Our two cars pulled into the church lot right next to each other. We all stepped out, 10 men, suited up and looking sharp. Dressing to the nines and going to Sunday Mass is normal for my friends and me, but our normal was interrupted this particular Sunday.
From the moment we all stepped out of the car, eyes were on us as though this church was getting visited by the Minnesota Vikings — in early fall, when all of Minnesota thinks the Vikings are good. Not to sound dramatic, but it felt like slow motion as we made our way toward the steps. We were in a small Minnesota town for a friend’s wedding, and parishioners were gazing at us. I remember thinking it must be a rare sight for them to have a crew of young men at a liturgy.
So with eyes on us, we walked up the steps, down the aisle, to an empty pew. We filled it end to end, and then, in what probably looked like choreography, we knelt in unison to pray before Mass.
That gesture let everyone know that we were there for a reason, and we were there on a mission. And when men walk together, on a mission, people notice. And if you are one of those men noticed, you know how awesome it feels. We commanded the attention of the room, and we could feel it. We felt like the coolest, most interesting people this church had ever seen. Even the old priest looked at us and welcomed us in front of everyone as his “young guests.”
As I looked around I saw maybe two or three other men our age, each of whom were with their family or wife, so perhaps the parish’s lack of male Massgoers was the reason why people seemed so giddy to meet us afterward. The curious old ladies were eager ask what we were doing in town, and to know who among us was single.
While we were apparently an anomaly for this parish, this attention was an anomaly for us. We felt as though we were admired for our faith as men, which is a rare thing among our peers. The attention these Catholics gave us was unexpected, and it was a result of our presence as men of faith. We were not brought to Mass that day by our moms or wives; we are men who go to Mass with our own integrity and intention. I realized that when men bring themselves together and then enter a place that doesn’t expect them, they turn heads — and I wonder if this “marvel” doesn’t also have the potential to do more.
I remembered my experience at that little parish last month while at the Archdiocesan Men’s Conference. That day, more than 1,000 men processed out of the field house at the University of St. Thomas behind the Eucharist held in a monstrance by Bishop Andrew Cozzens. We walked in powerful silence into the lower quad and passed the magnanimous statue of Archbishop John Ireland, who, a friend later remarked, seemed to want to join us.
We walked through the iconic arches right on to the Summit Avenue median. There we all gathered for adoration and benediction, and we sang a hymn right on the boulevard. And, just like when I went to that small church with my crew, I saw how men of faith can disrupt people’s routine and get them thinking about higher things. People and families walking by stopped and knelt. The cars passing on Cleveland Avenue slowed down to look and see what it was that was commanding attention.
It was us men, old and young, married and single — Catholic men! We were on our knees in the spring mud, kneeling before Christ Jesus in the Eucharist. The men in procession also knew that they were being watched and that they were bringing their faith into the world. I wish campus security at St. Thomas hadn’t blocked Summit Avenue so that more people could have driven by and perhaps experienced their curiosity awaken, too.
We ought to want more people to see the impressive image of men proclaiming their faith in unity. In this Easter season and beyond, let us look for more opportunities to come together in this way, and interrupt people’s lives with the greatest man of all, Christ Jesus.
Randazzo is an evangelization manager in the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and director of development at St. Stephen in Minneapolis.
Category: Catholic Watchmen