Growing up where I did, where Catholic churches are located every few miles, we had the luxury of deciding what time to go, what church, and even what priest.
On Saturdays, we could choose from 4, 5, or 6pm. On Sundays, anything from 7:30am to 7pm was pretty much available. Now, we even have late Sunday evening Masses at the university. Each church not more than a 20-minute drive from home. Late for 9am? There’s a 9:30 down the road. Late for 10? There’s a 10:30 and 11, depending on which way you want to turn. A church 10 minutes to the east had Sunday Masses at 4 and 6pm on Sundays; 10 minutes to the west, choose between 5 and 7pm.
We have a cathedral downtown, small churches that fit perhaps 15-20 people (no exaggeration), large churches that never seem to fill, and all manner of sizes in between.
The two main churches we visited each weekend had the altar at the center, with pews seeming to surround it and short aisles between each set of pews. Imagine a child’s rendering of the sun, the blazing sphere at the top of the page and the rays projecting from it in straight, bold blocks. The rays, the aisles. The blocks, the pews. Nothing too fancy. Nothing too overdressed. Just…Jesus. Any time, any place.
The cathedrals both here and in surrounding towns, majestic and awesome though they are, often made me feel small and overpowered. Busy. I could get so caught up in the vaulted ceilings, covered in depictions of saints and apostles. Stained glass renderings of bible stories. Elaborate Stations of the Cross in nearly 3-D structures jetting from the walls and highlighted with individual sconces pointed at them. It seemed as though not one square inch of the floor, wall, ceiling, or pew was undecorated. Intricately, beautifully, artistically made.
The smaller, simpler, “just Jesus” structures pulled me in, calmed me, welcomed me. Still, now, I gravitate to those churches and their simplicity. I’m home.
Masses which are low-lit, intimate, and serene are soothing unguents for this abraded soul. One lector, one cantor singing a cappella, or maybe a soft guitar as accompaniment. Perfect for this introspective mama, who is usually surrounded by an atmosphere less than serene, quiet, or soft. Balm. Tranquility. Church.
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15