I attended a Roman Catholic Sunday Mass Celebration at the St. Patrick Catholic Church. Parishioners visit the church that is located at Miami Beach, within Miami-Date County, Florida. It was an unforgettable experience – stepping into the church area and getting ready to enter the main building. The profound experience was not just because of the architecture, but also as a result of an indescribable feeling when a person steps into a new environment while struggling to remain the same. I was moved by the tension between the old and the new, as well as the common bond shared between Christians and Roman Catholics all over the world.
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How It Compares to My Religious
The church seemed new, but the facade seemed old. I would not be surprised if someone told me that the church is 100 years old. At the same time, I would not be dismayed if someone told me that the church is 30 years old. Thus, I can see how different and similar this religion is to my current practice. I believe in a church that is progressive and is not tied down to old buildings, rituals, or traditions. However, my current Christian denomination owes its roots to the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore, there are many similarities. For example, the highlight of the Holy Mass is the consumption of the wafer-like bread. This is actually the communion according to sacred scriptures. In my Christian denomination we seldom perform this ritual. In contrast to the Catholic faith, the adherents enjoy or experience this ritual every time they attend mass.
The Summary of the Service
The service started when a train of important religious leaders entered the building. I knew they were all priests, but at the same time, I knew that there also was a certain hierarchy. It was obvious that the last man at the tail end of the procession was the most important of all the religious leaders present at the mass. This was made clear by the exquisite design of his robes and other forms of religious garb. In addition, he was the only one carrying a shepherd’s staff.
Once the head priest and other religious leaders settled into their assigned seats, the Sunday mass started with singing. It was a powerful song. However, aside from the lyrics, I was struck by the deliberate decision to keep everything as ancient or as traditional as possible, as expressed through the design of the program and other tangible structures. The highlight of the service was the communion. It is interesting to note that leaders of my Christian denomination always talk about the need to have regular communion. I came to realize that the Roman Catholic Church is more consistent in this area of compliance.
I learned at a later time that a special participation of handicapped or disabled people was not a common or traditional part of the Sunday Mass celebration at St. Patrick’s church (Turner, 2012). Adults struggling with a handicap or certain disabilities were given a chance to showcase their talents. A blind woman stole the show so-to-speak because of her incredible voice combined with her piano skills.
The Material Expressions
The material expressions of faith were made visible through the statues or religious icons. I learned later on that Roman Catholics are not worshipping the icons or sculpted images. They look at these images as some sort of a reminder or an ideal standard in order to inspire them to greater spiritual heights (Matera, 2016). I was also struck by the combined impact of the lead priest’s shepherd staff and his crown. It as if wanted to say that he is a humble shepherd, but at the same time he had some sort of power as symbolized by the crown he wore.
The lead priest’s sermon was consistent with the worlds or expressions he kept repeating from the beginning up to the end of the Sunday Mass. The priest kept saying that he was an unworthy servant of Christ. His sermon followed the same theme. He reminded the parishioners to follow the example of the humble Jesus. He reminded his audience how Jesus was able to function as an effective revolutionary leader without conforming to a secular mindset for the purpose of accomplishing his goals. Jesus did it his way without manipulating the lives of ordinary people and without demonstrating any unhealthy disregard to the feelings or rights of other people.
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It was a wonderful learning experience for me to find out about the Roman Catholic Church’s firm resolve to hold on to past traditions. Everything was made to sustain old religious rituals and practices, starting from the way they dress and the music playing from an old musical instrument. This tension did not destroy the Church, and on the contrary the said struggle strengthened the Church as it tried to remain pure while at the same time speaking out against external pressures to conform to secular standards. I was also pleasantly surprised by the common ground shared by Christians and Roman Catholics all over the world. The pastor in an average Christian church may not fancy walking into a Sunday service with a shepherd’s staff in his hand, but I understand the symbolism, and to some extent I am pleased by the fact that Roman Catholics are not afraid to continue with an age-old tradition that speaks volumes as to how a follower of Christ is supposed to live in the present world.
Matera, B. (2016). Celebrating Sunday for Catholic families 2015-2016. Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications.
Turner, P. (2012). Let us pray: A guide to the rubrics of Sunday mass. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.