2553: St Thomas More, Glendale, Arizona,
this report | Other comments
June 13, 2013
Sorry to read that your worship experience here at St Thomas More
for confirmation last weekend was not spiritually fulfilling for
you personally. I pray it was much more so for your grand-niece
and her mother. From the overwhelmingly positive (outside of your
review) response we have received this week, those who were actively
engaged in the celebration left filled with the Holy Spirit.
And the phrase "actively engaged" is the key to a real
liturgical experience here at St Thomas More. The name of your web
column would best be titled "Mystery Observer", for to
be a "Worshipper" would mean you were actively engaged
in the prayerful act of worship along with rest of the assembly.
For instance, did YOU offer greetings or smile at the ushers as
you arrived? Were you courteous enough to offer assistance to the
woman with the baby looking for a seat? Or were you more intent
on taking notes and photographs than entering into the celebration?
In addition to observing others, did you sing with full voice to
encourage those around you to join in, even though the music was
not to your personal taste? Did you offer prayers for these young
people receiving the full fruits of the Holy Spirit and the grace
of the presence of Christ in the eucharist? Or simply focus on how
they were dressed with a sense of personal nostalgia?
Did you see around you a diversity of people making up a rich community
of believers – the Body of Christ – or did you look
around in judgmental appraisal, ignoring Christ’s admonition
to "judge not, lest you yourself be judged."
The celebration of the mass is never about you or me personally;
it is about all of us coming together as a community in prayer,
praise and thanksgiving directed toward our loving God. While our
ministers could certainly be faulted for their human failures, like
our psalmist getting a dry throat during the psalm, an altar server
not knowing when Father Adamson would want the book held for the
ritual, or the young people who were acting as ushers not doing
everything they could to help find seats for everyone (by the way,
those regular ushers with badges were there simply in case of emergency;
the people you saw were some of those being confirmed, acting as
ushers for this celebration) we know that we, as a community, used
the gifts God gave us, and offered those gifts back in service to
those gathered, for this special celebration of the sacraments.
I would invite you to return and join us for a regular Sunday celebration
of the mass here at St Thomas More. And by that I mean truly join
us – leave camera, pad and pen behind and fully enter into
the celebration and continue to do that on a weekly basis, really
to get a sense of how this community prays. For to sit (or elect
to stand) back and simply observe and judge, you embody the overall
blanket title for your website – "Ship of Fools".
Director of Liturgy/Music
St Thomas More
Amanda B. Reckondwythe replies:
Mr Raml, I will answer your questions one by one.
My grand-niece does enjoy worshiping at St Thomas More. Her mother,
however, does not. She told me that it seems too cold and impersonal
for her, that she would prefer a warmer, friendlier church, but
that she goes for the sake of her daughter.
Yes, I did smile at the usher and say "Good morning,"
as I always do. I would have at least expected a "Good morning.
May I help you find a seat?" in return. As reported, however,
I received silence.
I stood during the service. Had I been seated, I would most assuredly
have offered my seat to the lady with infant in arms, even though
I myself am no spring chicken anymore. And you can be assured that
as I did so, I would have aimed the most withering stare I could
muster at the dozens of able-bodied young men so comfortably seated
around me and so oblivious to common courtesy.
I did not sing, although I currently belong to a community chorus
and have sung in church choirs for most of my adult life. I do not
regard the music chosen for that mass as singable. Nor, apparently,
did the vast majority of the congregation. Where was "Come
Holy Ghost"? Where was "Veni Creator Spiritus"? Where
was "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" or even "I
am the Bread of Life"? All of which are eminently singable,
eminently appropriate for a first communion/confirmation service,
and all of which I would most gladly have sung, both for my personal
gratification and to encourage those around me to sing likewise.
Yes, I offered prayers for the confirmands and communicants and
for all other members of the Body of Christ who were present. I
was, after all, worshiping at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as
well as snapping photos, taking notes and observing.
I'm afraid I must decline your invitation to return to St Thomas
More for a Sunday mass. I am Episcopalian, and can choose from among
any number of Episcopal churches in the Phoenix metropolitan area
that satisfy me spiritually as well as aesthetically. If I were
inclined to attend a Roman Catholic service, I could also choose
from among the Cathedral of St Simon and St Jude; St Thomas Aquinas,
Avondale; St Elizabeth Seton, Sun City; or others that would likewise
enable me to partake of a more fulfilling worship experience.
Finally, as for our being the "Ship of Fools", we do not
hesitate to point at (perhaps with a chuckle, or at least with a
"tut tut") those aspects of Christendom (the word my philosophy
professor at college used to employ to differentiate between belief
and practice) that our human failings hold up to us for inspection.
I stand by my report, including my comments about the unhelpful
ushers, the boorish congregation, and the underrehearsed acolytes.
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