"You'll want something on the Pallium Mass in the there," said the outgoing editor of our diocesan newspaper, preparing me for my new editorial responsibilities and first issue.
"Palli-huh?" I said. Or maybe I just thought it, or muttered it quietly.
Learning the lingo of the wider world of religion, like pallium and crozier, has been part of my new adventure as communications director of our diocese here in Fargo, N.D. Since I've always had an almost unquenchable thirst to know the "whats" and "whys" of life, this is no burden.
The pallium, as it turns out, is a wool band worn around the neck and over the vestments of an archbishop at Mass. And since our outgoing bishop is becoming an archbishop, he recently was bestowed the pallium with his fellow, new archbishops from around the globe in a ceremony in Rome.
When I began to research information about that ceremony, not having been able to attend in person, I was surprised to find our outgoing shepherd's photo with the pope himself at the first Catholic news site I visited. If you go there, you'll see Archbishop Aquila, who'd blessed me just days before this photo, receiving his woolen band.
I've since learned that every February, two lambs are blessed and their white wool is used to make the pallium. This wool is presented to the Pope, and religious sisters then make the pallium for new archbishops. The garments are then solemnly blessed on the eve of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, and kept in a silver-gilt container in front of the main altar in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
Fortunately, I've been put in touch with someone who accompanied a group of local students to Rome, where they witnessed the ceremony firsthand. One of them has promised a written reflection based on personal experience that we'll print in our newspaper. I'm looking forward to this youthful account of the event and sharing it with our local readers.
I realize that some believe this is all a bunch of nonessential "extra" that threatens to stand in the way of us and God; that all of this pomp just makes knowing Christ unnecessarily complicated and difficult.
But I see it differently. Our Catholic faith is a faith steeped in a rich history. When we take time to understand the "whys" and "whats," it can actually be pretty fascinating stuff. Rather than take away from our relationship with Christ, it can be just another color-filled paragraph in an amazing story in which we find ourselves; the story of our lives and our journeys bound for heaven.
Q4U: What are some of the symbols of faith you've come to understand and appreciate?