Within the last few weeks, there has been a considerable amount of negative publicity about the Catholic Church, much of it justified. For that reason, I have decided to talk to my friends via the blog about a number of things that I find delightful and encouraging about life inside the Catholic Church. Today, I am going to talk about our liturgical unity across the planet.
Most of my priestly life has been spent in Texas but over the years, I have done a considerable amount of travel in Europe, South America and even a little bit in Africa. Wherever I went in those countries, I was completely at home when it came to celebrating or attending Mass. There is a wonderful unity in the celebration of Eucharist and it extends across the entire planet. This fact was even more true prior to 1965 when the Church relaxed its position that Mass should always be celebrated in the Latin language. After that year, the individual countries were able to use the language dominant to this or that country. It was a much appreciated change and it has been seen as a real gift over the last 50 years. While there will always be some Catholics who regret the loss of Latin, most of us would never want to go back to it.
Apart from the language issues, there is still, however, wonderful liturgical unity in the Church. The format, the signs, the symbols are uniform across the planet even if the language shifts from nation to nation. If you slide into a pew in Mexico City or Paris, you may not know the language but you are perfectly comfortable with what is going on. Many central city parishes that are used to having a vast flow of tourists passing through make available various translations of the services.
When you look at the Church as a totality, it is truly awesome. There are roughly one billion, two hundred million members living their faith in about 200 countries under extraordinarily different circumstances. Who knows how many languages are used by the people who form the Church. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that there is a strong bond of unity that is very real, very important and is at the center of Church life. That bond is the sacred liturgy. Whether we gather in small communities or great throngs, we gather about the altar to celebrate the fact that Jesus is still with us, we are one with him and through him we are one with each other.