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Houston's Proof for Ritual and Community

On Saturday night, November 5, 2022, the Houston Astros won the World Series against the Phillies, and this city proved to me what I had already known.

First, each and every one of us, whether you call yourself religious or not, is inherently ritualistic. Second, that we in fact do know how to be a strong and bonded community. And third, we can pull together vibrant expressions of joy quite literally over a short span of two days.

The Unfulfilled Desire

I am immensely proud of our city's baseball team, and while we were more of a basketball family, I appreciate talent, hard work, and sportsmanship in any given arena of athleticism. Yet as elated as I was, I found that a quieter place in my interior life felt sad. And I realized that what initially seemed like melancholy, was truly the disappointment of an unfulfilled desire to see ritual, community, and vibrant joy for Christ in my city.

I am uniquely tuned into this city in general through seeking to inspire Catholic culture and tradition on the His Girl Sunday platform, but also through my full-time job as the Director of Liturgical Life. Working right in the center of this city gives me a lens with which I can see the lives of a wide range of demographics from age, to race, to faith, to socioeconomic status. And I daily, weekly, and monthly seek to collect all these individuals across the board to come together and express the goodness and beauty of our faith in Christ. Helping others in person, on the ground, to live the liturgical year is the work of my heart, but is not without its challenges. Inspiring a liturgical and sacramental life is one thing when posting on social media or living within my own home, and it is another type of work to instill this in the larger community.

When I saw over 1 million people gather for a parade that came together over a quick weekend, I couldn't help but think to myself, "if only I/we could get this many people to our feast day festivals, Eucharistic processions, or even Mass." Of course, this is not a reflection on the Astros, or to say that they are undeserving, but rather to say that Christ too is worthy of such praise and even more so.

Ritualistic by Nature

Without knowing it, over a million people in the city of Houston proved what the Church and the wisdom of the Church Fathers have long stated; that we are ritualistic by nature. St. Thomas Aquinas, teaches that it is proper for man to “employ sensible signs in order to signify anything” (Summa Theologiae II–II:85:1). In other words, we communicate through our words, gestures, and actions what we honor. It should be no surprise given our human nature that the ritual action we see within the World Series is so closely related to that with which we express our devotion to God.

The crowds wore colors and symbols that are fitting to express a sense of allegiance and respect for the team. They chanted and sang out of praise for their win. Each fan came together as a community to show their love in person as one body and to be present for this monumental occasion. And the fans desired to see the team and to be seen by the team in appreciation for what had been accomplished. Yet, these are not just matters that pertain to baseball, but speak to something greater. Proper attire, song, chant, symbols, colors, community, joy, and the desire to see something special (God in the Eucharist) all speaks of the liturgy. I deeply pray that we can grow to see this intimate connection, and offer all of those actions stated above to God as we do to our sports teams. I long to see the day where there is a parade for Jesus Christ in this city with over a million people in attendance. I will be there with the flaming baton.

Meant for Community

People could have just celebrated within their home, and perhaps some did, but many decided to put the effort into being together. Within two days an impressive parade took place with many offering their talents in congratulations to the Astros. This only further proves that we were meant for community, and not only are we meant for it, we are at our best when we are together. Unity in belief and praise can be an immensely powerful thing, hence why Christ commands us to keep holy the Sabbath. To go to Mass together in person as a community is the most compelling expression of faith we have. When we are together in person, bonded over shared ideas and belief, we become more human. And in that humanity, we can become more like Christ, sharing in one another’s greatness and refining one another’s weaknesses. It is together that we can best express our gratitude for Christ and for our own lives. This is the heartbeat, of liturgical living, Catholic culture, and tradition.

We must re-learn, over and over again, how to come together out of gratitude and love for Christ and our own lives. It is in this lived reality that we see culture and tradition form. Traditions arise when we, as a community, value something enough to see it lived out time and time again. And tradition doesn’t just happen, it takes effort and intentionality. Christ is worth the effort, and you are worth it too. After seeing Catholic schools and churches either close or cancel things to be at this parade, many questions arose within me. Of course, not at their parade attendance, again this is not a commentary on sports team pride, but rather a reflection on the lack of similar fervor for our faith.

Why, as Catholic schools and churches do we not cancel or close when Solemnities arise?

Why do we not have a much larger attendance, as a community of believers, for our own faith-filled gatherings?

Why don’t we have thousands gathered for Eucharistic processions?

How can that many attend a parade post Covid, but my community won’t come back to Mass in person?

I don’t have answers to these questions, but I felt that they were worth bringing up in hopes that it will spark curiosity. Not a curiosity that will just leave you confused, but rather as something that will help us believers spring into action. Again, what the Astros proved to me was positive, we are ritualistic and communal beings. These are two components that are integral to our participation in the liturgy and then the liturgical life that is to follow. I hope to see the day where Catholics gather in droves out of celebration for our resurrected Lord, to see exuberant Easter parades, lively Eucharistic processions, and feast day gatherings that are bursting with culture and happiness.

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