Church #41, Saint Francis of Assisi on Delaware Ave

Date: 9/22/13

Church name/type: St Francis of Assisi Delaware Ave, Roman Catholic

Pastor: Reverend Leo O’Brien

Style of worship: the usual Catholic style format with some casual bits mixed in

Overall Impression: My favorite Catholic church so far!

This church was particularly refreshing. The first thing we did after announcements was to turn to our neighbor and give them a nice greeting and exchange names. This was as directed by the officiant at the time (deacon I think- I sat too far back again). He then said, “That wasn’t so bad was it?”

I noticed the announcements included a call to join small groups which I suppose meet at someone’s house about religious stuff. Also requested were donations to a food pantry and outreach efforts to give away toiletries to those in need. In fact the whole message of the day was focused on mercy and ministering to those in need. We were encouraged to ‘look into the eyes’ of a needy person. I wonder if everyone in positions with any kind privilege or power could do this, if they’d realize it is a person and not just a statistic. We heard that budget cuts to the government could threaten programs like food stamps. Maybe it’s time for contacting our reps about this. As someone who has had several close friends that utilize food stamps, I see it as a worthwhile program that needs to stay.

We also had our attention called to some of Pope Francis’ recent remarks regarding the attention we pay to various problems. The Pope said in an interview that the Catholic Church has become obsessed with certain details. He said, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods…
It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars!”
The injured person metaphor the Pope used again highlights the focus on issues of sexuality and reproductive choices while hunger and poverty are largely ignored. I wonder, how can we call ourselves compassionate if we condemn someone for going through with an abortion while saying and doing nothing to alleviate their struggle to make ends meet (which may have even been responsible for that choice)? This disconnect is a major problem in the Catholic Church that the Pope is taking the lead trying to fix.

Here is where I found the Pope’s remarks by the way. Pope said this.

So now that I’ve sidetracked this post I’ll try and get back to how church was. I have to admit I liked it. Right towards the very end of mass the question was asked “Anybody visiting today?” I stuck my hand in the air and said thus said hello to the entire congregation. It’s the first time I’ve had this type of large-scale greeting in a Catholic church. After the dismissal song one of the deacons caught me and we got into some conversation. He said to call him Deacon Jim. He asked me a bunch of questions about my journey.

Being so prompted, I told him I was raised Catholic and experienced some difficulty finding a church to love and belong in after going away to college. I said my journey to the various churches of Albany was partly a spiritual quest and often informational if nothing else. He asked about what churches or denominations appealed to me this far. I named Presbyterian, ELCA Lutheran and the Reformed Churches. I said that I find the Catholic Church upsetting in its opposition to homosexuality. He pointed out that not only did his congregation include gay couples, but the Pope himself had been making more remarks about His discomfort with Catholic anti-gay obsessiveness (this was before I had read the interview I link above). We both wondered about where the relatively new Pope was taking us as a Church and I think we both hoped it was someplace good.

So from this interaction I learned several things. First was the encouraging bit of news that even some Catholic churches are going against the doctrine of their hierarchy and functioning in a mildly independent way. Second I see that this is still allowed within that hierarchy- St Francis Church hasn’t had to go rogue or anything. They are listed on the diocese website. This all makes me really happy about my Catholic heritage and hopeful for what else might be out there.

After mass?: No gathering time. But it does help that the deacon specifically sought me out. Also the mention of small groups at the start of mass means they are trying to build community rather than ignoring each other. And I approve of that.

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