When we look at Jesus on the cross this way, it changes everything. We can’t look at our lives and others the same. We can’t help but desire to be more deeply conformed to the cross. We want to be more like him. We want him to change those parts of us that do not reflect the greatness of his love.
Those were the reflections on the first Friday of September, as a friend of mine celebrated his 10,000th Mass. In a chapel packed with Sisters of Life, it was a joyously weepy celebration, where the love for Jesus was so palpable. Nothing in the world compares to what God gives us in the Mass.
Number 10,000 happened to be at one of my favorite places in New York City, the holy respite home where the Sister of Life live with pregnant women and young mothers and their children. The sisters are the answer to a promise the late Cardinal John O’Connor made to women: If you are pregnant and in need, the Catholic Church will help you.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan has re-upped that promise, and one of the reasons I love praying there is that you almost always hear the healthy cries of a baby or two and joyful singing. You are surrounded by authentic Christianity there because the sisters don’t just keep their joy in the chapel, but they bring Eucharistic love everywhere they go; they are a tremendous blessing to the streets of New York. In a city and state that can be brutal to people in need, their maternal heart finds a home in Jesus’ Sacred Heart, and it radiates throughout the hallways and the city.
The priest, Father Roger J. Landry, is from the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, and currently works at the Holy See Mission at the United Nations. I’ve been to more than a few of those 10,000 Masses over the years, and he always pours himself out in loving service at the Mass and in the world. At a time when we’re inundated with news about scandals, the gift of faithful priests are treasures for which to give thanks and pray for.
I walked away from that Mass feeling overwhelmed with the love of God for his people. We don’t have a lot of time here on earth — we never know when our lives may end. And so Father Landry keeps going. He doesn’t waste time. Whether it’s the sacraments or spiritual direction or a retreat, he always seems to make sure to make time for someone in need. He knows the challenges of the spiritual life and does not abandon those who ask, acting as an instrument of our God who never abandons us, who is always loving us.
A priest is supposed to celebrate every Mass as it were his first, last and only Mass. And the sight of a priest who truly prays the Mass with a solemn exuberance draws the faithful deeper into the life of the Trinity.
Reflecting on his 10,000th Mass, Father Landry wrote, “Each Mass is meant to be cherished, because in each we engage in what our faith teaches us is the most important event that happens that day in the world, when the Son of God miraculously becomes incarnate on the altar.”
During a priest’s ordination Mass, the bishop says, “Know what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.” When you see a priest prayerfully living those words to the best of his ability with real trust in God’s providence, the only proper response is to beg God that the priest may always live in this way, and that you may always join him, wherever you are, in being who we say we are as Christians — whatever God asks of us.
The world would look different if we cherished every Mass as it truly is and should be — the source and summit of our lives.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.