Big Church Little Church

I have to admit, I am partial to little churches and missions. My “home” congregation consists of about 60 families. I like the intimacy, the colorful characters, even the feuding. To me, it is so much more like a family. Yes, we have our differences, we frequently do not get along, but we pull together in times of crisis and need. It is our Catholic life.

In a big church, I feel lost. There seem to be so many people and so much to do. I lose focus. I get complacent. There are too many choices. The children are sent out during Mass, not taught to sit quietly, participate fully and honor the Sacrament. The music is modernized to entertain and attract an audience. Just my take on things.

Inside tiny Stella Maris, Lamar, TX

I walk in to a big, modern Catholic church and I can’t find the holy water. I want to bless myself with it when I walk in and when I walk out. It is a sacramental reminder of my devotion. Now, there is usually one large font, instead of the small ones at each door. I feel funny walking up to that big baptismal pond to use the holy water, then find my way out.

St. Anne’s, Deming, NM

I still want to genuflect when I enter the pew where I am going to sit. I am here for Mass and I want to honor my Host. I want to put the kneeler down and spend some quiet time in prayer and thanksgiving before and after Mass.  Most often, now, the Blessed Sacrament is not even kept in the main part of the church, but in an attached adoration chapel. I guess that’s okay for big churches.

View from Lake Lodge rec room, Yellowstone NP, Wyoming

On this pilgrimage of slow travel, I have attended Mass in churches in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Texas. It is always an adventure, come Saturday, to find out where we will be attending Mass on Sunday. The Holy Eucharist is always nourishing and enriching. Small churches just ensnare my heart. St. Anne’s in Ash Fork and St. Francis in Seligman, Arizona, where I had the honor of leading the music for 15 years. The rec room of the Lake Lodge in Yellowstone NP, Wyoming, where we attended when we were there for my daughter’s wedding. St. Anne’s in Deming, NM, where we worshiped after a long night of trying to find a campsite in the dark. Stella Maris, outside of Goose Island SP, Texas, where we shivered on top of an AC vent, until someone realized it was cold outside and in and turned it off. The pastor there had recently been healed of stage 4 cancer and spoke confidently about God’s merciful love and healing. 

This week of our full-time rving life, this awesome road trip, we will be celebrating Ash Wednesday in a big church in Texas and we will be grateful to have found another spiritual home on the road.


Ash Wednesday

These forty days of Lent, O Lord, with you we fast and pray;
Teach us to discipline our wills and follow Lord your way.
(These Forty Days of Lent, (c) 1970 WLP)

I don’t know what I’m “giving up” for Lent this year. I try to fast and abstain from meat on Fridays, and today of course, though physical limitations sometimes interfere.  I tried to give up coffee a couple years ago and actually made it past the initial headaches, but when the foggy haze refused to lift, I caved in.  That took about 2 weeks.  One year I gave up chocolate, successfully, but right now that just seems like too much torture to endure again.  The last couple years I have worked on certain character defects, but now this has become habit, and I think I should embark upon something new and difficult.

Our pastor emphasized prayer, fasting and abstinence in his homily today.  Making time to pray no matter how busy we are.

Fasting – what can I forego, in solidarity with Jesus’ suffering?  Maybe a day to day decision – a meal, another gadget, a movie.  Put the money saved where it will help someone else.

Abstinence – no meat on Fridays is easy, we already have 2 or 3 meatless days a week.  To abstain from negative remarks in conversation – that can be hard.  To abstain from gossip, even when it’s just “reporting the facts”, that’s challenging.

Now that we have been marked with the ashes of last year’s Palm Sunday palms, it is time to inwardly clean house and declutter our lives to become better bearers of the gospel.  As St. Paul says to the Corinthians in today’s second reading:  “We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us…be reconciled to God…Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation”.