Monday, March 26, 2007

You Know, I Never Met A Papist I Didn't Like...

Hey all! Thanks again for everyone who kept the "quote tag" game going. It was really fun seeing all those great quotes, and it's just amazing to see just how far back these little games can go. The blogosphere is a wonderful place sometimes. :)

Well, yesterday I had a really interesting experience. In my Intro to Religion class (which is pretty awesome, by the way) I have to write a 10-page paper, comparing and contrasting two religious services which I am supposed to attend and summarize. One of them has to be from a tradition with which I am familiar, and the other should be from a tradition with which I am unfamiliar. I could have just done something as simple as go to a Baptist and then a Methodist service. But you know me; I wanted an experience, so I decided to head to my first ever Catholic Mass.

Now, I'll admit that the Mass I went to wasn't exactly what you think of when you think of Mass. It wasn't held in a big, solemn cathedral. Instead, it was at the Catholic Student Center, which is really just an ordinary-looking one story house right off campus. There's a large open living room, empty except for the altar, a large cross, several wooden chairs, and a piano. It was filled mostly with students, many of whom I had seen around campus but had no idea were Catholic (there was one somewhat Gothic-dressed guy that I was surprised to see). However, there were also several adults and even a few senior citizens. It was, to say the least, an odd mix. No one was dressed up at all. I mean, I felt out of place with my just my polo tucked in (I was wearing jeans, fortunately).

I had gone to the service with my friend Tanya, who's one of the nicest people I've ever met. She's extremely knowledgeable about Catholicism and is very active in the Church, so it was good to be able to go with her. She told me what I could and couldn't do, how to cross myself, and where to stop in the Lord's Prayer. (I was especially thankful for the last part. If I hadn't known I would have kept going after "deliver us from evil" and would have looked mightily foolish). But mostly I didn't interact. I just sat there, followed Tanya's lead, and observed the service.

The funniest thing about the service was how at peace I felt throughout it. Even though I had never been to Mass in my life and didn't know half of what was going on, it was one of those rare instances in which I really felt the Holy Spirit's presence. I loved the universality of the service: the way that everyone from the Goth kid to the old lady participated equally and were treated the same. I loved the reverence of it all (I think I've mentioned before how the more modern Evangelical "arms-in-the-air" worship makes me uncomfortable). I loved the Father's message. The reading was the story of Jesus, the Pharisees, and the adulterous woman. It's always been a favorite of mine, but I especially liked it here.

The priest's reflection on the reading was also very good. I wasn't expecting a sermon, of course, but I still felt that he hit home with a lot of points. The compassion of Jesus Christ for sinners was highlighted (as it was in the story) and in so many words the priest basically called those assembled to be compassionate towards others, especially those outside their comfort zones. He mentioned the poor, and those of other races and cultures, and those of different sexual orientations...yep, he went there, and he used those words too. It was encouraging to me. I've been hearing Evangelical sermons for a long time and I never heard such a sincere call to compassion for gays and lesbians come from them (it's rare enough to hear such a serious call to help the poor). It's not that I don't think Evangelicals don't believe in compassion or helping the poor. I know for a fact they do! But sometimes it's just nice to hear it said. It's nice to be around people who don't give a hoot about politics and are just in the business of being loving, compassionate, humble, and of service to their fellow man. A lot of my Catholic friends are like that. So are a lot of my Protestant friends, but there's a sort of difference between the two that's hard to put a finger on.

Anyway, like I said it was a wonderful service and I truly felt at peace despite not knowing what was going on. I loved the rhythm and the reverence of it. There are some theological differences that would keep me from becoming Catholic, obviously, but if not for them I think I would take a swing at it. Peace out, y'all.

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