Somewhere in Canon Law it states somethinglike this: If a Roman Catholic is traveling, he (it was written a long time ago) is exempt from the laws of fasting, abstinance and even of attending Mass. There is an apocryphal tale of a few priests who worked in one state in the 50’s and who traveled a few miles to another state on several Fridays so that they could order steak for dinner.
This winter, I traveled for one month all over another state. As a result, by Canon law, I was not obligated to attend Mass on Sunday. However, since I retired many years ago, I was in the habit of attending Mass several times a week, just because I felt like it. Even while traveling, I felt like it. So, every time that I found myself in a new town or city, I looked for a Roman Catholic Church. I happened to be in a state where many people go to retire and, subsequently, often go to leave this world for the next. Therefore, it is not surprising, that churches of every denomination, could be found in abundance. The churches were much newer than those of the Northeast and they were much bigger – even the Catholic churches in this very southern state!
Since the 60’s the Catholic church has been losing priests. The youth in the US rarely selects the Catholic priesthood as its career choice. As a result, more and more diocese hire priests from other countries to serve individual congregations. In the Northeast, many congregations are severed by priests from Nigeria or from India. The four huge churches that I attended during my travels were served by priests from England, Ireland and Spain.
One of the most humbling things for a traveling Catholic is that no matter which city, state or country that one visits, the congregations of large churches always contain parishioners of every race under the sun. Over the centuries, Catholic congregations have often had priests who were of other ethnic backgrounds serving them. The mixture of peoples, congregants or servants, helps to create a spirit of solidarity. Not only do the words of the gospel remind us that we are all brothers and sisters in God’s eyes, but the proximity of others who do not look exactly like us provide a graphic reminder of that fact.
Among the many blessings for which I am grateful is the opportunity to grow in appreciation for the diversity among the faithful in my Church.