“The Parish of Saint ________ serving the Catholic community in _________, invites you to share our time, talents, and treasures where miracles DO happen.”
June 30, 2019, 10 AM
My Catholic friends were visiting, so I asked them to join me as I visited my second Catholic church. Once again, I was amazed at the attendance. The parking lot kept filling up as we waited for 955 AM. Then once we entered the sanctuary, it was actually hard to find a spot for all three of us. We ended up sitting in one of the first few pews, which is not normally my choice. I estimate there were between three to four hundred worshippers. Either these Catholics are very disciplined and faithful, or as my friends suggested, they might feel guilty.
The service started on time with a lay person welcoming us and asking us to greet our neighbors. Everyone said hello to each other without moving around, which is best considering the size of this crowd. The speaker told us what page to follow in the missal, which was helpful for newbies like me. However, there were several parts of the service that were not in the liturgy book, but most everyone seemed to know what to say, sing or do. Again, if you’re a regular at this, it’s probably just something you know. My friends knew exactly when to pull out the kneeling bench, when to stand, when to sit, and what to sing and say. I was always lagging behind, just trying to copy what they did. There was one long responsive song which I could not find anywhere, so I just hummed along.
Once again I was very impressed by the service, which included many of the traditional elements of worship: the Lord’s Prayer, the Nicene or other creed, the Eucharist, etc. I think the only thing missing was the Doxology, but I can’t be sure. What is most impressive is the way the congregation interacts with the Priest. It’s a back and forth type of service, with readings, prayers and responses. So the congregation always has an active part in the worship time. I think this is most ingenious. The congregation can’t really get bored–there’s always something to do, sing or say. It keeps your mind and body moving as the service progresses, and presumably your soul too.
The Priest seemed genuine, assured and professional in all his duties. His sermon was short, yet thought-provoking. He mentioned the pro-life stance of the Catholic Church and that it was not possible to be a Catholic and be pro-choice. Perhaps this is true. But I always feel a little betrayed when the Pastor/Priest tries to tell the people how they should feel/believe/vote on personal/social/medical/political issues. I would rather he said something like, “search your conscience and discern how God is speaking to you on this issue.” I know many will disagree with me here, especially Catholics, but I feel this issue is much more complicated that just a yes or no answer. It’s certainly deserves more discussion and contemplation than two or three sentences in a sermon.
After consulting with my Catholic friends, I decided to receive communion again. The Priest handed everyone a wafer, either in their hands or directly in their mouths. Most ate the wafer right away, then proceeded to the next station where they sipped the wine from a gold chalice. The man attending that station wiped the cup with a white cloth after each person drank from it. I was kind of creeped out by that, so I took my wafer to the chalice guy and asked if I could dunk it. He nodded yes. And that’s what I did. No communal cup drinking for me.
Overall, I love these Catholic services. I could almost become a Catholic, if it were only based on the worship. Yet, other than the greeting time in the beginning and the “passing of the peace,” absolutely no one greeted us. No one even spoke to us. So, this church FAILS the WELCOME TEST.