Sunday morning, like so many Sunday mornings, we went to mass at Holy Rosary Parish. A lovely little gem tucked right in the middle of Portland. Not far from the Rose Garden, not far from the river and just a little ways from the freeway. But here it is, our parish. Arguably the most traditional Roman Catholic Parish in the area.
Mass with four children under the age of nine is always an exercise in herding cats and divided attention. On one hand I am there for me. I am there to participate in the mass and worship God. I am there to receive the Eucharist and be part of this wonderful thing that is ever ancient and ever new. I am also there to teach my children the importance of being there. To help school them in the Mass so that it will become part of who they are. Then of course as part and parcel of parenting is the aspect of teaching my children to behave appropriately and not to be disruptive to others.
So Sunday mass, this past Sunday, was like so many other Sundays. God blessed me with a few moments of uninterrupted prayer. The children were actually very good. The mass was lovely and the homily was informative. Father Carl spoke on the readings of the day, applying them to our lives. He explained some things we might not have known otherwise about the context of the gospel, those subtle ways that our culture looks at things somewhat differently than they were 2000 years ago and this might lead us to judge the situation differently.
But the most interesting thing happened while I was leaving. There were two women, visitors to the parish, and they were gushing. “Did you see the communion rail? No one has one of those anymore, when was the last time you saw one?” “The veils!” “Most the congregation received on the tongue” “Look at all the children!”
Being only a couple of feet away I turned and smiled, “So you like our parish?”.
And it is beautiful. Not just beautiful in that it has preserved it Catholicity, but beautiful in that it is alive. The people are the true treasure of the Church. The old people, the small children, the pregnant women and blushing youths. When I look at my parish I don’t really see the beautiful tall stain glassed windows, I don’t see the heavy wood of the confessional doors or the communion rail. I tend to forget the beautiful stone the altar is made of. I see the crucifix, I see the tabernacle and I see the people around me. Some friends, others I barely know but see week after week. We have a beautiful parish.