Tuesday, January 27, 2009


We have been studiously trying to be EC (ecclesially correct) when printing the name of our – er – parish. Instead of “Saint Sebastian Church” we have been using the more eccesially correct “Saint Sebastian Parish” or “Parish of Saint Sebastian.” This is because there is the “Christian Church” and there is the “Roman Catholic Church”, the Eastern Churches, and the local Churches or dioceses, but an individual parish is not a Church in and of itself. It is a Church under a bishop.

Now, being a good priest I usually smile and nod at such things and implement them with the thought that, well, there must be some good reason though it escapes me how this might keep someone in purgatory very long.

Then today, well, actually yesterday I was driving through a local University Campus. At one edge of the campus is a large (locally) well known Catholic church and at the other a very large and popular Protestant mega church. Sitting at a red light in front of the large building it struck me that here is a Church. This Church consists of this particular building and another campus some distance away. So in essence, if we are inclined to compare, this is Rome for them.

Now, I am willing to admit that for most other things I would praise this kind of enterprise. I don’t know what makes me sadder: that I can eat and shop in the exact same establishments in any city in the western world or that people do it. If I travel I want to experience being away and that means local foods and experiences. But I can go just about anywhere and eat at a McDonalds, shop at a Gap, and stay at a Quality Inn and know already what the interior is going to look like and that there will be a small pool and work out room. There’s adventure for you.

I don’t feel that way about faith, truth, and traffic laws. If I made a turn on red in Alabama I want to be able to do the same thing Idaho. And if truth is that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood in Ontario, it should be the same thing in Michigan.

So I started thinking about the college students who attended this Church and wondered what they did when they went home. Did they research to find another Church that teaches the same truth? Settle for one that was close? Figure a Church is a Church? Settle for less than?

What kind of questions does this bring up about Christ's promise about the Church and how his Holy Spirit would guide and keep it from error. There are many Churches out there teaching opposite things. They may not care but I feel for them. The research they must do to find truth among all the Churches, the decisions they must make, the searches they must endure when they move or when their particular Church changes its teaching!

Then the light turned green and I proceeded eventually passing the Catholic Church allowing me to be thankful that I have found and believe in the Bark of Peter, the Rock, the Church founded by Christ to stand firm for all ages, for all people, everywhere, and that if I go to Mass at a parish in Timbuktu or Harare it is the Mass, it is the Mass, it is the Mass. Something I do not like with hamburgers, but am exceedingly thankful for with the Bread of Life.


Adoro said...

Fr. V. ~ Great post. That's one of the things that hit me for some reason when I was there in July.

As long as I was at Mass...I was home.

MJ said...

Great post. I never thought about it until Bryan and I were in Italy several years ago and went to mass. It was comforting that even though we did not know Italian, we were still able to follow the entire mass. That is also one of the things that most of the teens commented on when they returned from World Youth Day this summer. Even though they didn't have the language barrier, they were amazed that they were in a different country and the mass was still the same.

Anonymous said...

Hi Fr. -

I am a parishioner of the Catholic church you mentioned (near the University). It has been my pleasure to meet some of the college students, and I must say I am impressed. We have a liturgy specifically aimed at the college crowd (late Sunday evening, so no one who travels or works over the weekend has an excuse to miss Mass - we are actually the parish at which the Newman Center is based). The music and Mass setting at the 8 PM liturgy is more "70's style" than the other weekend Masses.

The Mass I attend is actually the Saturday evening vigil Mass, and I asked one of the students if she was aware of the Sunday evening Mass. She replied that she felt much more comfortable at the other Masses because they remind her of home parish (in Illinois) - they feature a more traditional liturgy, with music provided by our pipe organ. Of course, we are all delighted to welcome the students, but it's interesting to note that the "70s-style" liturgy setting is not necessarily bringing in the younger crowd - they like to stop in for Mass or private prayer and feel at home. My young friend was actually drawn to our parish by the old-fashioned, classical exterior of our church.

This lovely young lady asked to be put to work volunteering in the parish, and she is not the only college student to do so lately. It is very gratifying, and we are indeed blessed!

Very best wishes to you and our neighbors at St. Sebastian Parish!

Susan from Akron

Anonymous said...

". . . it's interesting to note that the "70s-style" liturgy setting is not necessarily bringing in the younger crowd . . . ."

Dear Anonymous, Your comment was fascinating to me. You are right. When those "contemporary" Masses began to spread in the 1970s, the music was indeed "new" and appealed to many of us who were young then. The music was done in "our" style. But the current generation of young people were not even born then, so to them, these songs are merely entrenched church music, the way the older hymns seemed to many of us back in the 1970s. To be truly
"contemporary," we must get rid of the old favorites from the 1970s and write NEW (2009) contemporary music. Or, as in the case of the young lady you mentioned, teach our youth the classic (timeless) church music--what we are singing about and why.

Deacon Bill Burns said...

Hi, Fr. V.

I sometimes like to apply the four-fold method of scriptural interpretation to such matters, given that, ultimately, Sacred Tradition (and ecclesiology) and Sacred Scripture are two streams of the same revelation. Anagogically, you can see the Universal Church throughout all eternity; tropologically, the church as it exists in its mundane everyday form (the parish); typologically, the Church as it has evolved through the ages (ever present but represented in many historical contexts), and literally, as the Roman Catholic Church. I think if lay Catholics started looking beyond the immediate (perhaps using tools like this), we would find so much more depth in our faith.

Anonymous said...

Good gravy, I have never in my life seen two of those words: Anagogically or tropologically. I'm so glad Jesus put it all in laymen's terms; honestly, where would be without knowing Peter himself blinked a few times?

In Ontario, Buffalo, Cork, Ohio, both in 1960 and in 2000, whether in Latin or native language, with or without incense, whether sung in Handel or Haas and right on into the rest of the age.. Mass is Mass is Mass, thanks be to Christ.

There's a university town nearby, with a little Catholic ch.. uh.. parish. The kids who go there shouldn't be as orthodox as they are.. but they are. :-) Their music is guitars and Haas and Haugen, except for major feasts, but what I've seen is this: It is their serious and sober gift to the community gathered in Christ's name. That's only one part of V II to take seriously, but to indeed take seriously: that we have something to give, all of us, any of us.

Warren said...

As a former evangelical, who became Catholic in 2002, I can answer some of your questions, I think:

Most evangelicals have such a low ecclesiology, that they are unaware that any such thing as ecclesiology exists.

This is akin to those who do not know they are placing a gloss over the text when they study scripture, and who think that they believe in Sola Scriptura, when in fact, they believe in a kind of obscurantist magisterium, where the right and true and accepted way is the right and true accepted way, because it is the right and true accepted way. If you follow me...

So yes, you very much (a) don't care at all if two churches teach the same thing, or (b) you pick and choose churches, and you like some parts and you don't like other parts. This one is too charismatic, but they have a good youth group for my kids. This other one is is too cold, sterile and frozen, but at least there is a nice small-group bible study we can join.

There is a well-known phenomenon among Evangelicals, of heading towards traditional Anglicanism, and then from there, towards Catholicism. Tom Howard, and others, have followed it; from Boise to Canterbury, to Rome.


uncle jim said...

I've probably commented before in similar words, that I often time can do a similar "stopping at the traffic light" in plain view of a church building. I think of the people who worship there, and then as the light changes and I travel 2 more blocks and pass another church, I think of those who worship there, and in the next dozen blocks can pass another couple of churches and I think of those who worship there ... and then I grieve that we aren't all worshiping the same, believing the same, knowing the same. It is enough to bring a grown man to tears.