As we headed out for Mass yesterday morning, I carried in my heart the intention to pray for the repose of the soul of Ryan Barrett and also the comfort of his family. We arrived at Mass at the monastery at our usual time but were surprised to find both parking lots already overflowing. My usual inclination is to turn and run to find a less crowded Mass closer to home when I see crowds like this, usually assuming that there is something special happening at the Prep School or University across the street, but our hearts were full of intentions today and we had a meeting with our dear friend which could not be postponed so we parked in the grass and climbed the steep steps to the white limestone church at the top of the hill.
The unfamiliar missals in the entrance way explained the flood of vehicles down below. A new Cistercian priest was offering his first Mass in thanksgiving for his ordination and the fulfillment of his vocation. This was truly a special occasion to be shared with friends and family far and near. (And how exciting for Fr. Joseph to be celebrating this special day in the Year for Priests!)
As I realized how special this Mass was, I was reminded of the loving tributes written by Ryan's mother in the past and of his desire to be a priest. How much was his mother looking forward to this day for him? I couldn't help thinking of the simultaneous heartache and consolation to be found in the plans they were probably in the midst of making for celebrating their last Mass with Ryan here on earth.
I was also mentally transported back twelve years ago to the last First Mass this community celebrated for a young former Brother, now Father Paul who invited everyone to receive from him a special blessing. I remembered exactly what I was wearing and Husband's protective presence beside me thanks to the picture our dear friend, Fr. Placid, took of us on that day. However, I needed no photographic reminder to remember the leaps and jumps I felt inside my body when Fr. Paul stretched his hands over me and the tiny Professor inside me made his participation in this celebration known. Yesterday, these thoughts of grief and memories and feelings were too much to contain and so they overflowed down my cheeks in a much less orderly fashion than the cars in the parking lot.
I was able to speak with Fr. Joseph after Mass and ask for his special blessing, the absence of any leaps of joy painfully noticeable to this mother's heart. I also asked him to pray for Ryan's family and for this young man who would never know his own special day such as this one but who we hope will know of greater delights, will know the glory of holding Our Lord in his hands and of being held by Him, and will know the comfort of being in the presence of the Holy Trinity, always and forever.I know that his family has many good friends to support and strengthen them during this time of weakness and pain. I hope that in days to come, they will find even more comfort in the legacy Ryan left behind and the lives he touched.