Our Lady of Fatima Parish - Tucson, AZ
Today was the first opportunity for us to celebrate Sunday liturgy back in Tucson at our local parish there, Our Lady of Fatima. We attended the 11:00 am mass, which had a young people's choir leading us all musically.
The atmosphere in our parish of St. George in London, Ontario is very different from what we observe here. Before mass starts here, there is lots of chatter as people greet each other, as though they were at a party, which, of course they are, a dinner party with Jesus present. The parish has a very large Hispanic contingent, and it appears that much of the faith life of the community is influenced by the special friendliness and yet beautiful faith of these members. The youth were very present at this celebration.
The music ministry is led by Alex Navas, a senior in Music Education with an emphasis in choral conducting, from the University of Arizona. Alex is a gifted musician, and brought that gift to OLF in January 2009, when we were here last year. He writes most of the psalm responses, and today was certainly no exception. What I noticed, from my own background in parish music ministry, and more from not being hard of hearing, was the life in his own music. He has been exploring various musical modes, and today the psalm response had lots of bounce to it, with good harmonic piano, over drums, and guitars and good male and female voices.
The Pastor, and Celebrant, Father Ray Ratzenberger, is a 57 year old, spirit filled priest, originally from Bridgeport Connecticut, but who moved with his parents to Tucson when he was in his late teens. He has connections to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal that date back over 35 years to 1974. His style of preaching is a little like painting dots on a piece of bristle board and then expecting the listener to connect up all the dots. His homilies are not for the lazy, but there is gold in them thar hills.
Today the Gospel reading was the first miracle of Jesus, when he made water into wine. It is a story, as Father related of the importance of marriage in God's eyes, and of the love of a Mother (Mary) for her Son, and His respect for her.
Father spoke about the importance of marriage, and for the young, and the youth part of all of us, he spoke in particular about the teachings of the Church about sex, that it is reserved for marriage, because sex between two people is an act of marriage, making a covenant between them. Consequently, two people having sexual relations, and then moving on to other partners is a misuse of a covenant gift. He also spoke of the Catholic teaching against artificial birth control, because of it being an act of taking control of something that God is in charge of. It was gutsy talk, but was the truth.
As I had been reading and pondering on this particular miracle, there were other thoughts that came to my mind. God, in Jesus tends to do things differently than we do. So, I noted that Jesus made wine better than the previous wine at the celebration, drawing attention to his love for the couple, and for married couples, in general.
The other interesting aspect is that Mary interceded with Her Son for a particular need, and though He believed it was not His time, He did as she asked. This is a biblical example of Mary as an intercessor, and combined with Jesus on the Cross, giving John, in particular and all of us in general to her as our Mother, invites us to run to Mary, who knows her Son like no one else.