We attended 11 liturgies, some celebrated by church dignitaries like Superior General of the Society of Jesus Adolfo Nicolás, S.J., in massive auditoriums and others celebrated by a Uruguayan Jesuit in tinroofed huts. Each congregation radiated such positive energy. It was rejuvenating. “Alleluias” sang with gusto. “Glory to God” proclaimed in a manner fit for glorifying God. I never before experienced such inviting, active liturgies. We weren’t just praying with our mouths, either. Clapping and dancing are staples of Brazilian Masses. Hands, feet and hips team up for a full-body prayer experience. As my congregation of peers dipped and swayed to zesty South American hymns, I smiled unabashedly, filled with hope. Young
what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.” Astonished. It was a long time since I had allowed myself to luxuriate in that rejuvenating mixture of surprise, awe and presence. Feeling burdened by political issues facing the Catholic Church today, I fell into a rut. What a grace it was, then, to find myself swimming in a sea of astonishment just 19 days after I arrived in Brazil. I’m happy to report the Catholic Church astonished me in many ways during this pilgrimage. Who knew Mass could be such fun?
of Capim Grosso, whose people embraced and served complete strangers with generous, unconditional love. He was manifest in the Jesuits I met along the way, whose pastoral care and wise insights made for many thought-provoking conversations. He was manifest in my fellow pilgrims, whose blisters and bunions left tangible evidence of their commitment to share the Good News with all corners of the world. And I believe Christ was manifest in me. I used to worry about being judged and sounding pompous for saying that God works through me, but this experience gave me the confidence to accept my discipleship. God works through all of us in different ways. I’m no longer ashamed to take ownership of that. In fact, I have a responsibility to my calling because God has big plans for me, just as He does for each of His children. As Oliver wrote: “… my work … is mostly standing still and learning
“Who knew that Mass could be such fun?” Catholics can be engaged in liturgy. That witness was astonishing. Seeing the universality of the church in a very literal way astonished me, too. The dictionary tells me Catholic means “universal,” but before this experience, that was just a concept, a nice thought. Then we got to Copacabana Beach, and I was surrounded by 3 million brothers and sisters waving flags from all nations and speaking in all different languages. So often in this world, differences are divisive. But in this case, the diversity made our Catholic family more beautiful. We were together in glorious chaos, praising the same God. The experience was astonishing. Christ’s active presence left me truly amazed. He was manifest in the town
to be astonished.” Boarding the plane home, her poetry still in tow, I felt more ready than ever to enter into the joys and struggles of the incredible Catholic Church. What a journey. I laughed. I cried. I walked. I danced. I played. I prayed. I stood up. m