Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Straw Mass and Alter Relics of Saints 

Last night was our tour of the church and a straw mass. The tour took around thirty minutes and the straw mass lasted around two hours. Our priest didn't perform the Mass and explain what he was doing, instead he talked his way through Mass and had a table full of accoutrements that he described and explained. We have some beautiful stained glass windows, in particular a large Rose window full of dark blues and reds above and behind the alter. Some of the other windows are more modern, in fact brand new... they don't have the thickness or texture or deepness of color of older windows, but after hours, when outside lights shine in, the colors enrich the rooms wonderfully. The chapel, where the Tabernacle resides, has windows depicting the seven days of creation and there is a wall of stained glass separating the chapel from the alter, making the chapel nearly a full room of stained glass. We have three older statues, including Mary and Joseph, with Marble eyes -- well crafted and wonderfully caste. Mary is standing on the crescent moon and stars and stepping on a snake.

Here are some of the things I learned:

1. If you miss a week of Mass through your own decision, you must go to confession before you can take Mass again.

2. Every Catholic alter has a relic of a saint beneath it. Our alter has a relic from Saint Maria Goretta, a bone chip. This practice began because churches were built over the graves of martyrs and as the church grew, we couldn't really be shipping bodies all over the world.

3. You don't have to hold hands during the "Our Father" if you don't want to. When our priest attends another church, he bows he head and clasps his hands together in prayer to signal that he's not a hand-holder.

4. There are different types of Holy Oils, an oil for annointing the sick, an oil for annointing Catechumens, and an oil of Chrism used for baptism.

5. There is a small red light visible behind the alter when the Host (the body of Christ, the Blessed Sacrament) is in the Tabernacle. You should face the tabernacle and genuflect when that light is on.

6. When you take the host into your mouth it is considered both the body and the blood of Christ. The same is true when you drink from the cup. Either item contains both items, so that is why not everyone drinks from the cup.

7. Our priest doesn't like where "giving a sign of peace" occurs within the Mass because it causes a hubbub just before a serious action. But, he says, "it isn't up to me, I follow the book." He said, "If I can't follow this book to the letter, then why should I ask others to follow the church rules." He has some leeway in the Mass and he tends toward doing more always, rather than less. A longer procession, a little more incense, ringing bells, more clarity making the sign of the cross, a bigger bonfire for Easter... he believes in involving all of our senses in the Mass as much and as often as possible because what does it say to do less?

8. Some time back, not long ago, servers held large paddles underneath everyone's chin when they took Mass so that crumbs would be caught. Since the host is now mostly handed to each individual, this practice has pretty much died out.

9. I learned our priest is extremely serious about his job and also very joyful and full of humor. It is a nice combination.

Update: 10. After reading on Amy Welborn's blog about the Catholic position on feeding tubs, I am reminded of one other thing our priest said last night. We are not required to agree with the teachings of the church, we are required to accept and to obey.

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