On Sunday morning we went to a Catholic mass in a big church in Lira. The 9:00 mass was in english but I still had trouble understanding a lot of it because of the unique accents people have here.
Despite not understanding every word I found the mass moving. The energy and joy in the church was palpable. There was singing and dancing and every time we rejoiced about what God has done for us the congregation broke out into applause. It was as if we were giving God a standing ovation. I wish masses in the U.S. were so filled with raw emotion.
There are 5 masses every Sunday and at every one the church and the courtyard and front lawn are packed with people, shoulder to shoulder, all happy to have the opportunity to worship and to pray to a God that they love so much.
This reflection is not so much about the abundant faith of the people here, who have faced so much hardship, but about the idea of the universal church.
Attending mass in another country I’ve experienced my first instance of understanding why “Catholic” means universal. Towards the end of the mass Bishop Joseph, the celebrant, introduced us to the rest of the congregation as “our brothers and sisters from the states”. He encouraged them to welcome us, emphasizing that what mattered was not the color of our skin or where we were from but that we shared the same faith.
It was an amazing experience to realize just how universal the church really is. Even thousands of miles from home, in Africa, I have brothers and sisters in Christ.
All the people of the church welcomes us. The sign of peace was one of the best I have experienced. I shook hands with numerous people.
To shake the hand of a person in a country recovering from intense civil conflict and wish them peace in their lives and then to have that wish returned to me was an experience that I can not begin to describe.