The following is a sketch I started several years ago and then abandoned. The only resemblance to the original is the subject matter. It is a fragment; perhaps some day I’ll figure out how to finish it and possibly expand it. I wrote it in the present tense though I was trying to capture my thoughts on one Sunday morning more than ten years ago.
I pull open the huge wooden doors of the church not knowing what to expect. Last week I found a website for a local Catholic Young Adults group and wrote to the webmaster. He told me that the group on the website is actually defunct and recommended this parish which has an active YA group. I’m supposed to meet him and some other group members after mass.
The church building is old, probably more than a hundred years old. I like the architecture; it’s stately. The interior reminds me a lot of the little church I grew up in with the original carved wooden altars, the high altar and two side altars, intact. It brings back pleasant memories.
I smell sweet incense and hear the Sanctus bells at the consecration and the church bell in the tower rung by hand before mass. The choir sings a Latin motet. I’m not familiar with it but it is lovely. The congregation sings the Sanctus in Latin too and I find myself singing along though I haven’t sung it in more than a decade. The altar rail is intact and it’s in use. Many people are receiving communion on the tongue. Do I see the altar boys holding patens? I haven’t seen those in decades. There are only boys serving at the altar. I wonder if it’s always that way or if no girls were scheduled for this mass. Where are the Eucharistic ministers? Are all those people lined up to go to confession before mass?
Where am I? What year is it? Did I some how get transported to another time? An alternate universe?
I’m just looking for a new parish similar to the one I left behind when I moved from Tennessee, one with an active young adults group and where there is some degree of quiet before mass. It is definitely quiet especially considering the large number of children present. But this isn’t what I’m looking for. I want a mainstream church with a Young Adults group. Not too liberal but not too traditional either.
A few weeks ago I visited the parish I belonged to before I moved to Tennessee. Before mass I couldn’t help but overhear conversations about the previous day’s football game and the latest gossip. Only the most disciplined saintly person could manage to pray among that din. My parish in Tennessee was no bastion of traditionalism but at least I could pray a little before mass.
I again wonder about the possibility of time travel. No, the clothing and hairstyles are contemporary though more people are in their “Sunday best” than is typical for our postmodern times. I even see a few women with their heads covered with chapel veils. No, I haven’t gone back in time. This is not the Latin mass of my parents’ generation.
I am enthralled by the preaching. This priest is an excellent preacher, just what I need. I’ve been growing in my faith the past few years and I want to continue to grow.
The parish by my apartment has one priest who is an excellent homilist and another who is, well, less than excellent. I went to mass there for the last time a couple months ago. The first reading that Sunday was the call of Samuel. The gist of the homily was to “answer the call” to do nice things for other people such as returning your shopping carts to the store and not leaving them in the lot where they might hit someone’s car. I kid you not. (The grocery store across the street from the church doesn’t have those “cart corrals.”) I almost walked out but I stayed through the end of mass. I started this quest to find a new parish after that. I’m a bit sad because I like having a Catholic church within walking distance.