When assigned this project I was worried about visiting any place of worship because practicing religion is so foreign to me. Growing up my parents never took my brothers and I to church, so we were rarely exposed to a church-like atmosphere. I can recall going to church once or twice for a wedding or baptism, but that really does not deem me experienced in practicing any religion.
For this project I knew that I would have to approach any situation with an open mind. I felt like I needed to be accompanied by someone else in order to feel a little less anxious about the whole situation. Originally I had planned on going to a synagogue with my neighbor, who is Jewish and worked at a synagogue, but she was so busy in her moving process that she was unable to take me. Given this obstacle I had asked my friend, Isa, if I could go to church with her. When I had gone to church in the past it was a Christian Presbyterian church and Isa goes to a Catholic church, which is different.
First entering the church, I noticed a very large vase containing ‘holy water’. As each person entered they would dip their fingers in the water and then make a cross starting at their head, then mid chest and reaching across to each shoulder. I had seen people do this before, most times muttering “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen”, so I was not too unfamiliar with the gesture. As I continued into the church there were choir-men handing out pamphlets containing Christians hymns. Once seated one of the men grabbed a large, golden bible and raised it up in the air as the other people sang “amen”. After this the priest approached the stand and asked the church-goers to rise. He spoke in a very melodious tone, as if each word he was saying was a song. I later found out from my father that this is how each catholic mass sounds. The rest of the service proceeded with many songs and hand holding.
I had never before understood why people find that sitting down in church can be so empowering, but I realized it once I was there. As everyone is singing and holding hands there is a definite sense of community, it is almost tangible. You look at the faces of the people whose are so dedicated to their God and they look so content and pleased to be surrounded by fellow worshipers. I feel like participating in this service allowed me to better relate to my peers who attend church weekly and it allowed to feel the inclusion that any religion provides. I finally understood the sense of family, especially as each member of the church is “one of God’s children” and as addressed and “brothers and sisters” who work to serve their Father. It is not only the mass that is involved in the Catholic life, after church there are social gatherings and clubs so that the church-goers can be more involved in the church. Being Catholic also becomes the Catholic life style.