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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Catholic's Are Coming Home by the Thousands at Church of the Nativity in Timonium Maryland

It was like walking into a sanctuary on a live wire. We knew something was different when a team of parking lot attendants were directing traffic into the parking lot of Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland. People were hurrying from their cars into the church where door attendants welcomed all who entered to attend Sunday Mass. Other welcome volunteers led us to our seats.

"Is the Cardinal of Baltimore saying Mass here today?," I asked a parishioner, who was holding her child's hand while hustling from the parking lot to the front doors of the sanctuary. "Excuse me?", I asked a second time. "Is there something going on here today?" 

A lady finally acknowledged my query with a blase, "No, nothing unusual".

My husband and I have attended Roman Catholic Mass in many places and over a dozen foreign countries. Therefore, we're hardly surprised by the universal spirituality shared by Roman Catholics around the world. Catholics are united by the Celebration of Mass and the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Regardless of where Mass is celebrated at every moment, of every day, 24/7, in sanctuaries throughout the world, in jungles, war zones or the Vatican in Rome. The sequence of the liturgy is predictable and the consecration of the Eucharist is universal.  

This was also how Mass was celebrated at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, but the sequence of the liturgy was electrified by modern technology. At the holy moment of the Consecration of the Eucharist, the transubstantiation, the substance of the Body and the Blood of Jesuswas made visible to everyone in the sanctuary via two giant sports screen television screens, broadcasting to parishioners from each side of a centrally positioned magnificently spotlighted large as life crucifix.

Father Michael White, the pastor, is the celebrant. His homily emphasizes key points with power point messages printed on the television screens. He seems to have rehearsed his delivery and content like a classical orator. 


Father White's biography is posted on the Ave Maria Press website where "Books by Michael White" are listed:

Fr. Michael White received his bachelor’s degree from Loyola University Maryland and his graduate degrees in sacred theology and ecclesiology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. After being ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, he worked for five years as personal secretary to William Cardinal Keeler, who was then archbishop. During that time, he served as the director of the papal visit of Pope John Paul II to Baltimore.

During his tenure as pastor at Church of the Nativity, the participation has almost tripled in weekend attendance from 1,400 to over 4,000. More importantly, commitment to the mission of the Church has grown, evidenced by the significant increase of giving and service in ministry, and much evidence of genuine spiritual renewal. White is the coauthor of Rebuilt, which narrates the story of Nativity’s rebirth.


We saw it for ourselves. There must have been close to 2,000 people attending Mass on Sunday October 6, 2013 at the Church of the Nativity. Large screen televisions located in rooms adjacent to the Narthax were filled with parishioners who could participate in the Mass celebrated in the Sanctuary, via the broadcasts. I suspect the Mass was also simulcast on local access television, because a reference was made to access for people at home.

Music was performed by a well rehearsed Gospel band while the words to all the songs were printed on the television screens. Everyone seemed to sing, enthusiastically, along with the band.

Attending Mass at Timonium's Church of the Nativity was proof solid that Catholic's are looking for a way to come home. Indeed, we saw them coming home by the thousands and bringing children with them, when beckoned by the charisma of a modern liturgy made relevant by the down to earth Father White. Their pastor related to his flock with spirituality, enhanced by technology, a rehearsed, and meaningful homily and extraordinary reverence for the Eucharist.  

Here's a short snippet from Father White's homily on October 6th, for anyone who might want to revisit the message - titled "Mustard Seed Faith":

"In the 17th chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus gives his disciples some relational instructions. Basically, he's telling them to forgive one another, and to place no limits on their willingness to do that. It is a hard message for them to hear (as it is for us, if we’re actually listening to it....."

"Modern life pushes us to our limits, but so often it’s not much of a push, because we are more than willing to go. Our culture encourages debt, but we don’t need a lot of encouragement because something in us loves to spend. You promised yourself that this year you would stay ahead of your homework, and you’re still staying up till 2 in the morning doing it. You resolved that you would not get sucked up into family drama once again, and once again there you are, it just presents itself and you can’t resist.
Why do we keep going to those places where breathing room is impossible ?"

To blog readers.....sounds like our real life, right? Indeed, that's the point. Father Michael White is walking the walk with his parishioners.  

Moreover, Father White proves how Catholics are yearning to come home. His celebration of the Mass is no different than any other Mass, but his relevant, high quality techniques, have touched people. They want to understand the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the messages in the Gospels. 

Father White doesn't seem to be a particularly compelling priest, but he's an extraordinarily charismatic leader. 

If Father White brings thousands of people back to Roman Catholic parishes, then other Roman Catholic communities can do likewise. In fact, Father White has a few books with instructions about how to do it, listed on the Ave Maria website. Thank you Church of the Nativity, for an electrifying spiritual experience, from your two friends who visited on October 6, 2013, from Maine.  

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