Yesterday an interesting dimension of city culture intersected with our faith life. Three very loud individuals, one with a LOUDspeaker, stood on the sidewalk outside our parish church in the middle of the vigil mass. They screamed at the facade of our building about all the disagreements they have with our understanding of divine revelation and the role of the clergy in the Church. They were not protesting anything political. These folks identified themselves as Christians.
Washingtonians know all too well of the sidewalk shouter. We see them all the time outside the edifices of civil government, sometimes near financial institutions or even NGO’s (that’s non-governemtnal organizations for all those outside the Beltway). It’s rare to see such demonstrations outside of a Church at Sunday worship… and I suppose it’s even rarer to see protesters outside a Church speaking about Biblical issues. Nonetheless, there they were yesterday evening outside our front door.
What made me so proud was [obviously] nothing to do with the the people on the sidewalk, but rather our people. Mass went on uninterrupted despite the blurred voice of a loudspeaker outside the walls. Our prayer was, as always, peaceful and focused on offering the sacrifices of the last week to the Father in union with Chirst on the altar. That’s us, that’s the Church… a joyful, peaceful, sacrificial people who go about our Gospel business unhindered by the chaos of the world. It reminds me of St. Thomas Becket ordering the doors of his Cathedral opened for Evening Prayer even though he knew his assassins waited just outside… or Blessed Oscar Romero heroically preaching a peaceful middle way between two sides of a civil war raging around the Church. The Church is so beautiful in her constancy… her fidelity to her mission no matter what is going on outside. Yesterday, in a small but beautiful way, our people experienced that; they lived it out. I’m so very proud of them.
After mass ended the folks on the sidewalk eventually stopped. Perhaps their voices had grown horse. Perhaps their loudspeaker battery died… whatever the cause, when it was all over the bells of our tower rang the Angelus as they do every day at six: a beautiful, sober, constant tone reminding all that the living of Christ’s life goes on unabated by the storms of the world. I’m so proud!