Catholic traditions, official or unofficial, pass from one generation to another. Bowing one’s head or tipping the hat when passing a Catholic church to show respect for the sacred place is one that may have faded over the years. For some, it also meant stopping in for a quick visit – a sort of “quick fix” to say hello or thanks to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament or to request a favor.
In our too-busy world, churches have few visitors except at Mass. Too many outside regulations also dictate when churches will be open. Our churches, from small country to lofty spires, call us to commune with God quietly alone or joyfully with others. We know we can find peace and a beautiful silence in which to listen and pray at an adoration chapel.
In addition to our many beautiful parish churches, we have our own St. John’s Cathedral and the basilicas of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee and the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill to inspire our hearts with prayer.
My home parish for almost 50 years has been a small, country church, one of the disappearing landmarks being replaced by larger community edifices. There were other country churches where one could almost reach out to shake hands with many in the congregation.
We have joined other family members at their newer, surround-style buildings with modern innovations such as large screen monitors for song lyrics. These experiences offer a different perspective of Mass, but the worshipers appear welcoming, prayerful, joyful in song and happy in God’s presence.
Other things to do
During the coming months,
– Compiled by Joan King
One of the beauties of Fr. Robert Barron’s video series on Catholicism is the way he portrays aspects of our faith throughout the world. While explaining the fundamentals of belief, there is also a comforting feeling of the universality of the church. From humble, remote buildings to soaring, elaborately painted, vaulted ceilings, the exuberance of the worshiping faith communities offers a glimpse of a living, dynamic church.
Here, and in other churches where we occasionally attend Mass, we immediately get a sense of belonging when ushers or greeters are friendly and welcoming. The feeling of belonging lingers as the congregation arrives, looking happy to be there. Later, there’s a “thanks for coming today” and “come again” farewell.
I have attended Mass in many churches, some where the crucifix behind the altar is the focal point and others where there is a brilliant display of God’s wonderful nature through a window; in the grandeur of Notre Dame of Paris and in a small church with the priest intoning the prayers in French; from the modern Church of the Nativity in Nazareth or the Florida church where the celebrant was a “clone” of Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan in looks and way of evangelizing.
In these houses of God we find spiritual togetherness. Perhaps the setting has been changed to reflect the march of time, but the people, ceremony and faith are still evident.
Even a short visit can be an opening of self to new experiences that provide a deeper sense of the importance of living the faith. The faithful who welcome strangers as one of their own and make them feel at home show the universality of a congregation.
People within a parish who go out of their way to say a good word or greet a new parish member express the energy of faith-filled lives.
It is all part of our inspirational and precious Catholic heritage. Let us invite others to share our Catholic faith in this Year of Faith.
God is waiting patiently for us to accept his invitation for a personal visit to one of his special houses.
(King, a member of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish, North Lake, is married to Thomas. They have seven children, 17 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.)