Saturday, January 26, 2013

Yesterday was both the feast of the conversion of St. Paul and the conclusion of the week - an octave, really - of prayer for Christian unity. Did you miss it again this year? Me, too. Well, almost. I guess I'd observed the octave unintentionally.

I thought I could take on an evening Bible study if it met every other week. I found one beginning this past week on the first few chapters of Romans.

It's been three years since I've attended a Bible study at this C&MA church in Plainsboro. In that brief time, I've noticed that my observation skills have deteriorated. I miss obvious things in the text that others point out. I find myself muttering, "How did I overlook that?!" I may benefit from practicing the technique again. Back to basics.

The initial session was Tuesday evening. We got acquainted, received the schedule and worked through Scripture's storyline from Genesis until Romans. I did not know anyone, I guess because I'd always attended in the daytime. Many of them knew each other from the fall study of Hebrews. The Precept workbook is "sold separately." I ordered myself the Romans Part I workbook earlier that day. A woman who switched to another class after receiving it left her copy free for anyone. No one expressed an interest so I took it and cancelled the online order. The workbook references another book that I'd received years back for nothing as well.

Then, of course, Thursday was CBS at the Bible / Baptist church in Allenwood. Before the morning program began, I overheard two women discussing how Fr. Bausch1 weathered Superstorm Sandy. The one, Ouida, had been in my core group two years ago but her attendance was irregular because her ex-spouse, living in Texas, was dying and she went down to care for him. At the time I thought she might be Catholic but saw so little of her that I couldn't form a clear impression. The other woman, in reminiscing about Fr. Bausch, made it clear to Ouida - as ex-Catholics are compelled to - that she was raised Catholic, etc., etc., etc.

So, I felt that I did my part this past week in praying and studying the Bible with other Christians. But the week's activities weren't all that unusual for me.

1 People who know Fr. William Bausch personally, love him. Those who have read his books, don't. I neither know him nor have I read his books.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

I volunteered to run an errand for my son's teacher that involved a trip "east" to Lincroft. I go to the eastern part of the county often but not usually on a Sunday afternoon. However that was the deal, so I worked in a turn at a favorite country market in nearby Colts Neck.

In fact, I drove past a Catholic church on the way to Lincroft and told myself I'd drop in on the return trip. The appointment in Lincroft was for noon and a Sunday service was just starting. I figured it might be near conclusion when I passed by again and I'd just slip in for a rosary in a quiet church. I'd prayed in that church during the daytime before and found it nice.

The errand didn't take long at all, so I found myself swinging through Colts Neck around 12:30. I entered the church woefully miscalculating where they'd be in the liturgy - the pastor was halfway through the sermon. I waited in the vestibule for him to finish and I'd slip in afterwards. The interior walls are glass and sound is fed into the room, so I didn't miss anything of his homily. Two boys stood at the back of the sanctuary, against the glass, directly in front of me. One had a phone and was texting. An older man entered the sanctuary - actually, I was surprised to see a steady stream of people arriving 30 minutes late for the service1, like me - and said something encouraging to the boys because they smiled and nodded.

I slipped in and found a seat almost in the front because all the back seats were taken. It's a "fan layout" or half-circle, so most seats feel "close" to the front. I participated in the second half of the liturgy, preferring their music selection and performance. I had noticed a sign on the doors announcing that communion would not be offered under both species because of health concerns, i.e., flu epidemic. So at the sign of peace, I declined shaking hands even though I had used the hand sanitizer in the vestibule before entering the sanctuary. I'm not worried about myself: I've already had both the flu shot and the flu!

Anyway, after the service, I didn't feel like staying around for the church to clear. So I just said the rosary in my car as I drove home after shopping at the market. Since the church is dedicated to Mary, many of the stained glass windows depict Marian scenes. One across the way caught my eye, Fatima. Directly behind me was Lourdes.

1 to be late for a "last chance" noon service is pretty bad

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Every few months, whenever my non-practicing Catholic friend gets a new coat or handbag or cut from the plastic surgeon, she invites me out to lunch to share. This time, I had something to share, a photo book of pilgrimage pictures.

Since she asked me to bring the trip pictures, I wasn't forcing anything on her. Her reaction to the first picture in the book was like, "Oh, you are speaking something?"

Convent St. Teresa, Avila, Spain
Reading Wisdom 7:7-14

I wanted to counter her question with, "Were you ever Catholic?" But I bit my tongue and explained the setting so we could move on.

She asked whether I went shopping while I was abroad and I said that I bought some souvenirs. "Oh, I would have shopped, but you know I'm a shopper." I explained that there was a trio from Spring Lake who shopped for boots, coats and handbags when we were in Madrid. But it was a pilgrimage, and most of the merchandise was American brands made in China anyway. Nothing different from what one can buy in the States for less.

She said she didn't realize that I was so into church and she said she'd invite her mother to lunch with us next time. "She1 goes to church every week." I often see her mother at church with my friend's children. I usually clear up her left-behind bulletin for her after she leaves during communion.

I told her I'd be happy for her mother to join us for lunch.

1 I think some people believe it counts if they know someone - a parent, usually - who goes to church regularly.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Sunday Snippets - a Catholic carnival hosted by Rann at "This That and the Other Thing."

My post this week: Vigil Solemnity Mary Mother of God and solemn vespers / Te Deum

Click to join sunday_snippets
The New Jersey DEP promotes their state parks with "First Day Hikes," guided walking tours on New Year's Day. I planned to walk with my oldest son at the Battle of Princeton because the guide seemed the most informed. Other NJ state parks are closer to home but this one in Princeton offered an early start, 7 am, and a reasonable duration of two hours.

Quaker Meeting House/Stoney Brook Meeting House

Since my parish did not offer a vigil mass for the solemnity, we attended elsewhere. The parish I chose just happened to be enjoying a visit from the bishop of Trenton who celebrated the vigil mass for the solemnity as well as solemn vespers and Te Deum afterwards.

We arrived early just in case the bishop drew a crowd. He didn't. I took my boys back one at a time to light candles. When the youngest asked me why we light candles, I said it's the reverse of blowing out birthday candles.1 St. Gregory's is one of the few parishes I know that doesn't have electric votive candles. I let the boys try to strike the paper matches themselves and only the youngest succeeded. The older two were probably too afraid of being successful. But the youngest burned his fingers trying to light the candle.2 I give him credit for not dropping the lit match on the stone floor. So all of them used a long, wooden stick to light their candle rather than the match. You really have to be quick with the match, especially because you have to reach down inside the votive glass to get the wick.

There was incense. And all the altar boys were on hand, as well as all the clergy. I wonder still why everyone sat after saying only the first line of the Gloria, then stood up for the Collect. The GIRM says, "The faithful should stand from the beginning of the Entrance Chant, or while the Priest approaches the altar, until the end of the Collect" (no. 43) It doesn't mention sitting during the Gloria as at a Traditional Latin Mass. I object to blending.

The bishop's homily from the vigil mass may be read online. I appreciate his point that the presence of shepherds at Jesus' birth is "not simply a sentimental, 'nice' part of the story." I had hoped my boys might meet the bishop after mass but he had to vest right away for vespers. I wondered how vespers would run, since the provided text indicated chanted Latin. I couldn't imagine the congregation could chant Latin. In fact, the only two who could or did was the choirmaster and one of his cantors. The clergy and the laity sat and listened. It was dull beyond belief.

Nevertheless, I might have muddled through - and I did try to sing along - if not for the kids. They wanted to leave. More than two hours in church is asking too much of them. So we slunk out. And I wish I'd known about the plenary indulgence for the Te Deum on New Year's Eve.

Rorate Caeli Blog

The Monitor, January 3, 2013

1 How different are wishes from prayers at their age anyway?
2 When I told my husband, he said, "Good. He ought to be afraid of matches." True.