My pastor often comments on the fact that our parish community is full of stories: Stories of God’s grace, stories of grief and heartache, stories of promise and hope and ultimately love stories between us and our Savior. He references this so often that now I can’t help but sit in Mass (especially daily Mass) and look at my brother or sister sitting next to me and wonder, “What’s their story? What’s brought them here today? What are the prayers and cries of their heart?”
I’ve come to know a few of the regulars at daily Mass and I’ve learned bits and pieces of their stories, of their faith journeys with Christ. Knowing their stories and knowing them broadens my perspective and my prayers when I’m at Mass. I’m less focused on my story and my prayer intentions and I find myself praying for those around me: For Rosanna who has a sick grandson, for Marilyn whose son is not walking with the Lord, for Gina who is discerning the call to a religious vocation, and for Joe, who I know misses his beloved Irma Lee.
My questions about some of the others in the pew next to me may never be answered but I’m glad the Holy Spirit leads me to think about them because somehow when I start thinking about their stories I become less concerned about my own. And isn’t that the way it should be? Of course when I come to Mass I have my own personal needs and prayer intentions. Sometimes they’re all I can think about. But, the liturgy really is about community prayer and not just my personal prayers. When we celebrate the liturgy together we come to commune with God and with each other; we come to offer up prayers for all of our stories. And most importantly, we come to offer thanksgiving for our common story, the salvation story into which our God has graciously written each of us.