Thursday, January 25, 2018

Celebrating Life

Written by  Jim Nakoneshny

This past Thursday, I was observing the thousands of people make their way through the Cathedral to venerate the visiting relic of St. Francis Xavier. It was a unique encounter for many, and more than a few were quite obviously moved by the experience. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, there was nothing exceptionally unusual about it for us (aside from the presence of a 500 year-old arm). Each year many unique and varied activities take place in our facility. As a result, I can generally be found in the church during many of these events since one of my roles on staff is to run the sound system. So over the past six years I have had a front row seat (well, technically back row) as all kinds of different functions and celebrations have been held at our Cathedral.

These range from the mundane to the obscure, with little seemingly connecting one to the other. Many are obvious and expected, such as Sunday Masses, School Masses and other typical seasonal liturgies. On top of that are special Diocesan Celebrations with the Bishop, including ordinations or the annual Chrism Mass. Recently I was on hand as we celebrated the Installation Mass of our newest Bishop.

In addition to these I’ve been at special cultural liturgies celebrated almost entirely in Vietnamese and Tagalog. It’s a moving experience to see so many people who are a world away from their countries of origin yet being able to reconnect with the rituals of their upbringing. I’ve seen tears shed as old familiar songs are sung in this new and far away location.

I’ve heard Jewish Holocaust Survivors pass on their stories to thousands of young school students and observed the funeral rites for a Russian Orthodox Bishop. Since 2012 I’ve been at about 30 Grade 8 Farewells as young teenagers left behind the familiar and marked the transition to high school. An additional 20 high school graduations saw the process repeated on a larger scale as some 2,500 students embarked towards the next stage of their lives.

From my chair at the back I’ve witnessed hundreds of weddings with admiring couples pledging to form new lives together. I’ve also been at dozens of funerals as families gather to mourn the lives of a loved one, sharing those stories which show the impact they had made on those around them. Add to this mix all of the baptisms, confirmations, anniversaries, prayers, concerts, memorials and other celebrations which we see each year.

On the surface it would appear that these things have little, if anything, in common – aside from the fact that they happened to take place in a church. But perhaps that’s the point. As a faith community isn’t it our role to be here to share those highs and lows, marking the milestones of life? From marriage to birth, through school and beyond we can help each other share these celebrations. Life goes on 7 days a week. We are the Church. We are Holy Family.

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