When John Adams and George Washington Walked Into a Catholic Church

I read before I go to bed. Several Catholic fiction books held my attention recently. But, after a couple of disheartening episodes in those books-death, depression, etc.-I chose to read something a little more familiar and perhaps a little lighter. So, for the third time, I picked up John Adams by David McCullough.

I read the following passage last night:

One Sunday, ‘led by curiosity and good company,’ which included George Washington, Adams crossed a ‘Romish’ threshold, to attend afternoon mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Fifth Street, an experience so singular that he reflected on it at length both in his journal and in a letter to Abigail.

In 1776, John Adams and George Washington attended Mass. They were delegates at the Second Continental Congress.

Adams describes the liturgical music at the Mass “most sweetly and exquisitely”. He affirms the priest’s homily as a “good, short, moral essay”. Adams overall experience was “awful and affecting.” McCullough points out that “awful” in this sense simply meant “full of awe”.

In yesterday’s podcast episode, my Dad shares his conversion story. He tells the story of a seminarian named Philip who humbly and calmly answered some of Dad’s questions about Catholicism. Dad points to Philip as a major reason why he entered the Catholic Church after close to 33 years of being married to my Mom.

No doubt John Adams and George Washington had many questions too when they entered St. Mary’s Catholic Church that Sunday. Now, let your imagination go wild for a second!

  1. Imagine that a parishioner walked up to the future presidents.
  2. Imagine that a parishioner introduced himself.
  3. Imagine that a parishioner invited John and George for a beer after Mass (McCullough explains that Adams was particularly fond of conversation, friendship, and Philadelphia beer).
  4. Imagine that a parishioner answered, humbly and calmly, any questions and reservations the two had about the Catholic faith.
  5. Imagine that a parishioner befriended the two men and, over the course of their stay in Philadelphia, continued to converse and drink beer from time to time.
  6. Let’s go there. Imagine as a result of this friendship, Adams and Washington became Catholic. Wow. I’ll let your imagination go from there.

President Trump may not walk into your Catholic Church this Sunday. But, a future president may. A future senator or current teacher, coach, lawyer, doctor, factory worker, janitor, or actor may walk in. He or she may not be Catholic. He or she may be just visiting. What would happen if you or I introduced ourselves? What would happen if you or I built a relationship with that person? I’ll let your imagination go from there.

Here’s a great article on cheap American beer! Go get some and have a holy and happy 4th of July!

What are you cooking this 4th of July (Dene’ wants burgers. I want brisket. Why not make both?)? Please comment below.

One of the best renditions of the Star Spangled Banner, Whitney Houston sings before Super Bowl XXV days after the United States entered the Persian Gulf War.

Works Cited

McCullough, David. John Adams. New York, Simon & Schuster, 2001.

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