Re: Critical Mass

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From: novela-harmon@bethel.edu
Date: Sun, Aug 27, 2017 at 3:15 PM
Subject: Critical Mass
To: grace-k-nelson@bethel.edu


I have now crossed the threshold of a Catholic church. That in itself is an experience. Have you ever been to one? I don't know if they are different than they are in the US. Now I kind of want to go to compare.

The first thing I noticed is opulence. I'm sure it doesn't seem that way to Catholics, who probably view the building and everything it contains to be necessary objects of worship and/or demonstrations of devotion. But to me, accustomed to businesslike buildings with minimal wall decor and folding chairs in a multi-purpose room, or maybe pews and stained glass windows if the church is older, it seems like excess. With the little alcoves, burning candles everywhere, life-size statutes, and exquisite gold-plated area behind the altar (I'm sure there are correct names for all these things), it was overwhelming. It seemed like the Versailles of churches, and it isn't even a big one or in a nice neighborhood.

For a brief moment as I approached the doorway, I felt a mixture of dread and perhaps guilt. My parents warned me about Catholics when I was five and announced I was going to marry the Catholic neighbor boy. They didn't say it in so many words, but the gist was that Catholics are not Christians so I need to avoid getting too close. Today I wondered if I was somehow betraying my beliefs, going into some den of other-beliefs that would somehow suck me in and steal my salvation. I was on my guard the whole time for anything heretical, so I could make sure I didn't accidentally worship Mary or work for my salvation. But I was pleasantly surprised that the actual Bible was used multiple times (the parts that we use even), and didn't seem to have been altered. They had congregational worship, and it sounded fairly modern, although I didn't recognize the songs. The priest's sermon was surprisingly down to earth, or at least, he wasn't speaking Latin (I mean, I know they don't speak Latin anymore, but I guess I subconsciously expected him to be uttering unintelligible Catholicy-sounding phrases, not actual this-is-what-the-Bible-says sermons). I actually got something out of it.

So bottom line, I don't expect to convert to Catholicism or anything, but my impression from today is that it's not as far off as I had thought. (Oh, and don't mention this to my parents until I'm back and they're satisfied I haven't gone off the deep end.)

I've got fodder now for my Catholicism-in-Mexico paper, so I'm going to start on that now.

TTYL

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