Starting Point
This week's stories | Home Page
Issue Date:  January 6, 2006

Starting Point


I am looking forward to early Mass this morning. I will just go and pray. Other people will do the readings; another priest will share reflections. I’ve grown comfortable being with this small community and have been shaped by the mood and pace of our small gathering.

I love being close enough to the priest to see his eyes and watch his facial features change as he leads the prayers and shares. I love praying petitions with others. One person prays for a sick family member, another for a friend who needs work or a place to stay. Still another remembers a birthday, a birth, an upcoming marriage.

In the last few months a number of my religious community -- a mentor, an inspiring community member, a much loved teacher -- have died, and I have been delighted to ask others to join me in thanking God for the times I was touched by their lives.

There are things at the Mass I wish would change. I wish the altar were in the center, with us sitting where I could see others’ faces. Intellectually I accept that I would be healthier if I chose to present myself at Mass and not seek some dark corner in the back.

Yet, putting the altar in the center would be challenging to me, because there are times when I do not want to be seen and there are people that I am not ready to look at. I would have to be available to others when I am hurting, and I would have to care for people I do not like.

Still, I am coming to expect certain people to attend early Mass. We catch each other’s eye, give each other warm handshakes or hugs during the kiss of peace, wish each other well as we leave. When they are not there, I miss them and pray for them, hoping they are doing well.

I find myself wondering if these small gatherings have been experiences I have needed all my life -- acceptance, intimacy, security. Knowing others and being known.

Fr. Joseph McGowan is a member of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus.

National Catholic Reporter, January 6, 2006

This Week's Stories | Home Page | Top of Page
Copyright  © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO   64111
All rights reserved.
TEL:  816-531-0538     FAX:  1-816-968-2280   Send comments about this Web site to: