the countless faithful who wanted to receive Him into their hearts on this special feast day in the Church. As I looked out into the sea of people, I couldn’t help but smile. What other institution could gather this many people together? For what other reason would 3,000 people freely choose to arrive 4 hours early to sit out in the cold just so they could have good seats where they could see the celebration? What inspires this fervor, this enthusiasm, this faith? Only the Catholic Church. Only a God who wishes to pour out his grace and mercy on his people, his beloved children.
Whoever says the Church is dying needs to check again, because what I saw that day was a Church that is alive. I saw a Church which sees its weakness and its need for God’s mercy. I saw a Church on fire with love. And I saw a Church in which the face of God was more present than ever. Let us thank God for the gift of His infinite mercy, which he continues to bestow on us every day, and ask for the grace to be merciful to others so that in turn our loving God may be merciful to us!