Fr. Gary Braun started Mass by saying that small gatherings like ours were how the early Church grew during times of persecution. The Catholic Student Center at Washington University in St. Louis doesn’t normally offer a Saturday vigil Mass. Fr. Gary celebrated one for my family last night since we would be hitting the road at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday. The Mass intention was for my wife’s late brother, Bill.
We gathered around a table in the backyard of the CSC. The congregation numbered six. My wife, my son and I were joined by my son’s suite-mate and his parents. I proclaimed both readings and my wife sang the responsorial psalm. I was pleased that Fr. Gary delivered a homily-in-progress from the notes he was working on for Sunday’s Mass. The theme of radical optimism was a callback to his Easter homily. After Mass, Fr. Gary cleansed his chalice in the backyard waterfall. It served as a perfect sacrarium.
My wife’s uncle was Fr. George Griesedieck. He married us and baptized our daughter. Whenever Fr. George visited my in-laws in Northern Virginia, he would celebrate a family Mass in their living room. My father-in-law usually served as lector. The rest of the family sat on the couch or on the floor.
I remember that my grandparents had a priest friend named Fr. Jack Conway. He would celebrate a family Mass when he visited their vacation home in Noyac. One year, my relatives had a spirited discussion about whether one aunt could receive Communion at the private vigil service after she had attended a Saturday morning Mass in town.
The thing I remember most about Fr. Jack was his love of funny poems, such as those by Ogden Nash. He would recite classics such as this one that I still remember today:
One bright day in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys got up to fight.
Back-to-back they faced each other,
Pulled out their swords and shot each other.
Two deaf policemen heard the noise
And came to kill the two dead boys.