Congregants shouldn’t be surprised by the brevity of Sunday’s special early Mass at Baton Rouge’s St. Joseph Cathedral. Shortly after it ends, the Rev. Michael Alello will have to run.
Then again, so will the congregants.
There isn’t usually a 6 a.m. Sunday Mass at the cathedral, but the Louisiana Marathon begins a block away at 7 a.m. Alello knows that all too well, because the Labadieville priest and avid runner spent the night there before last year’s half-marathon, and the noise of the race preparations got him up earlier than he’d planned.
“I know when I’m at a race, a lot of people experience some pre-race anxiety,” Alello said. “That dead time, in many ways, can mess with your head a lot.”
So, when Alello proposed a pre-race Mass to the Rev. Paul Counce at the cathedral, he quickly said yes.
“Typically, people get there and stand around,” Alello said. “If it’s cold or wet or whatever the weather might be, you’re standing outside with nothing to do but be nervous and anxious, and with the race starting a block from the cathedral, I figured it’s a win-win.”
Alello began advertising a 26.2-minute Mass — a nod toward the 26.2-mile length of the full marathon — on Jan. 3 and received plenty of positive feedback.
With that abbreviated time frame, there won’t be time for a long homily, but that might not be what the runners want, anyway, he said. Rather, it will be more a time for prayer and quiet. There will be a blessing of the runners, who are invited to come in their running clothes.
“We’ll probably talk about how it’s never a bad idea to have the Lord at your back,” he said. “There are numerous scripture references: Run so as to win the race in life and spiritually.”
Alello, 35, has been running for about five years, and this will be his sixth marathon.
“We’ll all pray together and then go out and race,” he said. “We both felt it was a great opportunity for the Catholic community to gather with whomever and just offer some prayer and some thanksgiving for the ability to be out there and run and for the safety of all those involved.”