...but in a Catholic Church can you have such amazing services? But first...
I went to a great session on beginning apologetics. It was very inspiring, and I really wish I could take a regular class on it. An hour wasn't ample time to cover much in the session. I did get some ideas for some other books to get. I guess I will continue self-study as I have the time. I would just be more committed to it if I had a class. I was going to go to the RCIA classes again but choir practice is going to interfere.
Before I go on about the closing Mass, I want say that there is no other church that has the unity of the Catholic church. The Eucharistic Congress brought together all of the Parishes in our diocese. Every single priest within our diocese, along with other bishops and two cardinals took part in it. People from every parish came to the celebration. Would you ever find that in a Baptist church? One of the problems I had with protestant churches is the fact that there is no unity involved. They have no authority and can basically preach whatever they want. They claim that their interpretation of the scriptures comes from the Holy Spirit. If that is true, then how can they account for all the different interpretations that occur between different denominations and even within a single denomination? I am not saying that the Holy Spirit isn't at work within the churches, but it seems that if their interpretations were indeed correct, they would be one and the same. At that is what I can count on in the Catholic Church. The Church doesn't randomly make a decision on official teachings. The teachings are based on strict accordance with both scripture and tradition. It has never waivered on its teachings. It may clarify some at times, but it has never changed. What other church can say that?
I have a friend that used to be Catholic and left the Church for a non-denominational church that is (as she calls it) more spirit-filled. Her church may be more charismatic with people raising their hands with some hip music and firey preachers, but I can't understand why someone would think a Catholic Church isn't spirit-filled. What is more spirit filled than a place that has Christ truly present in the Eucharist? I have found that the Catholic Church has been far more holy than any other church I have been to. John Henry Cardinal Newman (who was a convert from the Anglican church) stated ""To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant." I think if my friend truly realized what she had in the Catholic Church, then she would never have left it. I think that the reason why some people leave the Church is because they aren't properly catechized. They haven't been taught and fail to realize the wonderful gifts and blessings that are part of the Church.
Now with that being said, let me talk about the Mass. The opening song was called "Come O Spirit of God." It starts with a cantor singing the words in Latin. Then the basses and congregation come in and sing the words in Latin. Next, are the altos singing the same words in Phillipino & English, followed by the Tenors singing in Vietnamese & English. Finally the sopranos come in singing Latin. We sang the verse twice before cutting out. Then the tenors followed by the altos cut out. The song ended with the basses and congregation singing acapella. It was really beautiful. The choir then sang the song "How Beautiful" by Twila Paris. It is a gorgeous song. After that, the procession began. The brass played a fanfare as people carried banners in that represented each Parish in the Diocese. There were 50+ banners. Then the Knights of Columbus in their regalia walked in carrying their swords up high. Next, the priests from all the parishes entered followed by the dignitaries that included our Bishop as well as a few other Bishops from other areas and a Cardinal from Rome. As this was happening, the choir sang three songs with the last being a song in Latin that heralds the high priest as he enters called "Ecce Saucerdos." (Pronounced Et-cheh Sawchairdose) After singing all these songs in Latin, I think it would be interesting to learn.
The Mass took place in the coliseum which is a place that seats about 6,600. Although it wasn't filled, I would guess that we had around 3,000 people there since both sides were mostly filled as well as the floor area. It was an interesting Mass because although the major parts of it were in English, our responsoral songs were sung in Latin. The prayers for the faithful were said in English, Spanish, & Vietnamese. When the consecreation of the host occurred at the altar, all the priests went up and surrounded the Cardinal and extended their hands toward him and prayed with him during the process. I found it very moving. Then communion was distributed to all of the people present. While singing in the choir, we were getting concerned that we weren't going to get to participate, but we finally had a priest come over to our area. We sang the first communion song acapella which was called "At that first Eucharist." We then sang other songs and it took a little longer than expected so we sang an additional song that we didn't sing during the preparation of the gifts. That reminds me... during the preparation of the gifts, we had Vietnamese dancers that came up and performed a liturgical dance. They held mini flower bouquets that had a candle in the middle of it and long ribbons streaming down. The turned did a lot of mirroring of each other while in partners and made formations. It was quite charming.
The whole experience was really amazing. I wish I could have heard his homily better, though. The sound wasn't projected to our side very well. After the Mass, we were invited to a reception at a local hotel. They served fajitas which were really quite good. I am starting to meet other people within the Church slowly. I got home around 8:30 after picking up McDonald's for Josh. It had been a long weekend and so I just sat in my chair in front of the t.v. for a bit before I headed to bed around 10:30.
I am still very much happy with my choice to be a part of such a beautiful Church that is steeped in history and tradition. How I wish everyone could see it through my eyes. If you have ever had any inclination to visit a Catholic Church or have even thought about becoming Catholic, I recommend that you go to a Mass sometime. Most RCIA classes are starting this month and it is a great way to learn about the Church. You are not obligated to join when you attend classes, you just learn about the teachings of the Church and can decide if it's right for you. So don't be afraid to check it out. Catholics are really quite friendly and there will be someone that would be glad to take you through the process.