Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. Matthew 17:1-2
In ministry, on some days things go “ho hum,” other days things go horribly wrong, but once in a great while things go almost “near prefect.” I would certainly consider the Lenten Parish Mission I participated in down in Lebanon, Ky., last March a peak experience — one that comes along once or twice in a life time.
At a time when church attendance seems to be problematic no matter where you turn, St. Augustine Church was filled for three weekday nights in a row. Three weeknights in a row! The people came out the first night in a storm that was marked by hail and high winds. Not only did they come out, they sang their hearts out — sometimes thunderously so. The sight and sound, from the presider’s chair, gave me cold chills. Compared to the normal half-hearted responses and mediocre singing, it was almost “un-Catholic.”
Several things stood out. First, there were people from parishes near and far, black, white and brown, solidly Catholic, non-Catholic and barely Catholic. It was certainly a “catholic” gathering in the truest sense of the word.
Second, we used gospel music, not what I call “predictable missalette music,” which goes to show you that even Catholics will sing if you give them music they like to sing. They sang with amazing gusto even though they had just learned the songs a few minutes beforehand. I was especially taken by two young kids, about five years old, who stood in their pew clapping and swaying to the music. Old people who “never sing” were heard singing.
Third, the extended preaching was mined from the Scriptures on topics that touched the everyday life of the people sitting in the pews, not just what was going on in the church when the texts were written or in second century Judaism. They laughed, sighed and wiped away tears during the thirty minute homilies.
Fourth, like the country folk of my upbringing, many arrived each night a half hour ahead of time and, in no hurry to leave, stayed around after it was over talking to each other on the sidewalk and church steps.
Fifth, they were generous. The collections were designated for my ministry in the Caribbean missions. The total three-night collection was more than the whole Diocese of Kingstown receives in a year.
Sixth, being able to “connect” with people did something for me and the musicians who traveled with me, something deep inside us that can only be described as a “peak experience.” The purpose of a “peak experience” is to carry you through the ordinary times, the times when things are “ho hum” or when things go horribly wrong. Once you’ve had a “peak experience,” it makes all the ordinary times “worth it.”
To read more from Father Knott, visit his blog: FatherKnott.com.