Monday, July 28, 2008

WYD in Syd—Part 4

I was awakened the morning of Tuesday, July 15, by a phone call from a producer for "A Current Affair." The call didn't come as a total shock, as I had been profiled along with 20-year-old Melbourne chastity advocate Ruth Russell in the previous day's Australian, but it did require me to hastily put on a "TV outfit" and change my plans to go straight to St. Augustine's in Balmain, where I was to give a talk sponsored by the Latin Mass-loving young-adult group Juventutem that afternoon.

After Ruth and I got verbally battered with prurient questions (one of which was so none-of-your-beezwax that I outright refused to answer it) by the "Current Affair" reporter, I managed to escape to St. Augustine's.

I arrived at the church (which was quite lovely) in a hurry at about 12:15 p.m., thinking I had missed the 11 a.m. Tridentine Mass. As I was about to hustle on through the front door, I was arrested by the sight of a man on his knees, just outside the front door, facing the interior. It turned out the Mass was still going on; it was the moment of consecration. I knelt too. There was a strange and beautiful moment of silence, strange in that we were just outside the church, and yet the street and the air around us felt so peaceful. Then it came time to stand, and I managed to find my way to a back pew for the rest of the Mass, making a spiritual Communion as the others stood up. (It didn't seem right to get into line when I arrived that late.)

The church was well nigh packed. I suppose that if you consider there were some 400,000 pilgrims and this was the only daily Latin Mass, it wasn't a huge percentage of the pilgrims numberswise. But, for the Juventutem faithful, I am sure it was a wonderful opportunity to see that hundreds of their young-adult peers shared their love for the beauty of the old Mass. Their level of devotion certainly inspired me.

After Mass, I located Hugh Henry, who had been in the choir (I think he was directing it that day as well), and with his help found a room in the rectory where I spent a half-hour getting my notes together for my talk. When I emerged, I went to the hall where I was to give my talk and asked the parish priest, Father Joe, for a blessing.

"You don't want me," he said humbly, with a smile. "I'm the wrong rite."

For a moment, my brow wrinkled quizzically. Surely Juventutem couldn't have held its Mass in an Anglican church?

Then he blessed me and I realized with a laugh that he had been joking. He simply meant he only knew how to bless me in English, not like the traddie Juventutem priests would have done.

More tomorrow ...