Site Visit

My whole life I have grown up not believing in any sort of God since my parents were never religious. Whenever I would stay at my best friend’s house for dinner, I noticed that her family would always pray before they ate their meal. As they prayed, it never came to my attention as to whom they were thanking for their blessings. Over the years, I have always noticed how involved my friend is with the Catholic Church. As a result of my experiences, I have decided to choose the Catholic Church as my Religious Site Visit.

Every Sunday, Mass is held at Saint Timothy Catholic Church at 6 in the evening. Since I had never attended Mass before, I made sure to ask my best friend what would be appropriate to wear. She advised that I should wear casual attire that wouldn’t be too revealing. I decided to wear jeans, a plain shirt, and a jean jacket since I was not sure of what to expect. Upon our arrival to the site, I was astonished by the size of the building we were about to enter. The outside of the Church was painted beige with neutral colors, and had a walkway of stone with engraved names leading up to its entrance.

The first thing that caught my attention as we walked through the doors was a large stand with a bowl of water resting on top. My friend dipped her fingers in this water, in which she later explained was the sign of the cross. The meaning behind this gesture is to remind Catholics of their baptism and the washing of their sins.  Catholics believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. They believe that the Bible is the inspired and revealed word of God.

As we walked to our seats, I looked around to observe how the church was decorated. The inside of the Church was much larger than what I had anticipated it to be. There was the main portion of the Church where most of the people sat, and off to both sides were smaller rooms with plenty of chairs for larger ceremonies like Christmas Eve or Easter. The front part of the Church where all the seats faced, was beautifully decorated. There was a long, rectangular table in the middle, covered by a white linen cloth known as the altar.

The altar is where the Sacrifice of the Bread and Wine are offered. There were four candles set up at each corner of the table, representing the light of Christ. Directly behind the altar was a rectangular hole in the wall with a gold box. This box is known as a tabernacle, which sometimes stores the Eucharist or “Body of Christ”. Above the tabernacle, was a giant, dark wooden cross that had a fake, bloody man nailed to it by his hands and feet. He was naked except for a tiny white cloth covering his pelvis. He was also bleeding from his head where they seemed to be a crown made of thorns resting atop his long hair. In the Catholic Church, this man is known as Jesus and this is who they pray to.

On the left side of the altar was a granite podium with a microphone, where people came up to speak throughout the mass. To the right of the altar, there were three wooden chairs that were connected to each other, and had red cushions to soften the seating. However, the chair in the middle was significantly higher than the two beside it. The taller chair among the three is known as the Presider’s Chair, which is where the Priest sits. The two chairs next to the Priest were occupied by an altar server and a Deacon. Behind these chairs sat a choir of about 15 people of different ages.

Out of nowhere, everyone stood up and began singing as they faced the back of the room to watch what is known as the Procession walk in. The choir began to sing when the doors opened to let the Procession in. They walked in a single file line, with a young boy carrying a golden cross on a thick stick, leading the way. I noticed that as the boy with the cross would pass the people, they would all do the same sign of the cross that my friend did when she dipped her fingers in the water. As they continued to walk down the rest of the aisle, everyone then faced the front of the room, as the Procession finally reached the front of the Church.

The Priest then faced the crowd and greeted us. Once we responded to him, he turned and walked to his seat and then the First Reading began. A woman walked to the front of the Church and bowed in front of the altar. She then walked up to the podium and began to read. The reading was an excerpt from the Bible that seemed to highlight the theme of humility. Once she completed her reading, the woman came around the to the front of the altar again, but this time was joined by another woman who would now take her spot at the podium.

The next part of the Mass was the Responsorial Psalm, which is some sort of affirmation of their faith. The Second Reading followed the Responsorial Psalm, which also coincided with the First Reading and emphasized the theme of humility. Then followed the Gospel which covered the Beatitudes. The Gospel was expressed as a form of constant “good news” and seemed like it was reminding them of the love God has for his people. After this, the Priest stood up and began to speak about what is known as the Homily. He reviewed the readings and spoke about their central messages. He spoke for about 15 minutes, and it was quite entertaining. In between each part of the Mass, the choir would sing a different song, some of which were in different languages.

For the next portion of Mass, everyone was required to kneel while the Priest and Deacon approached the altar. Two altar servers approached the Priest. One of the servers had a cloth resting on his arm, while his other hand held a glass jug of water. The other boy, held a small bowl in which the Priest would hover his hands over. We silently watched as the water from the jug was poured onto his hands. The boys returned for a second time, with a gold container, a cup known as a chalice, and two small jugs. One of the jugs was filled with red wine, and the other was filled with water. The Priest and Deacon took both and placed them onto the altar.

The part that I found most intriguing was when the Priest took out a large circle of bread, and wine. He first lifted the bread in the air, and claimed it was the Body of Christ. Then, he lifted the chalice filled with wine, stating it was the Blood of Christ. After this, about five or so people walked up next to the altar and stood in a line facing the Priest. The priest spoke a few words to them individually as they each took a sip of the wine and were offered a piece of bread. Those that received the Bread and Wine, took a small gold bowl and stood next to the first row of every section. Once they were settled in their designated areas, everyone sat back down except for those in the first rows of each section of pews. Those in the front rows proceeded to make a line facing the person with the golden bowl, and waited their turn to be given the bread. I asked my friend what if I should also approach them, and she informed me to stay seated as I was not allowed to receive the bread since I am not Catholic.

Once they received the bread, they walked back to their seats, and kneeled for prayer. Those golden bowls were then returned to the altar where the Priest emptied them all out and drank the leftover wine. Once the Priest and Deacon cleaned all the items that had been used, they returned them to the altar servers to place them back where they had come from. The Priest then stood up and announced that the Mass has ended and proceeded to make a few short announcements regarding the school. Once he was finished, the Procession lined up again, and exited the Church. Everyone followed their exit, and did the sign of the cross once again before they finally left through the doors.

Going to my first Catholic Mass was an incredible experience. Even though I had no idea what they were speaking about half the time, it seemed nice to have a higher power to pray and talk to. They spoke about God in a manner that seemed like He would forgive you no matter what you did wrong. This made me consider joining this religion because I have always wanted someone to speak to of a higher power.

 

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