Fr. Michael Woods was a little disappointed that I was going to miss yesterday’s second annual outdoor Mass at All Saints Catholic Church. I was there last year and served as a lector. “All Saints Coming Together” pushes some people out of their comfort zone. My wife and I know of several fellow parishioners who refused to attend and made plans to visit a neighboring parish. All Saints has five Masses per weekend, each with its own regular congregation. Fr. Michael’s intention is to unite the groups via one large celebration that is too big for the church building to hold. Popular Catholic blogger Frank Weathers attended and wrote a nice piece about it. WBIR covered it again this year, focusing on the new bilingual angle now that All Saints has added a Spanish-language Mass on Saturday nights.
Last year and this year, the outdoor Mass fell on the same weekend that my son returned to college. Last year my wife took him back to school and missed the outdoor Mass. This year we did the opposite. The trip put me in St. Louis on Saturday evening, so I made plans to attend a vigil Mass. Over the years I’ve done some church tourism throughout St. Louis. My family and I have attended Mass at the Cathedral Basilica, an African-American parish and Bishop Stika’s former parish among others. I often try to seek out a Mass celebrated by Fr. Gary Braun, who was a mentor to my friend Fr. Ragan Schriver. I also listen to many of his homilies online. He’s been to Knoxville a couple of times. He was here for Bishop Stika’s ordination and he was here to speak at a retreat for the priests of the diocese. As a result, he knows Fr. Michael Woods.
This old teaching story comes from the great African savannahs where life pours forth in the form of teeming, feeding herds. As the herds eat their way across the plains, lions wait in the tall grass nearby, anticipating the chance to prey upon the grazing animals. In preparation, they send the oldest and weakest members of the pride away from the rest of the hunting pack. Having lost much of their strength and most of their teeth, the roar of the old ones is far greater than their ability to bite.
The old lions go off and settle in the grass directly across from where the strong and hungry lions wait and watch. As the herd enters the area between the hunting pack and the old lions, the old ones roar mightily. At the sound of the roaring, most of the herd panics. Blinded by fear, they turn and flee from the seeming source of danger. As they rush wildly in the opposite direction, they run right to where the strongest lions wait in the tall grass for dinner to arrive.
“Run towards the roar,” the old people used to tell the young ones. When faced with great danger in this world, run towards the roaring, go where you fear to go, for only there will you find some safety and a way through danger. Trouble that is faced when it first appears can be the roar that awakens a person’s deepest resources. In times of trouble or tragedy, a person either steps into life more fully or else slips into a diminished life characterized by fear and anxiety.
After Mass, I told Fr. Gary about the outdoor Mass at All Saints and asked for his prayers. He sent his regards, which I relayed via the following text message to Fr. Michael: “Fr. Gary Braun sends prayers for tomorrow’s outdoor Mass. He said to tell you something from his homily: ‘run towards the roar!’ I will explain soon.”
My wife called me as soon as the outdoor Mass was over. She was exited to tell me about Fr. Michael’s homily. In it, he read the text I had sent and said that the first thing he did Sunday morning was Google “run towards the roar.” He built his own sermon around Meade’s article. Last night, one of my Facebook friends posted that “run towards the roar” was her new mantra and several friends “liked it.” Thanks to the Internet, they can now watch Fr. Gary’s homily to see how it compares to Fr. Michael’s.