The 2007 movie, The Bucket List, was about two terminally ill men on a road trip with a wish list of things to do before they kicked the proverbial “bucket”. The movie inspired millions of people, whether they were ill or healthy, to start their own “bucket list.”
May I be so bold as to add attending a Dedication Mass to every Catholic’s bucket list? Yes, I believe I can.
Last weekend our home parish, St. Vincent de Paul, dedicated its main worship space. In Cristobal’s post last week, he shared some of the church history, a link to the parish’s Facebook page and videos from the parish’s seminarian, Tom Reitmeyer, that outlined the many things that take place during the Mass.
For weeks, my husband and I debated whether we should attend. We have five children, ages 11 to 3, and we knew it would be a long, albeit beautiful, Mass. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if it would rank as a good or bad parenting decision. As it turns out, the kids did remarkable and going to that Mass was truly one of our best decisions as parents. Hey, we all need a win sometimes, don’t we?
There is a 21-page program that outlined all the details, but I’d like to share a few moments that really touched my heart.
The weekend prior to the Dedication, relics from St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marrilac were exposed in our parish’s chapel. Hundreds of parishioners, our family included, took time to stop in at the chapel and pray. I’ve always heard of relics being placed beneath the altar and seen the area where they reside. However, this time, I saw the relics I prayed before being placed beneath the altar by the Bishop and then the granite sealed. I’m not sure it’s possible to fully describe the awe and holiness in that moment.
Shortly after the deposition of the relics, Bishop Vasquez anointed the altar because it is the image of Christ. The program shared this passage, taken from Revelation 21:14-16.
“The altar is Christ, who is the head of the body, so the walls, standing for the whole building, represent the people, who are the Church. Twelve locations are anointed and marked with a cross signifying that the Church is an image of the holy city of Jerusalem. The Church consists of the old and the new Israel, and the foundation stones of the new Israel are the twelve apostles.”
Bishop Vasquez removed his vestment, donned an apron, and poured chrism on the altar, and with his hands, spread the holy oil over the altar. It was most certainly a God moment. Every eye in the sanctuary was fixed on his motions, drawn to the holiness of that act. It was profound and beautiful and moving all in one. In addition to the altar, every cross in the sanctuary was also blessed with holy oil as Bishop Vasquez, the Pastor and the Associate Pastor made the sign of the cross below every one.
Covering of the Altar and Placement of the Flowers
As I read this entry in the program, I really didn’t give it a second thought. It was just a cursory moment when we had to cover the altar to prepare for communion. I was so wrong. To see people that you knew, people that serve our parish, cover the altar so lovingly and adorn the space with flowers may have been the most powerful moment for me for one simple reason: they acted out of love for Christ. They were the body of Christ personified and it was just spectacular to see their actions speak so loudly.
Per Catholic tradition, the majority of the Mass is conducted in the dark, with no artificial lighting. At first, I didn’t notice the difference. But, shortly after the covering of the altar and placement of the flowers, the Bishop presented the Deacon a lighted candle and proclaimed: “Light of Christ, shine forth in the Church and bring all nations to the fullness of truth.” The church lit up like a roman candle. The overhead lights, the side lights, the candles and the Christmas tree all came blazing on in an instant. You could hear the collective gasp of delight. Awesome!
At the end of Mass, we took a family photo and it was only then that we checked our watches. Mass lasted two and a half hours, yet we scarcely realized it was that long! Perhaps it was the good behavior of our children or the fascination of all things new. Whatever the reason, it was a life-changing Mass for our entire family.
St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us!
A special thanks to dedication photographer, Renee Blood, for use of her photos.