Thursday, January 06, 2011

Ginger Goes To Mass

After tentatively deciding that it was possible to be a progressive Catholic,  I began to look for a church in between my web browsing of progressive Catholic blogs. While it was interesting to read like-minded people, I also had to deal with the practical side of finding some place to attend mass. There are more Catholic churches in Charlotte than one might expect. It is a Southern City. BUT it is a Southern city filled with people from New York.  It was over-whelming and for the most part I wasn't finding out much about the various Churches leanings through their websites. I narrowed it down two. One was fairly close to us and the other was a Spanish speaking church in a not so hot area. Feeling not really great about either choose, I stopped looking and even thinking about it. Instead, I got swept up on preparing for Christmas.

We were rapidly approaching Christmas Eve which is the date I had set for us going to mass. H kindly agreed to go with me even though I think he'd had rather skip that whole experience (a whole other blog post). I was excited about going as a family but still hadn't decided on a church to important detail. The night before Christmas Eve, I was doing another search for a good church when I ended up on a site that listed "Gay Friendly Churches in Charlotte." I have no idea how I ended up on this site. But there listed was St. Peter's Catholic Church in Charlotte, NC. I looked it up and discovered it was this lovely little church downtown. We had always admired it and often talked about going to a mass to just see what it was like. And it was St. Peter's. Peter was always my favorite apostle. He was fiery, bad tempered and cowardly....a lot like me. It was run by Jesuits and I'm a bit obsessed with Jesuits. Even I couldn't ignore the signs (or the signs as I read them). Plus it listed several socially progressive programs as well as socially consciously outreach programs. 

Getting ready was hilarious. First, I had no idea what one wore to mass. Here in Charlotte, people tended to dress fairly casually for church. But those were people who attend Willow Creekesque churches. I finally settled on work clothes after a friend pointed out that either nothing I wore would be good enough or whatever I wore would be fine. Second, preparing the beasties who really are little heathens who hate church (they've been a few times with my mom). They all whined piteously of course. Third, we didn't think through the date. Umm...Christmas Eve....duh. One of two times that ALL Catholic make an effort (Easter being the second date).

Thus we show up and IT IS SLAMMED FULL. Seriously. It's like going to see that indie band that everyone has finally decided is it. We managed to get a pew which was a pretty amazing feat because within five minutes people are filling up the back and crowding down the side asiles. My children, meanwhile are acting like heathens. They ask, loudly, what the "HECK is that book?" And "Who is that man on the cross?" I don't think anyone heard them because, I did mention, how "HOLY crowded" it was right? Piper is also bored within five seconds because Piper is always bored in five seconds. Umberto kept falling asleep. I was busy looking around. People were dressed up and dressed down. There were tons of children but we were will still one of the larger families. However no one looked at us askance. When the mass began, I didn't look as foolish as I thought. I wasn't the only one late getting to my feet, and I had a 20lb. baby to use as an excuse. I didn't know all the memorized bits but I caught on quick to some of them. I did know all the words to "Hark! The Herald Angel's Sing." The priest was charming and funny. His final words were "Remember our children because this season is after all the celebration of a baby."

After we left, H was a bit bummed. He asked me if I had experienced what I planned on and I thought about it before saying "Yes." He was surprised I think. I went onto explain that I think one has the experience that one plans for themselves. I didn't expect a lightening bolt to hit me from above. I have studied religion to long to think those moments are going to happen for me. In fact, I almost think I would find such a thing quite suspect. Instead what I felt was a simple moment of belonging. Not necessarily with the people, but with the whole thing. With the mass, the words spoken in unison. The songs. The simple message of the mass. The way the setting sun reflected through the stained glass windows. It felt like home. And I expect that like any home I will find it filled with both joy and unhappiness. Anger and pleasure. There is no way out of not getting the bad with the good. One has to weigh them in proportion and decided how much they can tolerate. H got it, I think, but that's his thing to write about not mine.

I'm curious to return on a more "normal" Sunday. Sundays are pretty busy for me so I was hoping to find another day they did mass in a big way but the church is pretty small so Sundays was it. I thought about looking around some more and then realized I had no interest in another church. I plan to go this Sunday. Not sure who will be attending with me. R of course has to come and Camille has expressed an interest. It may just be the three of us. I'll update more as my journey progresses.


Jennifer Welborn said...

You don't have to go on Sunday. Most Catholic churches have mass several times a week. When I was little my grandpa used to take me on Tuesdays because that was the only day he could work it out to go. Check the church website--I bet you'll find at least 3 other days you could go.

Ginger As in Green Tea... said...

Oh many of the churches do but this one only does the family mass thing on Sundays. They have mass everyday at 12:01 and that totally does not work! And they have some times on Saturday but those are vigils. I might just have to switch some other things around!