Sunday, May 28, 2006
Revisiting the cult effect...
Norman architecture - similar to Holy Family Catholic Church in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
For many years I attended St. Olaf's Catholic Church in downtown Minneapolis. For quite a few more I attented Holy Family - after Fr. Thomas Dufner arrived on the scene. I returned there today after about a 2 or 3 year absence, I left to join St. Agnes. One of the things I most appreciated about Holy Family is confessions before Sunday Mass, and of course, the brilliant Fr. Stromberg, both he nd Fr. Dufner are terrific confessors. Needless to say I have always been appreciative of Fr. Dufner's intelligent and culturally astute homilies, not to mention his solid Roman Catholicism. He's an incredible priest and the son of a rather saintly mother. He was no 'sinner' like Augustine but he had pursued a career in the secular world before realizing his vocation, probably an answer to his mom's prayers. He's a real straight shooter; he is keenly aware and sensitive to trends in our society as well as the decadence surrounding us and infecting the Church. Nevertheless he is tremendously positive about the power of Catholic Christians not just to influence the world but to change it for the better. He is so onboard with the policy of John Paul II and Benedict XVI - evangelization! What is so different about Dufner - who gets out there praying before abortion clinics and building and strengthening an already viable parish - he's also a contemplative. He prays. You see him before the Blessed Sacrament daily - how many hours, I do not know. And he is a very pastoral priest, willing to administer the sacraments at any hour. He's not a whiner, a complainer, a mudslinger or a mean spirited critic, he is an honest and holy parish priest who directs people in a positive and pro-active fashion.
I contrasted all of this with my St. Agnes experience. In the past I deliberately would attend Mass at various parishes in town so that I would not be so attached to how a particular parish celebrated liturgy, as well as to remember we are all Roman Catholics in the same Church. I'd go to Annunciation and Our Lady of Peace as well as other South Minneapolis parishes. I eventually couldn't take the rah! rah! stuff. I needed something more prayerfully substantial and was not strong enough to endure the more protestantized churches. (Please forgive me, that's how it seems to me when the priest just wears an alb and a stole, the music is bad with trumpets blaring, and there is a crowd of Eucharistic ministers converging upon the altar festooned with stupid loving-hands-at-home decor.) Holy Family was none of those things, it still isn't, although I couldn't help thinking, do they really need that much hoopla in decor for Easter? (It's kind of house-wifey looking.) Nevertheless, as faithful to the magisterium and to dignified liturgy as the parish is, it is not at all unfriendly or stodgy. It's a very welcoming community, you feel acknowledged and people greet you and actually smile at you. They also have a wealth of parish activities and ministries, while maintaining the spiritual; they have never lost an iota of reverence, devotion, piety, what have you. The people who attend and are involved in the parish are very spiritual and prayerful.
I went this morning because I needed to make my confession. Since I started blogging I realize I have to confess more frequently. I am so grateful that Father allows confession on Sunday, some priests say it's inappropriate - doesn't that remind you of the Pharisees telling Jesus it was forbidden to heal on the Sabbath? I was also gratefull that the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, as usual, before the 1st Mass of Sunday. There I am, in adoration and praying and people come in, reverence the Sacrament and actually nod to me when they go to their pew. Sure some people talk before Mass and after, but it isn't irreverent - and if you catch any of it, it's usually arisng from some charitable concern. No one is walking around covered in veils and looking glum or in their own little world of pietistic prayer. It is a communal celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it is a moment when we realize that we are Roman Catholics united together, offering perfect worship to the Father - together - not in a private devotional manner, but as the Church has prescribed. It was good to step out of my paradigm today. I highly recommend it for others.