Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Club Catholic

This past weekend we were visiting my lovely daughter and her family in the quiet town of Portland, Connecticut. The town was hosting its annual fall fair, and we had great fun watching my amazing granddaughter Ava running to go on every wild ride she could find. My favorite was the big trampoline where they strap you into a harness suspended by big elastic bands, and you bounce high into the sky. Ava was in her glory, hair flying, as she soared high. After a delicious dinner of pork loin prepared by Malcolm in his outdoor smoker, we returned to the hotel where we were staying down the road in Glastonbury, home of blue-haired ladies with lots 'o dough. We were visiting friends in Milford on Sunday, so we sat down and tried to decide where to go to church. We agreed on St. Dunstan's in Glastonbury.

St. Dunstan was born near Glastonbury, England and so the good people of this sister town decided to name their church for him. We found the church about 8 miles away with the help of our faithful Tom-Tom GPS system, on which I changed the voice annunciator to a lovely British gal instead of the harpy who used to annoy me with her attitude every time I failed to follow a command. Mass was at 8 am which gave us more than enough time to have breakfast afterward and drive down to Milford. St. Dunstan's was a small, modern-looking church unadorned by statues, stained glass windows or  decorations of any kind. The walls were brown stone and on them were hung the Stations of the Cross, starkly simple and artistically uninteresting; to me the place had a cold feel to it.

Mass was conducted by Father George Couterier, probably the only priest assigned to the parish in these sad days of low vocations and shrinking diocesan budgets. I knew we were in trouble when the organist played, and the congregation droned, three verses of the entrance hymn. It does me no credit at all as a Catholic to prefer masses with no singing and the shortest possible homilies. At home we get up early for the 7 o'clock mass at St. Anne's to celebrate in this way, although since the speedy Father John passed away, their service is starting to lengthen out. Father George's homily came right from the speaker's handbook: tell the audience what you are going to say, say it, and then tell them what you just said, again and again and again. My wife relaxed her vigilant elbow, and in short order, I nodded off.
One good thing about being a Catholic is that no matter where in the world you go to mass, the service will seem familiar. You may not understand the language, and local customs may differ some, but you always know when to stand, sit and kneel. There will always be a kid coloring pictures to keep him quiet, an old lady who takes her place at the very end of the pew and glares at anyone who dares ask her to move in so they can sit down, and a parishioner who sings hymns with gusto, but never comes anywhere near the melody. The genius of the Catholic church is their ability to standardize, so that participants always get this sense of familiarity at mass, regardless of where they attend. I know it may sound hypocritical to say this in view of my preference for brief, unmusical services, but I always feel uplifted after going to church.

St. Dunstan's was a little drab for my taste. I'm used to churches built by Italian congregations, where everything is big, ornate and gilded. Statues in imploring poses peer down from every wall, the Stations of the Cross are artistically rendered, dramatic tableaux of the Crucifixion of Christ, marble altars and soaring columns gleam everywhere, and banks of real candles cast a warm, flickering glow over all. Welcome to Club Catholic, and Peace Be With You. 


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Joseph Del Broccolo said...


Jim Pantaleno said...

If you were a true Club Catholic member you would know the correct response is "And with your spirit". You must sleep as much as I do at mass.