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19 July 2009

Searching for a home

I've had some difficulty since I moved finding a church that I can call "home." While I fully appreciate the fact that the Catholic mass is the same everywhere on any given Sunday (this is one of the reasons that I was drawn to The Church.), the make up of the mass is really different church to church. Because of this, I've been "church shopping" for the past few weeks, visiting a different church every week.

I'm liberal and modern in most aspects of my life, except my church. I prefer a very traditional church that is in a traditional building. After Vatican II, there was a movement to change the physical structure of churches. They (Rome) shifted from building churches with very traditional and ornate with a nave and transept to far more simplistic and modern theater-in-the-round churches. The idea was that no parishioner would be no more than 11 pews/rows away from the celebrant at any time in the mass. With this change, the wonder and awe was wiped out of the church building. Gone was the gold, stained glass, and deeply stained hardwood, replaced with light oak and pines and simple, neutral colors. The strong stonewalls with stone floors were replaced with beige carpeting and drywall covered walls. The art (when it actually exists) in the modern churches is often modern and abstract, far from inspiring. The statues are angular and impressionist not the realist and classic statues of the old church. I want to worship in a space that inspires me as a supplement to the inspiration that I feel from the words being spoken.

Aside from the dramatic shift in structure, the mass itself has morphed in ways that I dislike. The mass traditionally opens with a hymn and a recitation of the Penitential Rite. The Penitential Rite, for me, is one of the most important parts and it is usually spoken aloud in unison. It is a public confession of sin and a public request for forgiveness and prayers on our behalf. It is important to speak this aloud because it is a public acknowledgement that we are sinful people in so many ways and we are in need of prayers and forgiveness. A lot of modern churches have deleted this recitation from the mass because it makes parishioners feel guilty and makes them uncomfortable. Well, they should feel that way!!!! That's the whole point!!!! Public recognition of our sinful nature should make us feel guilty and uncomfortable. But, to appease the parishioners, the priests have taken to excluding that very important part.

I also find it frustrating that many churches have stopped keeping missalettes in the pew that allow parishioners to follow along and read the Gospel and other readings. Not having the missalettes available doesn't allow me to read the daily readings in silence while I wait for mass to begin. It doesn't allow me that time for reflection and centering myself to prepare for the mass.

These may seem like little things, but they are also just a couple of big things that frustrate me. There are quite a few smaller issues with the Vatican II church that frustrate me, but that would be a rather lengthy blog that I just don't have the time to write. I want to be surrounded by the beauty and grace as I experience the Eucharist and God's most awesome sacrifice. I want to participate in traditional prayers and sing traditional hymns. I'm just not into a "touch-feely" church.

Hopefully in the coming weeks I will discover a new "home" for my spiritual self. And then I can stop "church shopping."
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