Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Don't Get Lost in the Big City

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Don't Get Lost in the Big City

Article excerpt

Weekday Mass reflects what's best in our often confused urban lives.

THE 6TH-CENTURY BISHOP CAESARIUS OF ARLES wrote, "There are two cities, dearest brethren. The first is the city of the world, the second, the city of paradise. The good Christian is always journeying in the city of the world, but ... is recognized as a citizen of the city of paradise." As a person who works in the downtown area of a large city, I see the "city of the world" close-up every day.

Cities can have great beauty, excitement, and cultural and commercial resources, and can provide a tremendous sense of independence and possibility. But they can also overwhelm with the darker side of the human experience. Dirt, noise, and scenes of misery assault one from all sides. And while many decent city people are trying to live lives of integrity and generosity, caring for themselves, their families, and their communities, the city also serves as a backdrop for the myriad ways people try to hustle things out of each other--money, status, careers, sex.

In the midst of this whirlwind, I have come to value the experience of weekday Mass in a city church. Rather than being an escape from the chaos, weekday Mass in the city teaches me not only about the church but also about the world the church serves.

Weekday Mass, especially in a bustling city, shows a different face from the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. More quiet, relaxed, and contemplative, weekday Mass lacks the busyness and intensity of Sunday. During the week one can participate in the Mass reduced to its simplest form--and more on one's own terms.

The weekday Mass crowd also creates a community in the isolation and anonymity of the city. "I didn't see Don today," someone says to another as we leave the church. But the stranger, too, has a place at this table; all kinds of people--from executives to street people--have a place. The poor are not abstract: They're there in the pew next to you, and this seems fitting. "To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren," says the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

But the thing I like best about weekday Mass is the way it lifts up the city and what rules the city much of the time: self-interest. …

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