Summertime lends itself to thoughts of time off and different possibilities for vacation, perhaps travel or pilgrimage to places like St. Anne’s Shrine here in Vermont for Sunday Mass. (As a matter of fact, the diocesan Annual Family Day Mass is scheduled to be celebrated on July 10 at 12:15 p.m. followed by a great barbecue.)

It also can poke one’s memories of other summers and other places. Of course, being who I am, often these memories revolve around various churches and places at which I found myself during the summer in Maine and New Hampshire where I worked and vacationed.  I remember Masses celebrated outside whether in the woods or a “dawn Mass” on top of a mountain after an early morning hike and climb in the dark. Or as a child, serving at the 7 a.m. Mass, being free enough and old enough to ride my bike to church with my brothers through the early morning cool and quiet of the neighborhoods. Father Carroll used to refer to my brothers and me as “the lads” when we would arrive on our bikes to serve.

I remember that at the outdoor Masses at camp or on the mountain top, Father McDonough’s comb-over often got blown sideways and stick out to the side like a windsock at a local airport. The elderly priest at the chapel in Maine would always end his homily by saying, “The Creed, then, for this morning’s Mass” and then begin setting the altar for the offertory as we were all professing our faith.

I remember how at the Maine shore many of the hymns were in French, as were the announcements, because of all the Canadians who were vacationing with us. (That didn’t stop us from singing “America,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “God Bless America” on the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends.)

After I was ordained, I returned from studies in Rome for the summer and stayed at St. John Parish in Swampscott, Massachusetts, the church that was conveniently located directly on the ocean across the street from the town harbor.

I remember that in my early years as a priest I visited parishioners on a Saturday at their place on the Cape and celebrate Mass on the deck of their house with all the neighbors around joining us, 40-50 in number.

I’m sure we all have different memories like these.  The list gets longer as the years go by, but there is a truth that flows through them all. In spite of all the human distractions, there was and continues to be one constant in our celebration of our Mass — the worship of God and the celebration of the Eucharist.

Whether it’s in our own parish or our summer parish, at an outdoor venue, in someone’s home or in a church in a different country in a different language, the communion of faith and unity is realized and renewed in every celebration of the Mass.  As we unite ourselves at every Mass in the power of the Holy Spirit with Christ the great high priest and all the saints of heaven before the throne of God the Father, we are reminded of the communion we share with both the earthly and heavenly Church and of the wonderful possibilities that offers in our lives.

If the purpose of a vacation is to refresh and renew bodily, in a so much greater way our faith and the celebration of the Eucharist are the refreshments for our souls.

Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.

—Originally published in the Summer 2022 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.