On Tuesday, September 21, 2010, we served as the choir for the Los Angels Catholic Prayer Breakfast Mass. Here is a discription, a bit lengthy, but what part could I leave out?!?!
5:09 a.m. I am just finishing getting ready to leave my cell when I hear the unmistakable sound of a diesel engine. “The bus is here,” I think to myself as I adjust my veil and open the door. I have just enough time to grab a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee. “Can’t sing on an empty stomach,” I think to myself.
5:23 a.m. The parking lot is lit only by the few flood lights but in the sketchy lighting I can see other sisters heading in the same direction. We are still in Grand Silence, so we refrain from exuberant greetings. One by one, in silence, we climb into the waiting bus. Hardly our normal morning routine, yet even without a word, the air is full of electric energy.
5:25 a.m. Sister Mary Scholastica conducts a roll call: 54 Carmelites and one Chaplain. Yes, we are all here. The bus starts and slowly we are on our way. Standing, Mother Regina Marie gives us a few directions for our morning prayers. We will recite the Divine Office together, but not in our usual choir sides. We will simply recite it in unison. “You know, one heart, one mind, one bus. We’re one!”
6:00 a.m. We arrive at our destination: the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Robert, a kind and attentive Cathedral volunteer, meets us at the door and leads us down what seems to be to be a maze of hallways and stairwells. Perhaps it is just the early morning hour. We begin our vocal warm ups. Seventy-five Carmelites united in song in an enclosed room, we sounded pretty good. Our director reminds us of a few things to watch for when we would sing in a few minutes for Mass, and then we are trekking back up the stairs and halls only to emerge in the choir section of the Cathedral.
6:55 a.m. Having prayed the Rosary with the bishops of the Archdiocese, we prepare to begin Mass. Eight bishops and a Cardinal leave the sanctuary to vest and we stand to sing our prelude: Life is Christ. In front of 1,500 people we proclaim in song that for us, our very life is Christ. Talk about putting your best foot forward! It is amazing.
7:00 a.m. Mass begins and three dozen priests process in, followed by eight bishops, and our own Cardinal Mahoney. The rest of the mass is a prayerful, moving experience. His Eminence shares in his homily on the beautiful aspects of our faith: that we are truly followers of Christ, that He calls us to reconciliation, and that we are to reach out to those most in need, often the marginalized and outcast.
7:30 a.m. (or so, I stopped looking at my watch a while ago) I am overwhelmed by the experience of this particular Liturgy. It is good, very good, to be so much at the heart of the life of our Archdiocese, to live out my vocation to be love in the heart of my Church in communion with my sisters. She who sings prays twice and so the prayers rising from this group of religious women, clothed in brown and white, singing from the depths of their hearts- it is more than I can fully take in. Praise God!
8:00 a.m. We are exiting the cathedral after Mass, and who do we meet? Cardinal Roger Mahoney! “You all sounded wonderful. Have you recorded any CDs?” After kissing his ring, I reply, “Yes, your Eminence, we have.” I make a mental note to see if we can’t get a CD or two sent to the Cardinal. The Plaza is swarming with people young and old, in clerics with and without pectoral crosses, religious and laity: this is my Church and I love her dearly.
8:30 a.m. Cardinal Mahoney stands to introduce the guest speaker, Archbishop Timothy Dolan. I have heard many beautiful things about him, and I was expecting a powerful presentation, but I was not prepared for what I am now hearing. Strong, humorous, logical, authoritative, humble, in short, truly virtuous. What are his three points? First, we should view the Church as our supernatural family. Catholicism is in our very DNA. Second, there is a need to revive authentic apologetics. This does not mean brutal argumentation, but rather the art of defending the faith with steady, humble, cheerful confidence. And lastly, there is the essential need to admit the sinful side of the Church. There is a definite connection between the wounded side of Christ and the Church which was drawn there from. It is not by accident that the first thing Christ did after His resurrection was show His wounds to His followers. The Body of Christ will always have wounds. As Archbishop Dolan speaks I am captured by the truth of his words and deeply moved, strengthened in my love for the Church which is weak and broken like me, but outside of which I would be completely lost.
9:05 a.m. While making my way back to the bus, suddenly I notice a bit of a gathering of sisters around a certain individual in dressed black. I see the cross and chain around his neck and immediately recognize the face of our incoming shepherd: Archbishop Jose Gomez. This man has held a special place in my heart from the first time I heard him speak several years ago when he was the presenter at a gathering in Orange County. Then, just a few months ago, in front of the entire Archdiocese, he set our Mother Foundress as an example for Christian living. And now I get to greet him. It is the absolute highlight of my day. There is time only to greet him, respectfully kiss his ring, and assure him of my prayers. He expresses sincere gratitude and it is time to move on. The line is long behind me and we were given specific directions to be on time or we would be walking home.
9:14 a.m. We are all aboard (another roll call has assured that.) Our generous benefactor who provided the transportation and seats for the breakfast climbs on as well to complement our singing at Mass and we express our gratitude with an energetic round of applause and a few bars of, “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” If it were not for him, this whole morning would have not happened for us. God bless him!
11:45 a.m. We have been home for a few hours now and have returned to our “regularly scheduled programming.” That is, we are back to see about lunch, do the laundry, have our meetings, clear the e-mail, and everything else that goes into the work Our Lord has entrusted to us. Now it is time for our mid-day Examen. Gathered in our Chapel, each sister individually looks back over the morning in order to identify where the Holy Spirit was moving and how she responded. All I can do is repeat my thanksgiving for the blessings received. The analogy of the heart comes to mind. The blood is sent out and brings life to the rest of the body, but it must then return to the heart to be renewed. We served in the midst of 1,500 Catholics and we were overjoyed to do so. But now we are again within the solitude of our Carmel, quietly busy about Our Father’s business. Oh, what a beautiful morning!