I don't know about you, but I have needed my faith now more than ever. In the Religion of Sport "Stephen vs. The Game: Season 2, Episode 5 on Faith" Curry says "I think my faith is more about the personal relationship rather than following a certain tradition or religious practice.” Though I know his words resonate with many, they are not true for me. One important way I practice my Catholic faith is through participation in Sunday Mass. Thanks to communal, public worship, I hear the word of God, I listen to how it speaks to us today, I receive the Eucharist, I pray and I sing. I imagine not much of this is resonating with anyone right now as most public church gatherings have been closed since March. However, I write with "just one" invitation..."just one" suggestion. My hope it that "just one" person will take it.
As soon as shelter in place took hold, I joined the Boles family in watching mass online. My dear friend Eileen had heard about Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD and their regular streaming service to worship online. Through even more technology—Facetime— together we watched Sunday liturgy in our respective homes. We each began by lighting a candle and I was able to see how their family brought the rituals of the Mass into their living room. It was a joy for me to see how much they dig the music and share in the sign of peace in a new way. Turning on and tuning in to mass has been a wonderful way to begin the Sabbath. Truly, we have been nourished by the outstanding homilies. Thank you Father Michael White!
I went to this online service for two reasons. One, Eileen, Thomas and James invited me to join them. Second, I was curious about this Church of the Nativity. It is the subject of "Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter." Whereas so many Catholic parishes in the US are on life support, consolidating and closing, Nativity is ever growing and teaching other parishes how they have and continue to do it. The book is fantastic; it is honest, optimistic and surprising. I highly recommend this great read!
If the Boles family had not asked me to join them, I'm not sure I would have started going to on-line mass. I hope I would have followed the direction of my local parish, but I don't know if I would have stayed with it. An invitation always makes a significant difference. It takes "Just one...."
This however, is where the story takes a new turn. Easter Sunday at Church of the Nativity brought a different schedule. A close friend from Notre Dame invited me to join him for mass, via Zoom, with our mutual friend Father Tom Doyle, C.S.C. I know Father Tom from my time in the Alliance for Catholic Education. We hold a number of friends in common, many of who are on the Sunday Zoom mass. Seeing everyone in their respective homes simply adds to the joy of what has become a true virtual community. Because of Father Tom's beautiful spirituality, his story telling, his ability to make us laugh and give certain suspects a hard time, I honestly look forward to beginning my Sunday with my 8:00 a.m. mass.
The core group of attendees are Father Tom's classmates and friends. The majority of these men swam for the Fighting Irish. Their coach, Tim Welsh is a frequent lector and weekly e-communicant. If this isn't an example of Sports and Spirituality, I don't know what is. I have thought many times that I hope we can one day have mass, in person together.
I gave a talk this last week entitled "Seven Things I Learned from online mass." Father Tom and Father White have modeled ways for me as a teacher to build community. I'm enriched. I am grateful. I am blessed. Every week, I have invited "Just One" person to log-in and attend with us. I do this because I believe in the movement. I think it's one for both sports and spirituality.
Adam Schupak, editor of NCGA magazine wrote:
Speaking of healthy, golf is one of the healthiest and safest ways to enjoy some fresh air and be active as we deal with the realities imposed by COVID-19, so get out and play!....While you're at it, why not bring a newbie to join you? My friend Bill Gierring offers his own solution to "growing the game." His grassroots solution calls for each golfer to introduce "Just One" new person to the game.
In a five year stretch, he introduced golf to five different people. Four of them became weekend warriors, one joined a country club and his niece started a local league for new women golfers. They all started playing for different reasons—health, the joy of competition, to meet new friends.
"I didn't share any magic message, because I don't have any," he said. "I was encouraging and I did share with them how much I love the game."
We all start for different reasons, but we all continue because golf finds a way to fill a place in our hearts and souls."
The message and philosophy of "Just One" as it relates to golf resonates with me and my faith. I don't have a magic message. I have loved being a part of two virtual faith communities. I will continue to invite "Just One" person a week to log in at a 8:00 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Growing the faith has never been up to me—that is God's work....but one of my favorite sports stats is the assist. So here is the information for Church of the Nativity. Give it a shot OR share with me your own story of online worship during this time.
Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter
Boles Family Peace!