Church #13, St Michael’s Chapel

Date: 7/8/12

Church: St Michael’s Chapel

Pastor: Father Joseph Collins

Time Spent: 10am-11am (mass) 11am-1pm (talking and lunch)

Overall Impression: Seems ok.

Type: Catholic

Format: Traditional pre-Vatican II mass, aka mass in Latin

So the first thing I noticed on peering in was that all the ladies and girls had lacy head drapes. I asked a greeter if I would be ok without one, and he offered me one from a pile on a table in the entryway. I do try to respect the norms as well as get the full experience at any church, so I took one and tucked it into the lacy headband I happened to have worn that day. The women were also all wearing skirts, but since I didn’t see any of those in the entryway to borrow, I went inside wearing jean shorts.

The mass started with the priest muttering softly in Latin and the congregation kneeling. Then, um- actually that was pretty much it the whole time. Besides the English sermon of course. And no music except the nuns chanting. I did pretty good with the Latin actually. I was in choirs, and we used to sing old masses written by old dudes (Bach, Mozart). Also some of it was similar to Spanish and there are quite a few English words from Latin. It wasn’t too hard to get the gist of a lot of it.

The bible verse was the miracle of the loaves and fishes. The priest talked about how early Christians used a fish symbol (I knew that) with a sack of loaves slung over its shoulder (I didn’t know that part). He pointed out that the two accounts of a food multiplying miracle differ in details, so they are clearly separate miracles. He also went on kind of a confusing tangent about how the church cannot teach any evil or wrong- it is impossible! So we know the church never teaches what is incorrect. It was unclear what he meant in saying this. Is everything fine then, or was he trying call attention to a perceived wrong that people are misinformed about? Or was he pointing out that a church teaching wrong is not really The Church? I suspect the latter, but he wasn’t exactly clear about it. He also said that people love to hate on organized religion and blame it for every war when the very idea is ridiculous. I’m not sure who is blaming religion for every war, maybe the priest is just overstating his fear of what society thinks.

Anyway…this was a church I decided not to take communion at. So far, at every other church I’ve been fairly certain their own internal rules permit me to take communion. This time though, I figured I might not be qualified in their eyes; having done my sacraments in Regular Catholic Church might not be enough for a stricter, old-style Catholic Church. So I skipped it.

After mass was really when it started to be fun. I wound up talking to a bunch of members, the priest, and a nun who was visiting. There were some good conversations about Peter the rock, Gnostics, America land of choices, and true religion. I had some very old school things suggested to me including praying the rosary and touching a relic. Everyone wanted me to know that this church was special and obviously the only type of church to worship in. (what’s new?) But the best conversation was with one of the nuns. She filled me in on some history and practice information. These independently Catholic churches believe the Second Vatican Council was wrong in the many changes it made. Rome says very little about their status, neither condemning them nor accepting them. Recently a bishop in the independent vein was asked to stop ordaining more priests. But otherwise there’s not much in the way of an official response.

Besides the talks, I stayed for a lunch and a game of Catholic Jeopardy. That was neat. Lots of trivia. I think I need to read up on Saints. Overall a pretty cool Sunday.

Overall Feelings: Ow my knees! Seriously, I’m shocked people used to kneel this much every week. Oh well, maybe I’ll wear knee pads next time.

Church #9, St. Thomas the Apostle

Date: 4/1/12

Church: Saint Thomas the Apostle

Pastor: Father- I didn’t even get to meet him. No idea.

Time Spent: 10:30-11:45am

Overall Impression: Ehhhh…

Type: Roman Catholic

Format: Standard Roman Catholic format in short: Song, 3 bible readings, chant/song, sermon, prayer intentions, chant/song, communion, blessing

Thoughts: This church felt like the most boring example of the most boring example of a church. It was Palm Sunday for crying out loud! That’s supposed to be one of the best and most interesting Sundays all year. I like my Catholic heritage and find the familiar formula very comforting. But this was a really dry experience for me. I wonder if the problem lies in the issues with priest shortage. The church was ridiculously filled and there were two other masses; one before and after. It felt rather like we were cattle being packed in and then shooed out to make room for the next bunch. There was no coffee hour or fellowship time after mass. The priest didn’t even stand in the doorway to meet exiting parishioners. Not a single person said hello to me outside the passing of the peace- which is basically mandatory, cursory, and felt meaningless. I am totally ashamed of this church and want desperately to see a better example ASAP to remind me of what I love about church.

Overall Feelings: Disappointed.