I have to really reflect on this subject before I started writing. I believe that this may end up as a little series, so here goes. As I have written earlier, you will learn a lot about me and I will learn some things about myself. I consider myself spiritual, a “Cathoist” a made –up word to describe my blending of my Roman Catholic upbringing and roots with my affinity for Buddhism and its teachings.
I decided to attend Mass this past Saturday afternoon. Not the regular parish I have semi frequented (I use that term loosely) since my “self-exile” to Kansas City but, a parish closer to my home; a 10 minute drive as opposed to the half-hour. Now there are a few things I was surprised with:
- I did not instantaneously combust on entry into the sanctuary.
- The building did not explode upon my entry.
I will admit I struggle like all of us to follow in the footsteps of Christ. I however, may have followed the “other” footsteps a little more regularly not on purpose but let’s just say that there will be a huddle that St. Paul will need to have and a negotiation performed when I reach the pearly gates.
On my first visit to the new parish I was struck by:
Let me start with the lack of diversity. That really was a shocker for me. I grew up attending church’s that were complete melting pots of diversity. Even the church in metro Kansas City was diverse, but this one was as homogenous as a glass of whole milk. I counted two Asian families in attendance; I and the woman who came in with me were the only two African-Americans in attendance. By the way, I think she caught the vibe also, because she sat next to me in the pew. Now, the Midwest is not a cradle of Roman Catholicism, it’s generally considered Protestant country. In addition, I live in the northern suburbs of metro Kansas City and for whatever reason, some African-Americans tend to say, “that’s too far” or “they racist up there” or “man you know my car ain’t tagged up right”. So, the congregation in attendance reflects the area the church is in; a homogenous white upper-middle and middle class population. There were no goth, dread-locked, grunge, punk rocker types or anyone else that would be an exception to the whole in attendance.
I was wholly impressed with the fact that it was a full house in attendance. I was also impressed with the fact it just wasn’t an abundance of elderly persons in attendance also. The congregation had a very nice mix of age groups. In addition what I particularly liked was the fact that many attended as a family. Men were in effect and attendance. In my experience Roman Catholic parishes has always had a significant amount of male involvement, unlike what is generally reported about other faiths where attendance and activity is mostly female. Survival of a church is dependent on retaining and engaging the young and those like me who are always on a “spiritual” quest.
The service like all Roman Catholic services is steeped in ritual. All of the services are generally the same in format and structure-that is by design. What makes each service different, vibrant, and interesting is the sermon. I was raised in and influenced by socially aware and activist pastors. From Fr. Murray and Fr. Flynn in my early youth to Fr. Harris in my teens and early adulthood to Fr. Pfleger as a more “seasoned” adult I have been stirred to action and reinforced in my actions by socially active and aware pastors. These pastors in their sermons challenged their congregation to act and engage themselves in the betterment of their selves, their communities, and ultimately the world. They identify injustice and inspire, organize, lead their flock to initiate change for the betterment of all.
The Gospel came from Luke 10:1-12, 17-20. The sermon was bland and conservative. It made the analogy between sacrificing for vacation and the sacrifice that Jesus asks us to make as Christians. I was just thinking about the old Bud Lite commercial tag line, “Less filling, taste great.” The sermon while “less filling” was okay, but not inspiring, nor stirring.
As I mentioned before, going to services is not a regular event, nor is this house of worship my regular place when I do go. The liturgy no matter where you go on Earth, no matter what country you go will always be in most cases the same. There are exceptions, but mostly they are all the same. Despite my own religious exploration and experimentation I was shocked to learn just how much I remember and have a love for the ritual of Mass and the prayers, responses, and motions of service. When I entered the sanctuary I knelt with my knee touching the floor and my back perfectly straight as my father taught and punished me for if not performed perfectly while a little boy. I recited the Profession of Faith; my Profession of Faith-the Apostles Creed just as strongly and with the devotion I had at 16 while attending my High School, Cathedral Preparatory Seminary a formation program for young men considering the devotion and commitment of priesthood. I received the Eucharist which is the reason we go to Mass in the first place. I felt the comfort of a hug from the Lord, similar to the prodigal son in the parable. I didn’t catch the Holy Ghost. I did not feel the fellowship and warmth from the congregation. I did feel that as I prepare myself for the Baptism of my godson that I want him to feel the same hug I felt and that maybe I need to instead of driving 10 minutes drive the extra 20 and experience the fellowship and communion. Maybe I will not be afraid of instantly combusting when walking in. Hell, maybe I will catch the Holy Ghost. See what I mean about the huddle and negotiation St. Peter and I will need to have at the pearly gates?