Last Sunday, after Mass, I got on a plane for New Orleans, which was hosting a Catholic Stewardship Conference. The city must be under the patronage of St. Joan of Arc, the “Maid of Orleans.” There are many such cities in the New World named after saints: St. Louis and Santa Fe, Quebec and Montreal, Los Angeles and San Francisco. These great cities, both in the New World and the Old, must’ve been built by men and women of faith, for you can’t build a great city on money and politics alone. They built honest businesses and neighborhoods united by Gospel charity and common prayer.
Alas, in these cities today not much time is given to prayer. The houses of public prayer are mostly shut and mostly empty. It is assumed that religion is no longer needed to order our communities. As a retired gentleman once told me quite matter-of-factly, “I have everything I need now. I don’t need to go to church anymore.” He meant he had paid off his home, gotten his children through college, and could afford home delivery of the New York Times.
But as I say, I got onto this plane headed for New Orleans. Feeling a bit more ebullient than normal, in greeting the smiling flight attendant with “Today is Sunday and I’m here to celebrate Mass on board this airliner!” She smiled delightedly and said “Yes, Father, let’s pray!” I didn’t, of course, celebrate Mass on the Airbus 320, but in at least one person the desire to pray was evident. Sadly, America does not pray the way she used to. Gone are the novenas, the revivals, the packed Sunday Masses and overflowing Gospel services. But I was much encouraged by this flight attendant’s evident desire to pray. Let’s do what we can to lift that desire out of the pit into which secularism has buried it. Let us not be afraid to pray in public, and to invite others to join us. “God” is not a dirty word.
Today is our annual Rosary Rally. Archbishop Cordileone will carry the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of San Francisco to the Civic Center, where seminarians will lead a rosary in the shadow of City Hall. Join us, if you can’t bodily, by praying the rosary wherever you are. Pray in public, and maybe even ask others to join you in lifting your joyful hearts to heaven.