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.

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Mass In Yellowstone NP, Wyoming


From the windows of the rec room, there is a panoramic view of the mists still rising off of Yellowstone Lake. (Okay, not in this picture.) Mass is about to begin and the young celebrant is scurrying around, arranging the altar, consulting with the pianist and greeting tourists – some in their Sunday best, some in hiking apparel.


It is interesting to note that the murmur of voices is at a far lower level than in many Catholic churches these days. Is it because we naturally respect the sacred ground we are visiting? I know that my own awe and humility are greatly increased by the wonders of Yellowstone. 


The altar is a card table, the lectern a music stand, but somehow it feels as if we are in an ancient cathedral. We are. Sometimes it is difficult to find Mass while traveling. Many National Parks, through the diligent efforts of the local Catholic communities, and even sometimes through the efforts of the local diocese, will have Sunday Mass scheduled. This may not be posted in the guide books or newsletters, but a query at one of the lodges in the park is likely to turn up a schedule of Sunday services for several denominations. Even if a regularly scheduled Mass is not available, I have found that sometimes a visiting priest is kind enough to ask for a place to celebrate Mass and pass the word as to location and time.


Yellowstone Lake Lodge is such an ethereal setting for Mass. I have to wonder if this might not be a little taste of heaven.

Check out these posts, too:

Oregon’s Best For Last – Mt. Hood

Great Sand Dunes NP and Preserve, CO

Grand Canyon Pilgrimage

Grand Canyon Caverns

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