Five O'Clock Mass at St. Peter's Blesses

Christmas 1999

Five O'Clock Mass at St. Peter's Blesses

Christmas 1999

The Daily Oklahoman, January 28, 2000

By John Mallon

One of the things a Catholic does when arriving at a new location is scout out a parish or chapel for a convenient daily Mass. While only Sunday Mass is obligatory, many Catholics attend daily Mass out of love of the Lord and for spiritual sustenance. 

During my Christmas and New Year's visit to our Rome office of Inside the Vatican magazine, I found a most agreeable church for daily Mass: St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the Mother Church of Roman Catholicism. Not bad for a quick 5 o'clock Mass after work. 

One of the extraordinary things about being a Catholic is the everyday surprise at the mixture of the awesome and the familiar. You are at home in any Catholic church in the world, and nowhere is this more true than in the awesome St. Peter's. In the mix of tourists, pilgrims and worshippers, I was all three. And at any Catholic Mass you may find a royal next to a peasant, a tycoon next to a beggar, kneeling side by side, all equal before God. 

It is no different at St. Peter's. There are elderly women clutching crystal rosary beads in their blue-veined hands; there are well-groomed middle-aged executives, blue collar workers, street people, young families with little children, eyes darting everywhere... all God's people. 

Then there is the sight to warm any Catholic heart: coming out of a coffee bar at 10 p.m. or 3 a.m. and seeing the lights still burning in the pope's apartment windows. What a consoling, comforting and intimate feeling this evokes. 

From the time of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and so on, God never left His people without a Father, a leader on earth; and for Catholics, we recognize that lineage in the unbroken line of popes from St. Peter to John Paul II, referred to by many Catholics as "John Paul the Great." 

He is no longer the robust 58-year-old of 1978, but in his dedication to duty despite physical limitations and age, he provides a new source of inspiration. As always, he draws the overwhelming love and affection of the young of every age. I attended a Wednesday audience where the sustained cheers of schoolchildren continually interrupted him as he patiently acknowledged them and waited to continue. Despite afflictions, his mind is still sharp, his heart is still strong and he shouldn't be counted out any time soon. 

He is a special gift to the youth of our age, a generation so easily overlooked and discarded, and on some level, perhaps that is why they love him so much: They know he truly loves them. It is a joy to reflect that there must be many children he has blessed as pope, who now have children of their own, who they now bring for him to bless. There are also ordained priests now ministering who were around 10 years old when John Paul was first elected pope, with many more on the way under his heroic example and inspiration . 

It is "John Paul's children" to whom the future of the Church belongs; a comforting thought. 

Daily Mass at St. Peter's: highly recommended.