Nothing More Glorious

Marhabaan. Chào mừng. Tervetuloa. Su’agata hai. These words and others, mostly unfamiliar, appeared above the Leo D. Mahoney arena at Fairfield University, greeting me as I entered the building for Saturday morning’s Mass of Thanksgiving. After absorbing the immensity of the crowd and the beauty of the temporary sanctuary, I caught a word I recognized among the many I did not: Bienvenido. Welcome. This single word, displayed in so many languages, summarized the day. Hello. Greetings. Great to see you. Welcome, everyone, to the altar of the Lord.

Karibu. I came alone, my family unable to attend, but I did not feel alone. Though I knew personally just a dozen or two of the thousands in attendance, a feeling a fellowship permeated the entire Mass. What is it, I thought, that brought these thousands out early on a glorious Saturday when errands, a morning walk, sleeping in, or even mowing the lawn could have otherwise occupied their time? Something even more glorious – the chance to be welcomed to a celebration at the Lord’s table and share that with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Maligayang pagdating. With hymns and prayers in English but also Spanish, Vietnamese, Polish, Portuguese, and Haitian-Creole, each of us had the opportunity to recite and chant in our own language, becoming an intimate part of the experience. A woman seated beside me prayed in Spanish while a couple behind me spoke a language I could not understand. No matter. They were understood – and welcomed – by God.

Selamat datang. The families with young children. Those in jeans or summer shorts. The elderly stooped with walkers. The crying babies. The women in heels and the men in jackets. They sat and sang and kneeled as I did, coming together to worship the Lord and share in a communion of faith. We came from places nearby and across the globe, some having been born and raised in this community and others having immigrated from countries where those words above me are spoken fluently. Diverse in so many ways, we united as one, holy, catholic apostolic church.

Hwan-yeong. Though the inclusivity of music and language allowed us to worship together, we were joined more closely as we stood together to receive the Body of Christ. Having sat with folded hands and sang a joyous Alleluia, I felt nothing as powerful as kneeling before the monstrance as the Bishop carried our Lord to us all, an awesome experience that moved many, including myself, to tears. Jesus, fully present in our midst. There is nothing more glorious.

Welcome. We came to Mass that day as we always come, ready to worship with an open heart but left with something else. A heart more open, more joyous, one set on sharing with others our diverse cultures under our one true faith.

By Emily Clark