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    A View from the Pew

    Reign of God or Rain of God? 

    “Rain down, rain down, rain down your love on your people.

    Rain down, rain down, rain down your love, God of life. “

    Chorus of Rain Down by Jaime Cortez, OCP 1991


    Be careful what you pray for.


    My husband and I left New England and what turned out to be a record breaking weather beauty of a Columbus Day Weekend to spend a couple of days in our time share in Orlando, FL. We arrived yesterday to what can best be described as a monsoon. You know those big tropical storms that just seem to hang over a location and never move? Welcome to the Sunshine State, Noah. Build us an ark, please.


     “Work with me here, please?” I appealed to God this morning as I returned from an early morning workout. God’s sense of humor continues to play with me; I returned to my apartment drenched and threw my clothes and sneakers into the dryer. Currently, a patch of blue sky continues to mock me as it peeks through the grey and black storm system; I’m writing on a table by the pool and keeping one eye on the sky. If this blog stops in the middle of sentence, you’ll know that the God’s raining down a little more love on me.


    Two friends joined us late in the day yesterday and with them, the four of us set off for Mary, Queen of the Universe Basilica in the center of Orlando. Pat and I began to worship here when we first visited Orlando with our children in the nineties and just several years after the erection and dedication of the basilica. We always find the experience a feast of worldwide Catholicity as we get a tiny glimpse of the reign of God. “Where are you from?” the presider asks after the greeting. “Chile.” “Argentina.” “Ireland and Scotland.” (The presider suspected that they brought the rain with them.) “Honduras.”  “New York.” “China.” “Maryland.” “Venezuela.”  “Massachusetts.”  “New Zealand.” “Kansas.” “Japan.” “Puerto Rico.” From every corner of the earth you gather people to yourself, O Lord. Even on a bad weather day, when people might be tempted to sleep late or curl up with another cup of coffee and the morning paper, the faithful worker continues to respond to the God’s invitation to gather and celebrate in the feast of God’s word, God’s table and God’s community – the church. The volunteers who serve as greeters, extraordinary ministers of communion, readers, collector of the tithe, as well as deacon and acolytes welcome everyone with warmth, interest in the people who came to worship and helpful with any information regarding the shrine particulars within the basilica. If Disney ran your parish, this would be the way they would operate.  


    We entered the primary worship space just as Dr. WilliamPicher began to prepare us for worship with a magnificent organ prelude. A very gifted musician and a really nice guy, Bill conducts a small ensemble of eight extraordinarily gifted young professional singers that serve as the principal choir for the basilica. Their music for a Sunday in Ordinary Time resembles what others serve up for large feasts. Bill’s dexterity in combining different styles to contain the eclectic assembly of Catholics who come to worship at the basilica. His fluid accompaniments complement the music sung by the assembly and choir ensemble as he balances organ with midi-instruments. “I try not to get in the way of the music,” Bill told me. “I want to sustain what’s happening in the music, not overwhelm it. This is a great city to create beautiful music,” he added. “Orlando is full of singers, many of them who work for Disney. A full orchestra plays for

    major feasts and accompanies the assembly and choir.” When I asked about the composer of this morning’s Agnus Dei, Bill told me that his son Michael, a nineteen year old musician “who enjoys writing music” created a beautiful setting of the Latin litany. How satisfying as a parent and as a musician to perform a worthy liturgical work that your son composed, hear the piece accompany a rite of Mass and hear the composition sung by an elegant professional vocal ensemble. Feasting within God’s ways.


    An old man worshipped alongside me this morning. As I customarily do, I remained standing as everyone processed to receive Eucharist, to stand in solidarity with the assembly in sung prayer until all were fed. I usually stand until the presider places the reserved Eucharist into the tabernacle before I sit down to pray silently before the concluding prayers. Usually, I stand alone. Today, the old man kept me company. As we sat down, he pressed his thumb to his lips as a profession of his love for the Eucharist, which obviously sustains him. We never spoke except to greet each other with Christ’s peace within the liturgy. I’ll probably never see him again; we’ll worship God and feast at the table together in the next life, in the new reign of God.


    Did I say ‘reign’ or ‘rain’? Thanks for raining down your love on me today, O Lord, in all of your people, in music, in full-bodied worship and in needed down time. I cannot thank you enough for all of your goodness shown to me. Now – a little sunshine….. please?