8/22 Deacon Jim’s Discourse
Going to Church During Summer Vacation
My parents were faithful churchgoers and longtime members of a local Protestant church here in Rockford. We never missed a Sunday. I always enjoyed going. My parents loved to camp and travel and took us kids along as we went from Yellowstone to Florida to the Smoky Mountains. Many of these were longer, summer trips, so inevitably we were away from our local church on many Sundays. In fact, very often we found ourselves in a new park in a new state as each Sunday rolled around, but with that came a problem. Since our home church was largely a denomination unto itself, it was always a challenge to find the right church to attend while away. We did not want to find ourselves in an uncomfortable environment or worship style that was unfamiliar. The trouble was blindly finding a church that worshipped and believed like our church back home. This was long before the internet, so all we had to go by were the church signs and often these were not that helpful. The sign might read something like, “Full Gospel Church” or “Shiloh Church.” These names did not help us that much. Not willing to take a risk, we often gave up and started making up our own church services right in our camper. Looking back on it, this was probably good training for being a Catholic deacon. My wife, Jean, and I just returned from being away from our parish for three Sundays in a row. We attended Sunday Mass in two different states and three different cities. We also attended a couple of daily Masses and even snuck in some adoration and a confession – at two additional parish locations. Through all of this, we neither wondered where to go nor what to expect at the liturgy. We were welcomed by brothers and sisters and shared the Eucharist with fellow Catholics. There were a couple of additional pleasantries from visiting these parishes. First, we met a priest in Pennsylvania who went to the seminary with one of our Grand Rapids priest friends. Secondly, totally by chance, we ran into OLC parishioners at the parish in Bar Harbor, ME – the Ladyman family. That was a delightful surprise and another one of those little miracles where God remains anonymous. I view these extra coincidences as holy reminders that God blesses our efforts to pause, worship and give thanks even on vacation. There is great beauty in being a member of the Church that Christ founded. We always have a sacred, sacramental home wherever we travel on this earth. I have been to Mass in the USA, Bermuda, Aruba, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Italy, Ethiopia and the Vatican, and have at the same time, been right at home. The word catholic means universal. Christ’s Church, like Christ himself, is universally available wherever your travels take you.
Deacon Jim Hessler