I arrived yesterday at BWI, no problems, ahead of schedule! (Kudos to AirTran.) I caught the Amtrak train from BWI down to Union Station D.C. As much as I dislike the huge subsidies to Amtrak, at least the seats are roomy and the ride comfortable. The station at BWI looks terrible. And, apparently, you can no longer buy a ticket and get on any "regular" train--the conductor was saying, you had to have a ticket for that train. Too bad; that, along with being able to buy your ticket on the train, was one of the nice features about rail travel along the NY-DC corridor. All in the name of Security (pbui). And, perhaps legitimately so, I can't say.
Once at Union Station, I hopped the metrorail up to the Basilica; I am very fond of that church, and as I had not offered Mass that day, I wanted to do so, there. This is one of the nice things that comes with being a priest--you can ask to offer Mass at any church, within reason, of course, provided you can show yourself to be a priest in good standing. (I think I'm remembering canon law properly; it's in there somewhere.) How this works in practice is that when a priest presents himself at major churches, the sacristan is accustomed to assisting the priest. So, visiting Rome, it is not at all unusual to pop in the sacristy and ask if one can offer Mass somewhere in the church; and if there is a sacristan--otherwise, the priest--will be helpful. What I did when last there was to stop by a major church say that morning, and ask about later in the day, or for the next day. No problem. You don't even have to have an alb.
So they set me up in a chapel nearest the sacristy in the lower, memorial hall. I could request a chapel, but I didn't. While offering Mass with the people is the norm, of course, a priest can, "for a just cause," offer Mass "privately," even without a server. A just cause being he's on vacation, or not feeling well, or on retreat, or -- in this case -- travelling. Anyway, for those of you thinking about the priesthood, there is something very special about offering Mass this way.
Then back down to Union Station, where I got dinner, then to my hotel.
This morning, I worked in my hotel room--I have a tough funeral on Saturday when I return, so I worked on the homily. Then I stopped by a bookstore to pick up a gift for my godson--he's into apologetics, so I got him a set of books by C.S. Lewis (he and his parents loved it!)--then over to my friends' house for dinner. They have six children and they homeschool, and visits are always a lot of fun--and I'm not just saying that because they read this blog! It's a lot of fun visiting with each of the children. After conversation and dinner, off to St. Leo's for the Mass. We arrived at 6:30 for a 7:30 pm Mass, because the parents were told seats would be a premium.
In the sacristy, I had a nice chat with the altar boys, and then the other priests arrived with the bishop. Bishop Loverde is a very charming man, and was very friendly with the servers. Altar servers often get nervous for these things, so kudos to his excellency for putting them at ease. The priest who serves the bishop as M.C. (master of ceremonies) seemed in control of everything; I've done that, and I found it nerve-wracking.
Mass proceeded as you would expect. Bishop Loverde gave a very substantive homily, talking to the confirmandi about the challenge of bearing witness to Christ, and cited specific instances: the peer pressure they would face to use drugs and alcohol, the need to oppose violence, including violence against the unborn, the challenge of chastity, including the specific problem of pornography. Each time, he said, these forces are powerful--but starting tonight, there is Someone in you who is more powerful! And if you listen, and allow Him, he will help you... He also managed to say something about baptism and the Eucharist, the Real Presence, the true Church, and apostolic succession.
Then about 100 young people came forward for confirmation, then Mass proceeded; then near the end of Mass, he gave a short talk about vocations, encouraging families to pray for vocations from their own families! I like that--and I will try that!
Afterward, a whole mob of folks went over to the gym for punch (red of course!) and cake and...this is a nice touch: a picture with the bishop! The bishop and his m.c.--still vested--didn't leave until about 10 pm. That had to be tiring for the bishop.
Well, I just got back to my hotel room a few minutes ago. I fly home tomorrow morning. It was great to be with my godson for each of his sacraments.