I'm finally rounding out my Cistercian Monastery series with the Glorious Mysteries. Whew!
Jesus knows how I feel:
I like how the sculptor made His robes look like they're billowing. It's stone! How do you carve stone into something that looks like it's fluttering in the wind??? If I could high-five the artist, I would.
The next two mysteries are different from all the other sculptures in that they are done in mid-relief style. I thought it was an odd choice given all the others are statues, but it was probably a lot cheaper to go this route than creating individual statues for all the saints present for these two events.
First up is the Ascension.
Five apostles are chosen to represent the lot of them. Again, I'm pretty sure this was done to cut down on both space and expense. The image of Jesus is almost exactly the same as the form used for the Resurrection and the apostles are in various states of adoration.
You can't really tell from the photo, but this is actually a very tall relief. When you're standing in front of it, you have to look up at it, and it does seem as if it's stretching up to the sky. Given how blue the sky was that day, it seemed that Christ was ascending right off the sculpture.
Vincent tried to give one of the apostles a high five because of how his hand was sculpted. That was funny. The lake also stretches out behind this one.
The next relief is a large image of Pentecost. I admit to being a fan of this one. Here's a detail of it:
I love how Our Lady is both centered and raised above the apostles. Given her status as Daughter, Spouse and Mother of God, it's fitting that she's got a large halo and is so obviously set apart from the men who she gently guided as they began building the Church her Son began. Here's the full image:
The next statue is probably my least favorite, but I think it's just me being picky. She's looking up into Heaven, but she looks resigned. I'd imagine she'd looked over-joyed... not just transfixed in a "I'm ready, come get me!" type stare. I almost feel this would have been her calm, reflected pose when she said "Fiat" to His Incarnation. But I digress. Here she is in all her Assumption-y glory:
Finally, the next statue is my favorite of the Glorious Mysteries. The Coronation of Mary looks like Our Lady of Mount Carmel. See for yourself:
She's officially Queen of the Universe (you can see her standing on the moon, planets and earth. She's enthroned upon a gorgeous detailed throne and hands are open in welcome. She's so regal, gentle and beautiful. I love this one!
And that, my friends, is FINALLY the end of my Cistercian virtual tour. I hope you enjoyed!
The garden leads you directly from one mystery into another, which I like. There are areas for you to sit or kneel for prayer, but the path simply continues to follow in the footsteps of Christ on the road to our salvation.
I really like that.
This set of mysteries is my favorite of the bunch. I just love the expressions of Christ. The artists did a fantastic job. They really, really did.
The Scourging was a little sad and confusing for Vincent. He couldn't understand why Jesus ("a good guy") had His Hands tied up. Vincent went behind Him and tried to undo the rocky tethers that bound Him. I explained that Jesus wasn't trapped anymore, but that when He was on earth, He took the beating so that His friends didn't have to. That made Him a hero to everyone. Vincent understood that, but it left him kinda quiet for the next couple minutes.
The Crowning with Thorns is simply Christ seated with with a simple robe, His Hands still bound, and a sad (and regal) expression on His Face. The way the artists placed His Hands enables the faithful to leave behind flowers as a sort of scepter. Of the mysteries, I think this is my favorite. It's nothing like the Coronation of Mary, but the way the artists created the two, they obviously parallel one another.
Next was Christ taking up His Cross, and again the expression on His Face is remarkable.
Walking along the path a bit father I saw a huge chapel-like shed which stood directly across from the Nativity "stable" from the Joyful Mysteries. Obviously drawing yet another parallel, the Crucifixion placement and artistry again highlights a theological truth. Christ was born to die on a Cross. He came into the world to die saving it. Incredible.
Stay tuned for the Glorious Mysteries. Hopefully it won't take me a month to cycle back through and update you! :)
Vince ran right over to the Annunciation. I asked if he knew who the statues were of and he immediately said "Mary."
I said, "Do you know who the angel is?"
Originally he thought it was St. Michael (because that's the angel he's most familiar with), but I explained that this angel was named Gabriel and got to tell Mary she was going to be Jesus' Mommy!
Vincent looked at their faces while I snapped a few photos. Then he took off running towards the Visitation.
As you can see here, Vince has made himself at home with St. Elizabeth. Her hands are open, almost as if to stop the Blessed Mother from approaching her.
I can almost hear her saying, "Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?"
And yet come Mary does. Come she must. For though news of Jesus' existence has not been announced, St. Elizabeth recognizes His Divine Presence as does her unborn son, John (the-one-day-Baptist), who leaps for joy within her womb.
Mary came, and in her labored procession to accompany Elizabeth in her final months of pregnancy, she unwittingly blessed the world with the very first Eucharistic Procession.
After all, she carried Christ Incarnate within her. She was the first, and most perfect, monstrance.
Mary, for her part, raises both her hands in a gesture of offering. Elizabeth should not be amazed that Mary has come to her, for it is not through Mary's doing that she has become the Mother of God. She is simply the hand-maiden of the Lord, and from this statue, you can just imagine her leading St. Elizabeth in the first of many Magnificats.
"My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour. He looks on his servant in her lowliness; henceforth all ages will call me blessed. The Almighty works marvels for me. Holy his name!"
For the Nativity, I was so happy to see they built a "stable" around the statues. Vincent was quite happy with the set up, too, as he freely went in to "see baby Jesus."
Mar is kneeling, and Joseph has his hands open and slightly outstretched, almost as if awaiting the gift of his newborn Son to be placed in his arms.
Vincent bent down and kissed the Child Jesus as he'd been taught to do at our parish manger. It made me happy that he remembered this small act of reverence.
Then again, he could've just been kissing on another child, because he adores kissing babies on the head. Regardless, I thought it was sweet.
The next mystery, the Presentation, was beautifully done. Vince was already there before I'd even finished taking photos of the Nativity. He kept calling out "Mommy, Mommy! I found birds!"
I thought he'd found a nest or something, but it turns out he was talking about the doves St. Joseph was holding as an offering / ransom as dictated by Jewish custom. The angel between Mary and Joseph isn't actually a part of this particular set (spoiler: Agony in the Garden), but I guess my angle picked him up. Ah well.
This mystery is the precursor to our celebration of Mass. God gives us (represented by Joseph and Mary) the gift of Himself (Christ). We offer this gift back to the Father through our mediator, the priest, and in turn, God ransoms Himself and we are thus blessed to have Him eternally. God is a master at foreshadowing!
This set of statues was interesting because St. Joseph was noticeably missing. The Blessed Mother, looking quite haggard (but again, her hands in prayer as she offers even this terror to God in accordance with His Will) is present, but St. Joseph is nowhere to be found. This is likely due to budgeting constraints, but I noticed it immediately. The scribes were dutifully paying attention to the Christ-child who looked incredibly regal standing on his pedestal teaching them about Himself (the Word of God, fully incarnate). Of course, again the master of foreshadowing, the Finding of Jesus in the Temple was looking forward to the Resurrection. Christ went "missing" during the Paschal feast. It took His parents three days to "find" Him again.
This is a photo I took last year at some point while visiting the Basilica in Philadelphia. On the left is a painting of the Ascension. To the right is the Assumption. Pretty awesome, right?
Today, I took Vince into Philly for their 12:05 Mass. We were in for a treat since Archbishop Chaput was the main celebrant. His homily consisted of quotes from Pope Benedict's previous sermon on the Ascension several years ago.
Anyway, when we entered the Basilica, Vince and I sat up towards the front as we typically do. I like him being able to see what's going on. Today he was incredulous. It was his first Mass at the Basilica, and woooooooo - his eyes were in Heaven!
When we sat down, I didn't realize that we were directly in front of the painting of the Ascension. Vincent looked up and said, "Mommy, Jesus is going to Heaven! Look!"
I followed his line of sight and smiled at the good fortune of having been steered to our particular seats. I snapped this picture with my cell phone (so it doesn't look nearly as nice as the one above):
I said "Vincent, that's exactly why we're here today! We're celebrating that Jesus went up to Heaven!"
He said, "Yeah!" as if he'd known that all along.
I said, "Do you know why He went to Heaven?"
And again, as if I'd asked the silliest question ever, he replied matter-of-factly, "To make lunch for everyone."
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Right on, grasshopper. Right on.
The outside of this church belies its spacious, breezy interior with golden sunlight streaming in from every window. It feels like you are ambling under a gazebo during a relaxing summer afternoon. I was surprised with how massive it felt, especially when you considered the size of the image of Mary that hung high and proud behind the tabernacle.
I grinned when I noted that the pews were very modest. There were no cushions, no padding on the kneelers. Worship isn't about creature comforts... it's about praising God.
I captured this sacristan's head along with the tabernacle to give you an idea just how massive this piece of artwork actually is. This rendition of Our Lady of Guadalupe might be among my favorites. She is simply beautiful, as she should be. Above her are the words "Queen of Mexico and Empress of America." At least I'm 99.9% sure of that, anyway.
I felt like this piece was woven or embroidered somehow. It wasn't a painting... at least I don' think it was. I just couldn't imagine the time it took to painstakingly stitch each glorious detail.
Here is a full shot of the sanctuary. Given the scope of the Virgin's tapestry, you can imagine how large the crucifix actually is.
I didn't notice until after I'd taken the photo, but the detail of Christ's Face moved me. I don't typically like the super gaunt versions of Our Lord looking anorexic (He was a carpenter - He would have been strong and broad from all His toil with wood), but I did not mind this one so much. The artist did not shy away from the Blood that oozed from His wounds. I appreciate that His shoulder wound and those on His knees were accounted for. So often they are forgotten.
On either side of the Virgin stood these statues. St. Joseph holding Jesus as a toddler and St. Juan Diego with his unfurled tilma displaying the miraculous image of Our Lady.
I was struck by the Child Jesus' depiction with short, cropped hair. It was styled similarly to Vincent's! It made me think of him reaching up for John. Usually Jesus has long curls. I think I like this version! Juan Diego was painted a darker color than I'd ever seen. I liked that touch so much because so often our saints are Anglicanized and their natural skin and hair colors completely ignored for the common blond hair, blue eyed "ideal" in so many picture books.
St. Michael and a beautiful guardian angel flank both sides of the sanctuary. St. Michael has the power of the Holy Spirit above him while the guardian angel protects her three native charges. I really loved this latter stained glass image. It was very peaceful and loving.
One of their beautiful circular stained glass windows, this one depicting the Holy Family.
Which one of you dares to disbelieve Our Lady's intervention now?! :)
A fitting painting for above the confessional - Jesus saving St. Peter from his own lack of faith.
A couple of their stations. I'm always appreciative when the Resurrection is included. :)
I probably should've mentioned these last two points in my other blog entry, but here will do just fine.
Instead of having lay ministers, this parish utilizes the Brides of Christ to bring Communion to the people. I'm not the biggest fan of women acting as Eucharistic Ministers, but if you're going to allow it, I can't imagine a better way.
Also, the altar servers sat at opposites sides of the sanctuary facing one another (behind the altar but in front of the tabernacle). I thought they were very much like the Seraphim who guarded the Ark of the Covenant. It made me smile to think of them as such given their constant gaze upon the tabernacle.
Finally, a photo of me (graciously taken by my husband) with a frond of palm across from the church. On the way back to the resort, I braided what turned out to be four long leaves into small crowns for my statues at home.
All in all, a beautiful experience at a wonderful parish... even if I couldn't understand all the words being spoken, I could feel the love. For me, that is enough.
The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, located in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, was a beautiful slice of Heaven located a few miles from our resort. It took only 15 minutes or so to arrive by taxi, and my husband was kind enough to accompany me into town so I wouldn't be travelling around in Mexico by myself.
That's right, folks. My wonderful (and atheist) husband agreed to chaperone. Having him with me, I felt confident and comfortable. Thank God he's such a gem. I know Mass was the last thing he wanted to do (especially on our last morning in Mexico), but he came. God bless him, he came.
We arrived about 20 minutes before Mass which gave me ample time to snap a few photographs and pay attention to the pre-Mass cleaning and organization that happened in a flurry of volunteers.
In the sanctuary, an adorable sister swept the marble floor. She paid careful attention to the stairs and shooed away someone dropping palm strands unwittingly before the podium.
An older gentleman, his one arm bandaged tightly to his chest, was using his other arm to deftly maneuver a broom in and out of each pew, somehow navigating kneelers, feet and purses. The action must have been hard on his good arm and shoulder - even his lower back probably hurt from constantly stooping to get under the seats - but he did not seem to mind. He offered himself as custodian of the Lord's House, and I marveled at his quiet dedication.
Then there were ladies in dressed in red. Obviously part of a society of sorts (or maybe a hospitality committee), these women acted like an army of mother hens, hurriedly flitting back and forth through the entire church, ushering some folks to their seats, handing out copies of the readings, informing folks where they could go for palm, etc. It was like they were everywhere at once, working together as a well-oiled machine in anticipation of the swell of Palm Sunday worshippers.
Then there was Father Patrick. At least I'm about 99.9% sure it was Father Patrick. This thoroughly Irish priest stood out from the procession both for his fair complexion and his height. My husband chuckled with surprise and confusion at his presence. He and our friends wondered why they'd need to import an Irish priest given the country is thoroughly Catholic.
They failed to realize that tourists need Confession, too, and English is the best way to reach the majority of us. At least that was my guess. Not that it matters. A priest is a priest regardless of his country of origin, and Lord knows I'm always grateful for them wherever they are.
I had briefly connected with Father Patrick before travelling down to Mexico. My blogger-friend, Jacob Wall, kindly put us into contact when Jacob found out I was trying to plan for Mass while on vacation.
***As a complete aside, I must take a moment to publicly thank Jacob for his incredible help. Without his e-mails of reassurance and helpful pointers, I'm pretty sure I'd've stuck out like the sore thumb I am for more reasons than simply language. His guidance was instrumental in making me feel at ease leaving the resort to cross through town to get to this parish. I honestly cannot thank him enough for his willingness to patiently answer my questions. THANK YOU, JACOB!!!
Mass was exactly what I'd envisioned. There was a wonderful procession into the church led by Father Patrick in his alb and two young altar boys. A lone guitarist strummed simple (but beautiful) melodies that engaged the whole congregation. The readers were direct and humble, each being sure to pay respect to their God in the tabernacle with a genuflect or a reverent bow. Their attention to this often-forgotten reverence made my heart leap with joy.
One thing that surprised me, though, was the Gospel reading. As many of you know, the Passion Narrative is re-enacted by the priest, lector, and congregation. This re-enactment is a reminder to us that we, too, participated in the Crucifixion of Christ.
I retract that statement for correction. Instead, it should read "This re-enactment is a reminder to us that we, too, PARTICIPATE in the Crucifixion of Christ." After all, we participate each and every time we sin. Each sin is an echo of "Crucify Him!" Heaven forgive us.
As this narrative was being read, I noticed that no one in the congregation was reading their portion. Only I was (or it seemed that way to me). I can't speak fluent Spanish, but I can fluidly read the words printed in front of me, so I read our portion aloud only to realize I was the only one reading aloud in addition to the second lector.
I was confused. I wasn't sure if it was a cultural thing to not take part in the spoken liturgy beyond prescribed responses, or if the majority of parishioners were unable to read. I can't imagine it being the latter because it seemed like they were reading along, just not being vocal about it. Regardless, I kept pace with the reading figuring if I was wrong, the folks around me would chalk it up to my own ignorance at custom. At least I hoped they would.
The homily went well beyond my realm of understanding. The only portion I was able to catch was when Father Patrick explained that Christ did not come as a mighty conqueror. He came as a humble Man who died a terrible death on the Cross. He was not what the people were expecting their champion to be. Instead, He brought salvation in a way no one had foreseen. I'm very likely butchering even my weak paraphrasing of the snippet I think I understood, but it was enough of a reflection to keep me sustained through the rest of his homily. Maybe that's all God thought I needed to think on... especially given how arrogant I tend to be sometimes.
Christ didn't come as a warrior who violently clamped down on His enemies. He came as a gentle victim, offering Himself as a beacon that would lead us home.
Stay tuned for my next entry, dedicated to their artwork.
Here I go again.
I'm about to gush about Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish for the billionth time. A quick search pulled the following entries:
Those are just the ones I found doing a quick search. I know I've written about this parish and its pastor plenty of times. In fact, should MY pastor ever figure out I've got a blog, he might be inclined to think I'm playing favorites. *Grin*
Truth be told, you guys know I love my priests - all of them. And I view each of them as gifts. I adore my pastor, but I try not to write about my actual home parish for privacy reasons.
That being said, I LOVE this priest, and I love the community he has built up in Collingswood. If you're ever lucky enough to find yourself in S. Jersey and in need of an evening Mass, stop on by. Fr. John will welcome you with open arms and an educational homily that stirs both your intellect and your heart.
God bless him, he's a true pastor in this regard. He takes time to teach his parishioners, and he teaches straight from his super-sized heart.
He doesn't just teach during the homily, either. He pointed out the liturgical colors of the 4th Sunday at the beginning of Mass, and also touched on why the readings and music were thematically different from those we hear the rest of Lent.
After all, we've now reached the midway point. Though we still face the night, we see dawn on the horizon. The light of the Resurrection - Christ's triumph over sin and death - is awaiting us should we persevere in His Way just a little longer.
The music director chose an entrance song I'd never heard before. I snapped a photo of the missal after Mass so I wouldn't forget it. Have any of you (barring Frank K. or his wife who, I feel, have a terribly unfair advantage - ha!) ever heard of it?
I thought it was a great balance between the solemness of Lent and the hopeful supplication we offer for the promise of the Resurrection. I absolutely BUTCHERED the music (sorry, Congregation), but I was appreciative of the thoughtfulness put into the selection.
The Recessional Hymn was a favorite from childhood - Lead Me, Lord. All you trads out there, try not to roll your eyes too much at me. I enjoy uplifting songs at the end of Mass, especially when they are warranted and flow with the message of Mass. This was perfect.
Offertory / Communion songs were also fitting. Kudos to the music director - really. In truth, he always does a great job, but last night's selections were just so spot on that I couldn't help but say a prayer of thanks for his subtle highlighting of theme.
But back to the pastor. His homily was STELLAR. He's a homilist who can happily run on for 20 minutes. Best part? He's a homilist you don't mind listening to if he does stretch his time. I love that he's not worried about keeping within a restrictive time limit. He's not afraid to expound or share anecdotes that color God's movements in his life. He shares what's in his heart and what's in his heart is a complete reflection of the Gospel message.
He made a great point about "the poor" last night. So often we talk about "the poor" during Lent, offering prayers and alms for "the poor." We need to shift our view and recognize them as "our poor." These people belong to us. They are our responsibility and God gifted them to us as ways to act in the name of Divine Providence. We can and must reach out with love to these brothers and sisters. I just found that reflection to be beautiful.
Alright, I'm gonna stop now because I'll just wax poetic for another mindless 10 paragraphs. I'll spare you, but be warned... I'll likely be bringing up BTC in the future. BTC and Mary, Mother of the Church (St. Rita's Parish) are my two buddies. If I'm not at my home parish (which I also love), I'm hanging out with one of them.
When I walked into St. Edmond's Church in S. Philly, I was stunned to absolute silence when I saw the sanctuary.
I didn't even notice the flowers (which says a lot given they spilled out of the sanctuary and up two aisles different aisles). I was absolutely taken by the giant mural of Calvary, the breathtaking statues of depicting the Crucifixion.
At first, I didn't even notice Mary Magdalene at the foot of the Cross. You can barely make her out from the iPhone photo above. But she's there, clinging to Christ's Cross, grieved for the suffering He endured. The Blessed Mother's face was sad but intensely loving - as if she wanted to soothe His suffering with arrows of Love shot directly from her broken heart. Poor St. John just looks humble and awestruck... as if he's just beginning to understand what Jesus meant all those times He said He'd have to leave him and the other disciples.
Christ, for His part, is displayed with His arms outstretched and both hands with three fingers raised. Behind Him, on the mural, is painted Jerusalem. A storm is raging as no doubt the veil of the Temple is being torn in two.
It was by contemplating this sanctuary that I realized Christ was forced out of the earthly Jerusalem in order to open the gates of the Heavenly Jerusalem to us.
He exiled Himself from Heaven to come to Earth in order to come back again the Victor over death.
I love this sanctuary! What a powerful visual. I'm still in awe - even through a terrible iPhone photo!
Above this scene is a mural of the Coronation of Mary. It's dark, but you can see it here:
The angel to the left is kneeling and holding a banner that reads "Hail Mary, Queen of Heaven." The other angels are kneeling and blessing God for her triumph over sin to become Queen of Heaven.
The Trinity is present (even though you can't make out the Holy Spirit - sorry). Beneath them are seven gorgeous stained glass windows, each one depicting a Sacrament.
I found this art setup to be ingenious. Your eye is drawn up to the Heavens, but your focus is always on the Crucifixion.
It's just beautiful.
I'll have to stop back at this church with a real camera at some point. You can tell the parishioners take incredibly good care of it. Everything is impeccable. Uncle Billy was blessed to have his final Mass said in such a beautiful place of worship. I hope others attending the funeral felt a little closer to God... a little more understanding of His love... as a result of seeing these incredible works of sacred art.
This beautiful little church is the Church of the Annunciation. How could I NOT stop in a church painted "Blessed Mother Blue"? I've always wanted to go to a Greek Orthodox Church, so when I stumbled upon this one, I knew I'd found my chance!
In I went. I was greeted at the door by a very laid back, but super friendly, individual. The vibe in this church was much different than the Cathedral up the street. It felt very quiet and very, very reverent. It's not that those in the Cathedral weren't reverent. It's just the close quarters and extremely ornate architecture / artwork made for a very mystical, awe-inspiring experience.
From there, I silently moved my camera around. The church was very small - seating maybe 50 people. However, what they lacked in size they made up for in beauty. Oh, how wonderful was their artwork! I've always known Greek Orthodox kept their sanctuaries screened, but wow. Seeing one in person was unreal! The screens were magnificent! Edging my way closer, I was taken in by the massive 3-tiered chandelier made entirely of gold.
It reminded me of the many visions of the 3 tiered "Heavenly Jerusalem." The lighted candles and the brilliant light pouring in through their cupola was just... my breath really was taken away. It was so, so beautiful.
Then, of course, was their stained glass windows. These, too, were very beautiful and thoroughly educational in nature.
Since it was early yet, I felt brave enough to snap a few photos of the iconostasis. I mean... just... it was incredible. Those icons were so beautiful. I almost felt it unfair that they were trapped in a tiny church away from public view.
Again, please forgive any blurriness. I was taking these photos without my flash so as not to disturb those who were praying. Lighting in some areas was great, but not so great in others. However, I hope you're able to get even a slight idea of how beautiful everything was.
After going ga-ga for the sanctuary screens, my eye caught the priest's chair. It looked like a bishop's chair! It, too, was beautiful in its own right. Across from his chair was what I believe could've been a credence table. I believe the large, ciborium-looking cup was, in fact, some sort of chalice (those little handles looked like spigots), but given I've never participated in an Orthodox Mass, I really wasn't sure what I was oogling. I snapped a photo anyway because I thought it was beautiful and wanted to share with you fine folks.
Finally, I turned my attention back to that magificent cupola. I wanted to stare at the images all day, but knew I'd miss my bus should I stay for much longer. I peered up to capture a few last images to keep with me. I'm so sorry they aren't as clear as they could be. I almost feel like those old men from the Old Testament who wept upon seeing the new temple. Distraught that the new temple was not nearly as grand or beautiful as their original one, I feel frustrated that these photos do nothing to capture the divine sanctity of that place. I could have happily stayed in there for hours at total peace.
I was invited to stay for their services, but I politely declined. I think I would have had I not had John waiting for me at the hotel. To experience an Orthodox Mass has always been of interest to me. However, that can wait for another day.
I snapped a few photos of their small outside garden (containing the grave of their founding pastor) and made it back to the jitney with about 30 seconds to spare.
All in all, I'd recommend the jaunt for anyone in Nassau. So, so worth it. <3
I really hope you enjoyed all the photos of this church and the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier. Both were splendid little gems of Christ. I'm so happy to have had the blessing of being there!
Sorry it’s taken me so long to write this follow up post. With the start of school, things have been super hectic!
However, I’ve been absolutely itching for this entry, so I’m sneaking a few moments in so I can jot down my thoughts.
For the most part, Mass in the Nassau Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier was exactly what you’d expect to find in a Mass up in the States. There were a few marked differences, though, and I chuckle to myself as I recollect them. Some of you more conservative folks might turn your nose up, but please try to keep in mind that this is an entirely separate culture from what we’re used to.
One of the first things I noticed about the parishioners of this parish was their style of dress. I really felt like I was witnessing Southern Baptists on their way to Easter Sunday Mass. The men were in suits (or really nice slacks and shirts) and all the women wore colorful dresses or dress suits. More than a few had the big, colorful hats (which is probably why I was immediately reminded of Easter).
I, myself, was in a long maxi dress with a shawl, but I felt a bit underdressed given the beautiful outfits of everyone else!
Anyway, at the open of Mass, the cathedral was probably just over half full. People were sorta scattered all throughout the nave. However, as the Mass progressed, more and more people entered the church and found a spot in the pews. They continued coming in long past the homily. It wasn’t until the Sign of Peace that I think everyone had finally gotten to their seats.
It was strange, because I had started out towards the end of one pew and was slowly “pushed” inward as more and more people joined the pews.
The homily was given by the deacon and lasted a good 20+ minutes. I was very surprised by the length of his homily, and I began to wonder if that was why folks tended to push off coming into the church for such long periods of time. I didn’t mind his homily at all. He spoke on virtue and why it is important to know true virtue stems from humility. The way he explained things (and how repetitive he was) at first irritated me. Then I began to get a sense that he was really breaking things down as best he could because he wanted so much to educate everyone. Once I got the stick out of my butt, I softened up and didn’t mind the pains he took explaining the Gospel story.
The next surprising thing to happen was during the Sign of Peace. I kid you not, this particular experience legitimately swept me off my feet.
When the priest asked us to share Christ’s peace, it was as if the entire congregation sprang to life. It was CHAOS. People started swarming the aisles as they got out of their pews to greet parishioners from the other side of the church. Folks were coming downstairs from the 2nd floor (there is seating upstairs, too) to greet folks on the 1st floor. I saw a man make his way from one side of the church to the other to greet a choir member. In the wave of people moving in and out of the pews, I was sorta forced to “go with the flow” which landed me off my feet at one moment. Ha ha.
At first I was put off. I was half expecting a mini-coffee hour to be set up because I saw no end to the loud chatter and movement. Did these people not realize the Sign of Peace is not a time for saying “Hi” to everyone you know?
Then I realized I was witnessing a very Bahemian tradition. These folks obviously all knew one another intimately. I really did feel as though I had stumbled into a family gathering. When they hugged one another, kissed, or otherwise “gave the sign of peace” you could tell that a real light of love existed between them. Who am I to judge their signs of love? Who am I to judge their wishes for peace?
So I refrained and kept to myself beyond the customary handshake I’m familiar with (though a kiss on the cheek is customary for me if I am with family). I simply enjoyed watching this massive spiritual family erupt joy after joy as they blessed one another with a sign of Christian love.
Eventually (about three minutes or so later), the choir took up the Agnus Dei and by the end of the prayer, folks had settled back into their seats.
During the Eucharistic prayer, I noticed a gorgeous little boy of about 10 months waddling up the center aisle. It was obvious he’d just learned to walk, and I was smiling at his cubby little face. His parents saw him leave and did nothing to stop him. I kept my eyes trained on him in case he fell, not sure why his parents would just let him slip away like that.
Finally, the baby made his way back to my area of the cathedral. He sorta looked around, trying to decide who he wanted to go to. He waddled up to an usher and raised his hands, the universal plea for “Pick me up!”
The usher happily obliged without thought. He walked around with the baby for a few minutes, bouncing him and showing him the statues and windows. The baby, for his part, was happy to have such a nice man to play with. Finally, however, the usher brought the child back to his parents.
It made sense, then, why the parents didn’t mind that their son had wandered off like that. They really did see everyone in the parish as family. They trusted all of us implicitly. Given I grew up in Philly where you didn’t trust anyone with anything (parishioner or not), this concept was so different for me. It absolutely threw me, but I relished the idea that a Catholic community existed like this. It was such a “family vibe” that I just can’t put my feelings into words. I was readily accepted into this family because of my faith in Christ.
All Catholic communities are supposed to make you feel as welcome – as united. We’re all family in Christ, after all. But of all the parishes I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been to a lot, people), this one takes the cake.
That’s not saying that I feel unwelcome at other parishes. I loved my previous and current parishes. It’s hard to explain, I guess. This parish just had a very vibrant, living movement of the Spirit that unequivocally united everyone present. It was pretty incredible.
During the Intercessions, the priest had all the children present come up for a blessing. He and the deacon handed out marble copybooks (since their school year began the next day). As the children were coming up, the choir sang Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love song.
I seriously almost fell out of my seat.
I love the song. It’s a beautiful song! The cantor did a great job singing it. However, it’s NOT a song for Mass! Plus, the lyrics went directly against everything the readings and homily spoke of!
Ah well. I guess they figured the first few lines were worth the rest of the song negating the message of the deacon. *Sigh* At least the children had a nice blessing that also reaffirmed the importance they should place on education.
During the Eucharistic Procession, a super talented musician played Amazing Grace… on his SAXAPHONE. I could’ve sworn it was Kenny G playing until I spotted the musician breathing out the melody.
Musically, these folks were super, super talented. I just felt that some of it was a little out of place given the circumstances of, ya know… the Mass.
None of these are huge issues, though. Truth be told, their Kyrie was beautiful. I’d never heard one like it. Most of their music reminded me of the Spanish Masses I’d set up for when I worked as a sacristan.
Finally, at the very end of Mass, the pastor called forward those with birthdays or wedding anniversaries in September. I guess they celebrate these as a parish on the 1st Sunday of each month. They had roses to give away to the women which I thought was sweet.
At the end of Mass, many of the parishioners stayed long past the procession to sing or pray. Yes, I said sing or pray. Some folks continued singing after the choir had completed their musical services. Not everyone was singing the same thing, either. Some folks stayed in their pew to pray and others made the usual bee-line for the door. Everyone was talking excitedly, and at the main entrance / exit of the cathedral, there was a gentleman holding up a very large Catholic Charities Appeal sign. I almost snapped a photo to take back to my coworkers (who work on the CCA here in Philly), but thought better of it. Heh.
As I walked down the hill to get back to the bus stop, I saw the Greek Orthodox Church to my right. I couldn’t resist. Stay tuned for my first experience inside a Greek Orthodox Church!
While John and I were in the Bahamas, I got my first chance to attend a Bahemian Mass. I had contacted the Diocese of Nassau before leaving and found out the closest church to my hotel was the Cathedral. How lucky was that?
I decided to attend the early Mass on Sunday (8 AM).
I woke up at about 6:45 to get ready. I was told to hop on the jitney (their local bus system) by 7:15 so I get to the Cathedral on time. I dutifully walked to the bus stop by myself. Normally I'd be a bit nervous to do this in a foreign country all by myself (John was still sleeping), but given the laid back, super friendly nature of Bahemians, I wasn't concerned for my personal safety.
In fact, I was pretty confident that locals would go out of their way to help me out given the high importance of tourism. They don't want bad publicity via rumors of tourist muggings, so they are generally super, super nice to foreigners.
When the jitney came around, I found myself alone on the bus with the driver. I sat directly behind him so I could hear him call out my stop. Silly me, though, he took it upon himself to become my personal taxi-driver!
When I climbed onto the bus by myself, he exclaimed, "By yourself? Where is your partner?"
I laughed and said, "He's still in bed sleeping. I'm going to Mass at St. Francis Cathedral. Are you going there?"
He said, "Yes, baby (all women, to men, are "baby" in the Bahamas). I go by there just fine. Your partner didn't want to come with you?"
I laughed again and said, "Nope. He's not Catholic."
He said, "What is he?"
I said, "He's agnostic, I think. He doesn't really believe in or care about God."
The driver seemed slightly perplexed, but let the comment roll over him. He said, "Well, did you get breakfast yet?"
I said, "No. I'll eat when I get back."
He said, "Are you sure? I can drive to McDonald's or something."
I shook my head and said, "No, it's really okay. Just to the church."
He then chuckled, "Oh yeah. You Catholics don't eat before you pray, right?"
I laughed again and confirmed he was right.
To my surprise, he told me he'd just drop me off at the entrance of the Cathedral. That was about two blocks from his route. Not super far, but it was still out of his way and could have cost him passengers.
He told me not to worry about it because it was early yet on a Sunday. He thought he was lucky to get me let alone other passengers along the route.
What a nice guy!
So he did drop me off directly in front of the Cathedral wall with directions on how to get back to the real bus stop when Mass was over.
Upon exiting the bus, I walked through the archway and immediately saw a statue of Elizabeth Ann Seton.
I wondered why they chose her. The little placard explained that her order, the Sisters of Charity, founded the very first school in the Bahamas and are still active on the island to this day. How wonderful is that?
Anyway, since I was still very early, I snapped a few more shots of the outside grounds. Forgive the blur - coming off the air conditioned bus and into the humidity of Nassau fogged my lens up something fierce!
Once I snapped these, I decided it would be best to get my bearings inside. I couldn't wait to see their artwork!
I entered the Cathedral and, to me, it looked very different from the pictures posted on their website. I was expecting a Protestant looking church, but it was, in fact, very Catholic. Upon entering the Cathedral, I was greeted with the Baptismal font, ambry and the entrance bell (one of the prettiest I've seen!).
I was immediately greeted by an enthusiastic usher who handed me a voting slip for parish council. Ha ha! I thanked him and asked if it would be okay to snap a few more photos before the rest of the congregation began showing up. He gave me the go-ahead, and off I went. I figured it'd be less intrusive to get my photos over with sooner rather than later when more people were trying to focus on prayer.
The first thing that struck me was the tabernacle. It was missing from the sanctuary. In its normal place behind the altar were three chairs (I assume for the bishop, priest and deacon). Every now and again I see a church up here do that, but never with the tabernacle completely gone from the sanctuary.
When I found the tabernacle, I almost couldn't believe I'd missed it!
Without a doubt, their tabernacle is the largest one I've ever seen in person. It was off to the right of the sanctuary, and I wonder if its size was the reason for its placement. This massive, golden tabernacle... it was beautiful, but wow. It was HUGE. The picture below doesn't do it justice. I took the photo from the middle aisle without the zoom. It's just... WHEW. The sheer size blew me away.
From there, a statue of the Blessed Mother caught my eye. She and the Child Jesus were carved from wood and hand painted. St. Joseph was hanging out on the other side of the church also carrying Baby Jesus.
Then, of course, I snapped a few photos of the Stations as well as the stained glass.
Next, as I was getting into the pew, I noticed the beautiful carvings that seemed to alternate between these two patterns:
Finally, here's a shot of the main altar. As you can see, there was a massive floral spray in front of it. Behind were the Nassau crest and symbols of the 4 Gospels. You can see the back of the Bishop's chair poking up.
Stay tuned for Part II where I tackle the surprising differences in liturgy that legitimately knocked me of my feet - TWICE!
So I found a new church to snap photos of tonight!
I was told a parish near me offered a 6pm Mass on Sundays. Given I typically travel over an hour to get to my normal 8pm Mass in Philly, I was excited by the prospect of an evening Mass closer to home.
St. John's at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Collingswood, NJ fit the bill!
This parish reminded me a lot of St. Teresa's @ Holy Child Parish in Runnemede. Architecturally, they are very similar. Both are smaller churches with beautiful wooden baldachiums. Both have similarly styled stained glass windows. Both parishes also present themselves in a simple, down-to-earth way making newcomers like myself feel right at home.
Everything was very clean and the smell of fresh flowers was evident. They kept their marble altar railings (which I loved). A very talented organist was providing soft music from the altar of St. Joseph from about 20 minutes before Mass began.
When I entered the building, I noticed the priest was within the congregation, shaking hands and greeting parishioners. Obviously he was well known and well liked by his flock. I took him to be the pastor given his evident "ownership" of the church. He walked around in an alb and a stole. His chasuble was draped over a seat in the sanctuary.
I took a seat and waited for Mass to begin. A beautiful family of 7 soon took their seats in front of me. I couldn't withhold my smile. A beautiful little girl and two adorable little boys bustled into the pew. They were followed by their glowing (and pregnant) mother who was followed by her husband. On her husband's shoulder was a sleepy boy a shade younger than Vincent.
My heart melted into my shoes every time I took the sight of them in. I admit that several times during Mass I lost track of prayers because I was joyfully repeating to God "Oh bless them, bless them, bless them!"
I'd then look at each one in turn with what must've been the dopiest grin on my face and I'd silently ask God to bring them each boundless joy for being such beautiful witnesses to love and life.
Anyway, Mass soon began and I noticed that Father did not put on his chasuble. In fact, he said the entire Liturgy of the Word without it. When it didn't go on right away, I figured he'd don it for the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and I believe he put it on at the Offertory.
In fact, something interesting happened at the Offertory.
Father snuck into the sanctuary and turned off all the lights. The only light remaining was coming from votive candles in front of Our Lady and Blessed Teresa and the lighting within the baldachium. I actually snuck a photo of it because I was so surprised. I really liked that such focus was being placed on the altar in anticipation of Consecration.
The lights didn't go on again until after the Eucharist was placed back into the tabernacle.
Homily was nice. Announcements were put smack into the middle of the Mass. You folks know that bothers me, but I can understand why some parishes do it. It just completely pulls the rug out from under your prayerful meditation of the Mass. Ay. I really wish parishes would either do them before the Mass or after Mass. Heck, I don't even mind hearing them before the final blessing - just don't go from prayerful reflection on the Homily / Intentions into "Oh, BTW, can you make sure you register your kid for classes? Oh, and we've got a food drive, and next week's bingo is up to $5,000, and we're already looking for Christmas volunteers, etc, etc, etc."
It drives me bonkers.
That aside, everything else was really nice. Their cantor sang beautifully and their altar servers were very attentive. The congregation was pretty amazing, too.
I'll likely be back again to get a better feel for their way of doing things, but upon first glance, that was my impression!
About a year and a half later, my heart has been broken again.My sisters and I after Easter Sunday Mass
The closing of Incarnation Parish comes as no surprise. Even with the fundraising project I organized, I knew the buildings were too badly damaged - the community too fractured and jaded - to come back from the blow of losing our school.
And yet even knowing that the closure was to be announced did nothing to lessen the blow. Still my heart breaks knowing that the beauty of Incarnation's art, stained glass and communal spirit will be shuttered and stowed away.
It's hard to explain to folks why such news is so crushing. "It's just a building," they say. "There are other churches you can go to" they soothe.
And to a parish-hopper like myself, that might make sense. After all, I subscribe to the belief that ALL Catholic churches are homes of the Almighty God. I believe that they're all various rooms in His House and since each one boasts His Presence in the tabernacle, I shouldn't concern myself so much with any one in particular. They're each part of the Church (capital "C").
Still, though, I feel a very deep loss. The pain of loss is not just spiritual or emotional... it is physical. On my way home, I felt as if my heart was slowly being skewered by a spear. This physically hurts.
And I wondered why - aloud.
How can I explain such a painful, emotional reaction to news that a building is closing?
Because it's not just a building. It's my spiritual home... the place I first heard the Gospel, the school that raised me in the ways of Catholic Tradition, the church that celebrated with me my 1st Sacraments, the community that was and, in many ways continues to be, my extended family.
Knowing that so many of us will now be displaced and- for lack of a better word - homeless, it is a terribly sad and hurtful thing. I feel the confusion, frustration, anger and loneliness of my community. All over the Archdiocese, parishes are closing, beloved pastors are being reassigned and church communities are being told they are no longer going to have their familiar places of worship, comfort and prayer. The reason this is so heartbreaking to us is that many of those in these churches put their blood, sweat and tears into building their communities.
Our unparalleled stained glass
Incarnation, for example, still boasts the artist who painted some of our beautiful artwork in the sanctuary. Their families are still members of the parish! Families who have donated statues, the grotto areas, even those who volunteered their time and expertise in repairing architectural damage, painting the interior, and replacing broken panels of stained glass...
These families are still a part of the living, breathing community of Incarnation. The same is true ALL OVER Philadelphia. In many ways we feel as though we are being kicked out of the home and family we've forged through our years of love, worship and sacrifice there. Incarnation is our home because we MADE it our home in our united desire to worship God through serving one another.
The Body of Christ on earth is bleeding out, and I sometimes feel as if the wrists have been slit here in Philadelphia.
Oh prayers, fellow bloggers. This extends far beyond Incarnation... even beyond the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Satan's smoke has been suffocating our beloved Church for many, many years now. Our apathy, pursuit of pleasure and arrogance opened the door for him, and now we're choking on the illusion of fulfillment he gave us.
Mercy, Lord. We are our own undoing. Even with my rose-colored glasses, I know Incarnation was hurting for quite a while. I accept the closure as punishment for the transgressions we allowed...
Our priests found guilty of so many abuses.
Our laity falling lax in love, faith and worship.
Our communal apathy regarding keeping your house pristine and structurally sound.
Our disregard for true financial support given your many blessings to us.
Our arrogant superiority based on our blessed history in Olney.
We really were once "the" parish in N. Philadelphia. I suppose, given our history, we felt ourselves untouchable. I know as a child there, I never imagined there would come a day that Inky would close its doors. How in the world could I have foreseen such a tragedy? This place was, in so many ways, a touch of Heaven.
1st Communion - Mary and I
I remember as a sacristan, walking through the churches (upper and lower) after all the Masses were finished for the day. I felt so close to Heaven in those moments - completely alone with Jesus in the tabernacle.
I remember all my wonderful sacraments celebrated there... Holy Communion, Confirmation, my 1st Reconciliation. Baptism happened at Inky, too, but you'll forgive my 3 week old self for not remembering that one so well. *Grin*
I also remember as a rectory sitter the many times strangers would come to the door asking for food or clothing. How gratified I felt in making a simple sandwich or handing over clothes / canned food from the downstairs pantry! How VISIBLE Divine Providence was as I took part in it at Incarnation!
And now to whom shall these people turn? To whom shall they go seeking refuge, clothing or food?
Yet another church is closed which cauterizes a faithful avenue for Divine Providence to use.
How my heart bleeds its sorrow. How my soul prays for hope that this terrible cancer in our Church is healed by our Merciful God.
I don't know. I don't know, I don't know, I don't know.
I don't know what to say. I don't know what to do. I don't know how to feel, and I certainly don't know how to prepare myself for the closing Mass on June 30th.
Prayer, of course, but I just don't know how to reconcile my frustration, hurt and grief with the faith I have in God and Archbishop Chaput.
I love our Archbishop dearly. I believe he's been put here in Philly for the specific task of pruning us something fierce. He's made incredibly bold decisions that have had a very widespread effect on the entire Church in Philadelphia. He closed our school last year, and now our church was sentenced to the cross this weekend.
So together we much embrace this sacrifice like Christ, I guess. We must acknowledge the task of walking in His Ways, even unto Calvary.
And just as together with Christ we die, together with Christ we shall rise again. This is my hope; this is my prayer.
But prayers, dear bloggers. Prayers for us in Philadelphia. Prayers for the Church as She fights off the growing cancer of apathy, the pursuit of worldly pleasures, and arrogance. May the Spirit of Love alight in Her heart and purify Her of such malignancy.
Happy birthday, Church!
I chose to spend Mass this morning at Holy Child Parish. As a seasoned parish-hopper, I was glad for the opportunity to see this one decked out and ready to celebrate the day Christ fulfilled His promise to send the Holy Spirit to guide us in His Ways.
I made a great choice!
This parish boasts several priests and deacons. Though not a "rich" parish, it's very obvious that these parishioners spare no expense when it comes to lavishing beauty upon the Lord's House.
St. Teresa Church (part of Holy Child Parish), is just... it's beautiful in a very simple, quiet way. There aren't thirty thousand statues / icons along the walls... there aren't flowers and banners hanging from every rafter, and there's not an over-abundance of linens or fixtures.
They do, however, have some beautiful statues, beautiful (and VERY educational) stained glass windows, and some of the most magnificent wood-work I've seen in a while. They are also one of the cleanest churches I've ever been in which is just more proof that the parishioners take pride in keeping the Lord's House meticulous.
The way they have set everything up, it seems that the true focus of the entire parish is not on wowing folks with artwork or finery but impressing upon them the real beauty of Who is hidden within the tabernacle. I love that!
The priests at this parish are ALL wonderful. I've heard homilies from each and they all have an intense love for Christ and His Church. They also went out of their way to really teach the parish about the changes that were made to the liturgy as the new wording was being introduced. One, in particular, is a real stickler for "saying the black, doing the red" and I'm always tickled when he points it out. :)
They're also fantastic with children. When I attend Mass here, I tend to go to the 11 o'clock which is right before Vince's bedtime. That typically means Vince is in rare form, and I've never had them shoot me angry laser beams. In fact, a couple weeks ago Fr. Chris caught us in the vestibule with Vince crying his head off and instead of scurrying out of a potentially awkward situation, he tried to soothe both Vince and myself and assured us of his prayers en route to the altar. How sweet is that?
You guys have heard me write of these stellar priests several times, especially when their homilies give me new insights into Bible readings or Church Traditions. I just love that we've still been so blessed to have such faithful, intelligent and charitable priests in our community.
Anyway, I took some photos to share with you lovely readers. This parish JUST attached a new adoration chapel that's opened Monday thru Friday until 8pm. How amazing is that??? So now, in addition to St. Rita's, I have St. Teresa's as well to visit Christ in the Blessed Sacrament!
That means any of you fine folks in the S. Jersey area also have another place to pray with the Lord. Yay!
But yes - St. Teresa Parish is truly a wonderful community. Their parishioners are so very welcoming, thoughtful and generous. I always feel at home in their parish. Their priests are incredible representatives of Christ, and their church is a very serene, clean and simple beauty that I have no doubt pleases God greatly.
May He continue to bless these folks immensely. <3
For more gorgeous parish artwork from my local churches, feel free to follow my "Churches" page.
This is where I attended Mass on Ascension Thursday.
For those of you who are unaware, St. John Neumann was a bishop of Philadelphia and brought us some incredibly wonderful treasures in his tenure as Archbishop. He opened the door to many religious communities, founded orphanages and schools, and did his best to provide a proper education, healthcare and basic necessities to the many immigrants that made their way through our fair city.
For his great love of Christ and His Church, God bestowed upon this servant the title of Saint. Even more glorious, God worked His grace through St. John by blessing him to be among the Incorruptibles.
St. Peter the Apostle houses a shrine built in his honor. This shrine boasts a small museum of his artifacts and relics, but most importantly, this shrine houses St. John's body beneath an altar.
Enjoy the photos.
Long time readers of this blog are familiar with Fr. Trad (short for Traditional). You may remember him from such entertaining posts as "An Impromptu Confession Sans-Stole" and my very first memory of him (and his parish) in "New Church."
Well, you are in for a real treat today!!! Not only am I going to reveal Fr. Trad's identity, I'm going to give you a sneak peek into his beautiful church and tell you how you can experience Fr. Trad in the comfort of your own home!
As is typical for Holy Days of Obligation, I attended this parish for their evening mass (my parish doesn't offer evening mass unless it's a vigil). This is also the parish with the beautiful Adoration Chapel that I usually attend.
Anyway, as soon as I stepped foot through the doors, I was overcome with awe. Everything - and I mean EVERYTHING - was meticulous. Flowers were everywhere, banners for Our Lady were hung high, her gorgeous statue was bathed in candlelight, and Father was already busy censing the church.
I know I've said this about a bazillion times, but I LOVE THIS PRIEST! He's traditional and he's super Marian. He spares no expense attending to Our Lady, and it shows in everything he does. It shows in everything that the parishioners do as a result.
There's an anonymous saying that this blessed priest reminds me of. It goes:
If the priest is a saint, his people will be holy. If the priest is holy, his people will be good. If the priest is good, his people will be fair. If the priest is fair, his people will be mediocre. If the priest is mediocre, his people will be bad.
Priests are meant to be a step above us in their example of holiness. They're meant to draw us closer to God by, in fact, being closer to God through purity of heart. This man exemplifies this for me, and it shows in how reverent his flock acts during Mass.
I'm always struck by how in-sync the lectors / ministers are... how attentive the altar servers are... how unassuming even the choir is (though their music is phenomenal). Considering how many parishes I've been to that have lectors brassly refusing to reverence the Blessed Sacrament, that have Extraordinary Ministers acting like the Communion line is some sort of popularity test, etc, I fully appreciate a cohesive parishioner base that understands the Mass is a prayer meant to worship God... not a place to showcase their presumed skill-set.
Anyway, I decided after Mass that I needed to come back and finally snap some photos of this church to share with you. One day I might do the same for my current home parish, but for issues of privacy I'd rather not at this point.
The reason I'm brazenly posting all of this knowing it will "out" Fr. Trad's identity is because I just learned that he is on YouTube! All of his homilies are there, so I emphatically suggest you check out his page! His real name is Fr. Carmel, and though he uses a cane to get around, he is a true warrior for Christ. I imagine he might try to politely shove St. Michael out of the way when he gets to Heaven so he could serve as Our Lady's personal bodyguard. Ha ha!
I wanted to give you this fuller appreciation for Fr. Carmel before I showcase his beautiful church. Why? Because a beautiful church is just a building. The REAL Church is made up of the priests and parishioners that work to make that building beautiful and holy. So with that in mind, enjoy the slideshow. Keep this priest in your prayers. Keep all priests in your prayers. May they all strive to live their vows faithfully, and may they all rely on the intercession of Our Lady in so gracious and attentive a manner. Bless them.
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