The Journey Begins
This past Sunday morning I woke up bright and early, eager to experience religion live for the first time in quite some time. I decided to try the two different Catholic churches downtown. First, I decided to go to St. Jude, the small chapel about a block from my house. The chapel is actually really neat. They've got these sweeping ceiling inverted arches - almost like the Atari logo - it's hard to describe. There is a huge tile mural of Jesus behind the altar, and the chapel was small enough that I got many good whiffs of incense. The service's focus was on St. Jude, the patron saint of the chapel. When I heard that St. Jude was the patron saint of lost causes, I figured I was in the right place.
The people around me all seemed to be very into the service. I enjoyed that quite a bit. At one point, I got kind of lost with what was going on, and the man next to me handed me a piece of paper which had the St. Jude prayer they were reciting.
It was espcially neat because they talked about how the church had been around for 30 years, and how most of the priests there were kind of new, but they were doing the best they could. Everyone was so reverent, not quiet, if that makes sense. There were a few families with small children, but there were also many couples and a few older people.
I really enjoyed that service. There was a lot of latin in that service, and most of the crowd seemed to be participating reverently yet enthusiastically. The parents impressed the importance of reverence onto the kids, and many were wearing the giveaway plaid that made me realize they were getting a Catholic education. The man doing the reading during the service was very passionate in his reading, and the homily was really great, full of impact, and yet not too long.
To get a feel of what a different Catholic church might be like, I hiked up to the big Cathedral a few blocks up the street. I walked by First Baptist Church and First Methodist Church, and thought about the other churches downtown as well. I know there's a First Presbytarian church downtown, and a few "Gospel Ministries" as well who minister to the homeless people.
I got to the Cathedral at 11:30a for the Noon service. The earlier Spanish-speaking session was not over, so I waited outside. The service was so packed that there were people spilling out into the entrance foyer. Finally, the service let out and I could get into the chapel. The chapel was very beatiful, with stained glass windows and carvings of the stations of Christ. It's got to have an 100 foot high ceiling at least. The seats were not padded and were very uncomfortable. I sat by myself, but it seemed as if there were people in every pew, even though they weren't packed in there were lots of people.
The service started differently than the other service because they had a ... I know it's not Cantor, because that's Jewish, but a lady at the front who led the singing and conducted the first 10-15 minutes of service with music. They had two separate priests, one who did the big Jesus reading, and the one who did the homily. The homily was very over-the-top. The priest definitely knew he had to preach to a large crowd. He told stories of when he first became a priest, and loosely tied it into the reading from Malachi at the end.
I didn't want to sit through the Eucharist ceremony again, as my butt was hurting from the wood pews and I had already decided I liked the small church much better. So I left right after the homily and went home.
I feel very comfortable in that little chapel down the street. I checked out what kind of bibles they had, but I think for now my little King James Version from the Mormons (free, and having no footnotes or concordance) will work just fine. When I was at Half-Price books last night, I got a book on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, so I can read about what the Catholics believe and why. I have the Bible to read and to use as a reference, but apparently the Catholic bible has a few extra books that the Protestant bibles don't have so eventually I'll probably have to get one.
I definitely want to go back next week. I'm slightly concerned because I don't think they have RCIA classes there (basically sunday school for non-members who are considering converting), and I think eventually I'd like to learn more. Not necessarily convert, but learn more. I'll go to church a few times, and if I still feel I want to learn more, I'll talk to the priest about it. He seems like a nice gentleman.