There isn't daily mass at my home parish on Thursdays but given today's feast, I wanted to attend mass. I took Ella to the next town over, the one that had had a great deal of flooding from Irene, for their 9 am service. It's held in the chapel adjacent the sanctuary. Huge numbers of people were entering the church building. I was curious why. Sure, it's a significant holiday which tends to draw people out but, well, moreover, these people were well-dressed. All on their way to work?
Turns out, Catholic Charities was having a meeting with the bishop in a room adjacent the chapel. A couple of years back, the parish added the chapel and meeting room and now I see that the bishop gets to use it whenever he wants. :-) I hope that they were evaluating their response to the flooding. I tried to get a glimpse of the bishop through the large glass windows but wasn't able to. I could only approximate where he was seated based on the direction of everyone's attention.
The chapel was packed. I imagine that if some poor souls weren't already in the sanctuary having some quiet moments, the pastor would have jacked on the lights and switched venue to accommodate those pouring in for liturgy. Ella and I found seats up front which meant she could see the proceedings and would have to behave like a perfect angel. She did. To tell the truth, I'm not used to being that close to the goings-on!
Thankfully, he took the shortened form of the Gospel, leaving out the genealogy. The first reading was Romans 8:28-30; Mary's life makes the best case for Christian predestination. During the Lord's Prayer, Ella followed suit and prayed with hands in the orans position, not something I've ever done. But, as she grabbed my left hand, I found my right hand turning out and up.
We sang two hymns, "Hail Holy Queen" (entrance) and "Immaculate Mary" (recessional) a cappella. After the service, we stole into the dark, quiet sanctuary because I had a dollar for a candle. The kids like to light candles and our parish doesn't stock any. There were at least a dozen people in there praying who had not attended mass and several other people wandering about. I've never seen a Catholic church so busy on a weekday morning.
Then we hightailed it over to the Baptist church for the first session of bible study. It was nice seeing some familiar faces. I remember being jealous last year, my first year, not knowing anyone. This year, people are at least saying hello. I have a new small group leader but she's away for her anniversary so we had a substitute. The sub is actually in our group as well but winters in Florida. By January, she's out. Another lady in the group also winters in Florida. It's an incredibly well-off group, in my opinion. But that's what I get attending a bible study near the Shore. Imagine, going from flood-ravaged, working class Hightstown over to Spring Lake?
We had to tell a little bit about ourselves to our neighbor and then they would share it with the group. I'd rather share about myself directly but I guess it's an icebreaker and I do listen better to at least one person! There wasn't a clear pattern in their stories but one lady talked about growing up Catholic - which she didn't regret - and joining the host church a couple of years ago. Another lady, with a very Catholic-sounding surname, talked about her husband who was "another religion" before becoming Christian. And, at least as they told it, it was the wife who converted the husband, rarely the other way 'round. So much for spiritual headship.
Last year I met a woman there who was Catholic but I couldn't spot her this year. The lady sitting next to me was good friends with the sub and after we finished the icebreaking exercise, she talked with our leader about her Saturday evenings after her company has left. She said she sometimes goes over the Bay Head if it wasn't too late but otherwise would go to St. Dom's. She lives in Brick. So, afterwards, we were wandering back to the sanctuary to sing a closing song and listen to a lecture, but we were in a dining room with tables full of books for sale, cheap. So I was browsing and she saddled up next to me. I pointed to a book from Piper, saying I'd never heard of it before. Then the Interior Castle caught my eye and I commented that that particular translation is good1. Then I pointed to a book by Schaeffer. She just said that my interest in books reminded her of her cousin.
1 But, in fact, it was Peers which I think is not the good translation. This edition was recommended when I took the class on Christian spirituality authors several years ago (Merton, Lewis, Siena and Avila).