25 December 2005

Midnight Mass in New Orleans

Attended Midnight Mass on Saturday at St. Jude. This has been a tradition for my wife and I for several years. Usually Aaron Neville sings acapella at the mass, the church is decorated beautifully and it truly is one of the great masses in New Orleans I think. The mass is also a microcosm of New Orleans, it is about 60% black, has well dressed people, humbly dressed, and even some of the homeless people from Covenant House come over for the mass. The music has a more decidely gospel tone to it than the more tradtional church hymns being sung several blocks away at the Cathedral. You leave the mass on the edge of the French Quarter with a true spirit of the melting pot that is New Orleans.

Midnight mass this year was no different. There were black and white families, singles, people of all levels of income, and even the few wandering homeless. This year, however, there was an intensified sense of unity. We all had one thing in common: We had all lost our lives. Not our mortal life, obviously, but rather we had lost the lives we had the prior year when we sat in St. Jude listening to Aaron Neville filling the air with a solo "Ave Maria." Some of us had homes that were washed away, some of us were forced to flee to other cities to pursue our livelihood, some of us were living in FEMA trailers, others lost family members. Even one of the priests on the Altar was from a Parish in New Orleans east who, in addition to losing his home, had lost his entire congregation. He got up and sang an acapella "Ave Maria" that couldn't have been more off key if he tried, but it was still as inspiring as Aaron Neville's version because we were there after KTMB hoping and praying for a sense of normalcy on Christmas Eve, even if just for a few hours. And then there was the homily. I'm not the most religious person in the world, far from it, but the priest's inspirational homily made me want to jump up and scream "Yeah, you right!"

It is ironic that St. Jude is the patron Saint of lost causes and Jude is invoked in desperate situations because his letters stress that the faithful should persevere in the environment of harsh, difficult circumstances, just as their forefathers had done before them. (catholic.org) I think everyone in that church is facing such circumstances, but we all left with smiles on our faces because we were on the edge of the French Quarter and when we looked at each other leaving mass we knew we were in New Orleans.


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