For the last couple of weeks, our pastor at church has been in Italy - Rome and Assissi, I believe. So we've had a couple different visiting priests here to say mass. This got me thinking a bit about the difference between the Catholic Church and a lot of my protestant friends' churches. If their pastor goes away, what do they do? Perhaps there are multiple pastors for many of their churches. But really, their church is built around the pastor. Sunday service is built around the pastor's sermon, his interpretations of scripture.
When our priest is gone, we have someone step in, and sure, the homily might be different from what we're used to. It might be kind of boring, or longer, or shorter, or maybe really great and insightful. But the Mass remains. It doesn't change with the whims of the resident priest or depend on him all that greatly. We are still nourished by the Word of God. We still pray together, and sing together. And we still recieve the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.
Growing up Catholic, I had no idea how different our church is from other churches and took much of it for granted. I didn't understand the reality of the Eucharist - it's importance or it's power. I didn't realize the depth of Tradition that reaches both back through time, and outward across the entire world.
I appreciate it so much more now and I hope and pray I can pass some of that wonder and appreciation on to my own children.