Wednesday, January 12, 2005

If there was one I could receive in

There aren’t enough Catholics in Gambier to provide for a weekly Mass when the College isn’t in session. I know that there’s a perfectly good Catholic church over in the next town, and that my duty is probably to get there, but frankly, I don’t. Some sort of Sunday observance has got to be better than none, though, and I’ve heard that Episcopalian God is pretty close to Catholic God. So I headed up to Harcourt Parish to see what they had to say.

I was really struck by the beauty of this community. Maybe it’s a small-town thing, maybe it’s this small town’s thing, but this seems to be a really special place.

Take the music. Now, in Catholic practice, we sing the melody just as it appears in the Marty Haugen Songbook. 3 verses, 2 if the priest walks fast or, you know, Notre Dame’s on TV. Not only do Episcopalians sing every last word of each hymn, apparently in these parts they also sing harmony! (In fairness, the choir wasn’t formally singing Sunday; maybe they were planted in the congregation.)

(Sidebar: my singing voice appears to have started seizing up in church. Noticed it at Christmas and again Sunday. It seems to be normal in the house, streets, car, and shower, which should rule out physical causes. This leaves psychosomatic or supernatural issues. I’m not thrilled with either.)

Take also that at least 3 people walked up before the service to greet me, including the Assistant Rector / College Chaplain. (Who, genially, asked me if I wanted a quick rundown on how they do things. I hope he wasn’t offended when I said I thought it was “similar to Catholic” and that I could follow along.)

The whole congregation gets up and moves around during the sign of peace. This has always struck me as kind of fake in the past, but it seemed honest here. Undoubtedly a small-town thing, and quite possibly an effect of Christmastime travel, but it was refreshing.

Now, transubstantiation is still a dealbreaker for this Papist. Even though Episcopalians are happy to extend Eucharist to all baptized people, I don’t feel that I can accept. I did, however, go up to the altar to receive a blessing. It’s been a long time since someone put his hand on my head and said a prayer for me, that I be guided to see and do the right. It was deeply moving. Spiritually intimate. Worth stealing from your brother.

As Moe Szyslak says, “I was born a snake handler, and I’ll die a snake handler.” There’s a deep level on which I’m Catholic and that’s what I’ll stay. But it does seem that there’s something special, holy, happening in Harcourt Parish, and if it means I get into church when the other Catholics aren’t in town, I don’t suppose the Lord will mind too much seeing me there.


Blogger lemming said...

"This is God's house, which means that it is your home and you are welcome in it."

12:44 PM, January 12, 2005  
Blogger Joe said...

I know that and you know that, and apparently Harcourt Parish knows that. God knows it, but not all of his renters are equally clear on the concept.

Nice quote... you've stumped me. Where from?

1:43 PM, January 12, 2005  
Blogger lemming said...

Oops, sorry.

This is what one of the greatest priests I've ever known always says at the conclusion of the peace. He's deeply committed to the notion that as Christians we have a lot more in common than we do that divides us.

5:53 PM, January 12, 2005  

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