Monday, June 21, 2010

Travels and Mass

I love to travel and part of the fun is finding new Catholic churches.  I've attended Mass in tiny Revolutionary-era chapels and giant mega-churches that seat thousands.  I prefer the former, but it IS nice to see huge churches filled with Catholics. 

I don't think I've ever been in a location where I couldn't find a Mass to attend within ten miles of where I'm staying.  I rely on a wonderful website,  but it's always a good idea to check the parish website or to call the parish office to verify the Mass times and to make sure none are seasonal or have been canceled for an event.  We showed up for a Sunday evening Mass in one location, only to find the parking lot deserted.  A parishioner hurrying out of the building informed us that they were having a parish picnic that evening. 

When I arrive at a new church, the first thing I look for is the tabernacle and the red sanctuary lamp.  Sadly, many modern churches have hidden the tabernacle away in some little side room like an embarrassing relative.  I understand that these Blessed Sacrament chapels are often used for daily Mass or for private adoration, but to attend Mass without the tabernacle front and center makes me feel as if something is missing.

I find it odd that the last two Sundays we have attended Mass in two different churches, in two separate states, and neither had a tabernacle on the altar nor kneelers.  These were not "temporary" churches but finished churches with pews that had no kneelers.  This always presents me with a dilemma.  Should I kneel anyway?  I don't want to call attention to myself or distract others, so I usually just follow the congregation knowing that I'll soon be back in my own parish with its tabernacle, beautiful statues, bells and kneelers.

At such churches that thumb their noses at traditional Catholic practices, I tend to be too judgmental.  I look with a more critical eye at the way the congregation is dressed, at the music selection, the lack of bells during the consecration and other things that distract me during Mass.  I have to remind myself that I am still at Mass, that Jesus is still present and that the congregation and the pastor are doing their best and might not like the lack of tradition either.  So yesterday at this tabnernacle-less, kneeler-free and bell-lacking church I resolved to look for the good. 

I found it in the beautiful Baptism ceremony.  Two adult men were becoming Catholics that day and were led to the Baptism area in the back of the church.  The priest called down the Holy Spirit on the waters, reminding me of Genesis 1:2.  The men wore gowns and their feet were bare as they stepped into the shallow water.  The priest poured water over their heads from a shell, drenching them.  It made me think of John baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River and it all seemed somehow right, even if the ceremony was being broadcast by video to a screen that magically rolled down over the altar.

After their Confirmation, the priest remarked that both men had taken deep breaths as they were baptized.  He said that the water was not cold and that they were breathing in the Holy Spirit. 

I know that we are having a faith crisis in our country and in fact throughout the world, but I need to always have hope and faith in the Holy Spirit who is alive and well and watching carefully over His church.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I find that I myself am becoming even less patient with such practices. Hats off to you for rising above it all.