People are getting more out of the Mass these days.

In the Gospel Jesus prayed for his disciples. They were remaining in the world as he was leaving it. They would be in the world, but not of the world.

I first saw this passage behind glass in a frame in 1941. We had a new priest in our parish, Father Jimmy Curtin, and he had Christ’s prayer for priests on the wall in his room. He was a good priest, serving the Church for forty years, turning the school system of the Archdiocese of St. Louis into a fine organization.

Thinking about Father Curtin in 1941 has me looking at our American priesthood over these seventy years. One difference from then that I remember is that except when he was playing golf or mowing the lawn Father Curtin always wore the Roman collar. In fact the expression we had for someone leaving the priesthood was, “He took off the collar.”

The turnout for Sunday Mass was much better in 1941 than what it is today, and the usual thing is for us to say that everything was better then. That is not altogether true.

Saying Mass this morning I had a feeling of things going well. The Mass didn’t belong to just the priest. The people read the Entrance Antiphon. That was an improvement over Father Curtin giving off the Introit with little understanding of the Latin. Today a man came up to do the first reading from the three-year cycle that introduces us to  the whole Bible. A lady held the cup at communion time. Father Curtin never gave a homily on a weekday, but there were people nodding at things I said, even chiming in.

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