Today I attended my first Catholic celebration of the Mass. Well, at least the first celebration where I was able to understand what was happening. The first Mass where I could truly appreciate the spiritual beauty and miracle I was witnessing. When I was younger, I went with my father to a few Masses, but he never actually encouraged the habit. He was a Catholic growing up and felt a bit burned by the 1960’s climate for Catholics. He left the church when he was young, and my mother was non-religious, so I was never introduced to religion as a child. However, I developed an intense love of religious studies when I was very young, and it has been a passion – along with linguistics – the majority of my life. I have not, until recently, found a single religion which I felt I could follow faithfully and which spoke to my understanding of God. Like many seekers, however, my end was my beginning. Where I started my investigation – Catholicism – has become my eventual resting place. My gosh how much time, suffering, and confusion I could have spared myself.
Weird First Post
I would like to very briefly acknowledge that I realize this is a weird first post for a blog. I wanted to write a blog post covering why I am seeking Baptism in the Catholic faith, tell the story of my spiritual and religious journey and introduce myself in general…but that didn’t happen. I do have the about me page you can check out, but my ‘conversion’ story is most likely going to be a few entries long – I have a long history when it comes to spirituality – so I’m putting those off because…well…I just don’t have the energy to write them at the moment, and I wanted to get my thoughts about the Mass written up while the experience was still fresh. Soon, though, I will get around to them. For now, let’s talk about the Mass…
My First Mass Experience
The Mass I attended today was not the original Latin Mass. The Mass today was the Novus Ordo Mass spoken in English at the Mother of Sorrows Parish in Peninsula Ohio. While the Priest was extremely welcoming and nice enough to speak with me for a while afterward, I felt it lacked a lot of the mysticism that the Traditional Mass I experienced in my childhood contained. However, I will undoubtedly continue to attend this Church for the time being as I just absolutely adore the small size and the fact that I was not the only person at Mass on a Friday morning. The bonus of a Priest who seems sincere in his desire to preach is a definite bonus! Perhaps, if I can find one offering the Latin Mass within a reasonable distance of my home, I can occasionally travel to a Traditional Church for holidays, random visits, etc. This one is, however, within walking distance of my home so I can walk to Mass each morning and pray Morning Prayer on the way to the service. That’s a nice touch and sings to my naturally contemplative nature.
I arrived very early – I had the start time wrong – so I had about an hour to sit in the Church and just soak in the environment. I decided that I would sit quietly in the back because I am not familiar with the participatory steps of the Mass. I didn’t wish for my non-participation to become a distraction for anyone. I was nervous – my social anxiety started to kick in about the time I had to step out of my car – so I forgot to grab a Missal which added to the feeling of awkwardness. However, I must admit, that once things got underway, my anxiety disappeared completely. That is very strange for me. I live, practically, as a hermit leaving my property only when necessary – part of this is because I love the land I live on and can spend time in meditation, contemplation, and prayer without being bothered much.
Anyway, after some time for personal reflection, a Rosary, and a few looky-loos around the Church I settled into a pew in the back. I forgot to genuflect, I realized, as others began to come into the Church. In fact, there were quite a few things I forgot to do, and at one point I became so involved in trying just to take in the whole experience that I stopped trying to participate entirely. I’ll try to do better next time, but I let my heart rest on the teachings of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (my gosh do I love her!) that even in our error we can love God. I’m a little flower in her army of flowers just trying to do the best that I can do. I’m okay with an A for effort as long as I gave it my all, and St Thérèse lets me know that is okay. If it wasn’t for having read her writings before attending today – part of why I’ve put off going to Mass was so that I could read and understand more about the Catholic faith – I would have been far more nervous and left feeling guilty instead of uplifted and hopeful.
I was confused throughout the whole Mass. Utterly. I was, indeed, a child in the womb of Mary. It was pitiful, and I’m sure entertaining for any of the others in the Church who had the pleasure of watching me fumble through the Mass only to putter out at the end. It’s okay though. Nobody is born knowing how to do everything — Mass included. I’m sure with practice I’ll get better at it, and who knows maybe I’ll even be participating one day!
Concerns with the Ritual
One concern I have about the Novus Ordo, and perhaps this is unfounded to hold this prejudice, is that I worry they will not take individuals like myself – individuals who have a strong love for Catholic mysticism – seriously. I am an individual who wishes to make my religion my life indeed, and with that comes a lot of enthusiasm. For example, I wish to seriously discern if I should involve myself with the Carmelite Order in some fashion. Obviously, being so new to the Faith, I am not looking to do that anytime soon, but I’d like to associate myself with a church from the start which will be able to guide me as my faith deepens and my understanding of the religion develops. I am going to try and give this church an honest try as it seems to have a very nice community and a well-meaning Priest before I make any final judgments as to where I will take my Baptism, do Confirmation, etc.
I keep coming back to the “I can walk there!” argument which I must admit adds a lot of charm to this entire voyage. Part of me loves the idea of walking to the Mass in my sandals on a nice day and working through the Morning Prayers. I adore taking the time to stop and meditate in nature – the path is through some woods – to pray a Rosary or two, and enjoying being wrapped in the presence of God – which is how I always feel in nature. It will help me push through those days when perhaps I don’t feel like going to Mass. I will always have my walk with God to look forward to as I go to worship Him. My heart sings at this idea, and I feel eager already for tomorrow to arrive so I can begin another little pilgrimage to Mass.
What I wrote above, I realize, is the cookey mystic in me coming out – at least the held back and trying to not come off as a nutter mystic in me. That is what I worry will be seen as ‘weird’ by the Priest, and I would be devastated if my love for the mystical experiences of the Saints was not encouraged. I pray for a spiritual director who can guide me along the path fitting for me, and if God wills it that I am to become a mystic, then I pray He sends me to a priest who can direct me to where I can best serve God. In my dreams, this is to the Carmelite Order. For now, at least, I have to live in the society so a priest who can cultivate my mystical, ascetic, and hermit tendencies would be most welcome.
Will I Stick to It?
The Faith? Certainly! I’m absolutely in love with Catholicism. The innate beauty of the prayers, the images, the symbolism, the message of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin, the Saints, the mysticism. My gosh, the mysticism! *swoons* I could go on and on. The Novos Ordo Mass? Meh. We’ll see. I wanted to attend a big beautiful Cathedral-style church, but then I keep thinking to myself that perhaps I have been guided to such a little church because it speaks to my ascetic and contemplative nature. (please don’t get me wrong it is, indeed, beautiful in its own right and I am thrilled I found Mother of Sorrows Parish) Even the message of the Mass spoke to this today when teaching that we should not want for everything material and to seek to be happy with what you have. Even to share it and give it away.
Perhaps, if I had found that ‘big beautiful Cathedral,’ I would have been swept up in the grandeur of the place and lost sight of my true nature. Maybe I would forget my goal of working towards detachment and renunciation of the world. I’ll have to write a post soon on how my heart just fluttered when I discovered the vocation of a Consecrated Hermit and a Consecrated Virgin exists in the Church as both of these combined would be a perfect fit for me. However, I am being vigilant to move slowly and to avoid the Call to Conversion becoming mixed up with the Call to a Vocation.
One of the aspects of the church itself which struck a chord with me was the stained glass windows in the back. The Eye in the Triangle – I am assuming this is the Eye of God – with the Crucifix, descending Dove, and Chalice almost moved me to tears when I was sitting in the Church for an hour before Mass – I thought it started at 7:30am…but it started at 8:30…at least I brought a book!
I don’t have much to say about the Mass itself. The quaint, cozy, and cute Church with its kind and gentle Preist made the greatest impact on my impression of today’s Mass. That says something about the Novos Ordo Mass, in my opinion, as even online recordings of the Latin Mass have brought me to tears. I will admit, however, that the consecration of the Host did bring about a palpable change in the feeling of the room. I was struck with a mild sense of awe, and I felt an overall comforting feeling come over me. The experience can perhaps even be described as overwhelming. Although I didn’t take communion just being in the room at the time of consecration was a powerful enough experience to keep me coming back for more. Perhaps, after tomorrow’s Mass, I’ll have some more thoughts on the ritual itself, but this is all I could think to write about today.
I would like to stress that it is no fault of the Priest that I had a “meh” experience with the Mass itself. I can tell he is a good-hearted man with only the best intentions.
A cute church within walking distance of my home… I’ll take it!