Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles XLIX

Last week was ridiculously busy so there was no blog for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time. This week is starting a little quieter, so here's what happened church-wise on the 17th Sunday.

We went to yet another church here in England. The congregation was rather small, about 40 of us. We were surprised to see seven or eight altar servers. The priest is big on encouraging children to participate. He even made a pitch to recruit some new kids. He did not ask about Jacob, who probably is not old enough yet. The server who held the Lectionary was awfully short. The priest must have good eyesight to read from a book down so low. Jacob is tall enough for that though I couldn't guarantee he'd be still enough.

Jacob asked about the potty just as Mass was starting. I asked if he could wait till the end and to my surprise he said yes. He also sat pretty quietly throughout the service, flipping through a missal and occasionally watching and asking questions. He put money in the collection and said the Our Father with us. He made me very happy.

Lucy wandered a bit and did some singing and coloring. Eventually she became too noisy for Mommy and they went to the vestibule. After communion, Father invited all the children up to the front of the altar and gave them a blessing and holy cards. I wasn't sure if that was a regular occurrence or not. Jacob wanted to go. I told him to go up, get the card, and come back. He was a little confused, as if he could only keep one instruction in his head at a time. The last instruction was to come back and he did before going up. I finally told him just to go up, figuring that he'd come back on his own. Lucy followed him. They were both the last to receive cards. Lucy waved hers around as she came back. A little indecorous, I'll admit. But it seemed okay with the regular congregation.

At the end of Mass, the priest asked for any visitors or new people to stand up. I'm never really comfortable when this happens. I think not everyone likes to be singled out as a new comer or outsider, much less to speak in front of a strange congregation. I'm less comfortable when I'm on the chopping block, I mean, a new comer myself. Obediently I got up and introduced myself and my family. The priest chatted briefly, promised that we'd get a newcomer's pack, and invited us to coffee and cake at the after Mass social.

One of the choir members had a birthday (we sang Happy Birthday at the end of Mass for her, which probably isn't liturgically appropriate and easily could have waited till the social) and the social was a little birthday party for her. We got to sit with her and chat a bit. She turned 18, just finished high school, and is taking a year off before college since her family will be moving back to America next year. The social was fun enough. We are still debating about where we will register. This church happened to be local to our temporary lodgings, but we are moving out soon. Like tomorrow! We may still come back from time to time. There's lots of social activities and Americans.

The sermon was simple and moving. Father discussed the wisdom of Solomon in asking for the ability to rule his people well (which was the first reading). He talked about knowing what is important in your life and not only focusing on that but also asking God to help you with it. The point naturally led into the gospel, where Jesus tells the parable of the man who discovers a treasure, reburies it, goes to sell all that he has, and buys the field to have the treasure. The parable immediately after that is about a merchant discovering a priceless pearl. He likewise sells all that he has so that he can acquire the pearl. In our lives, we need to find that pearl. For some it may be their spouse or their children or a special vocation. Ultimately, the pearl without price is faith. The best way to achieve that is simple. Put it in God's hands and He will help you to find the way and follow the way. May we all accept the grace to trust in Providence.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles SE: Feast of St. Benedict 2011

Seems like an odd day to have a special edition of Cry Room Chronicles? You bet. A special reason had us at Mass on a random Monday in England: Mass at Fountains Abbey with the local bishop, Rt. Rev. Arthur Roche. Only in England could you have a bishop named Arthur!

We arrived in plenty of time because we didn't know exactly where we were going and we wanted to wander around the grounds before Mass. We finally headed down the hill to the Abbey. Jacob and Lucy had some lunch (Mass was at noon). Then Jacob wanted to go potty but we didn't see anything nearby. We went into the Abbey, but sure enough there was no potties. The place was already pretty packed. An usher showed us one open seat and then some people offered us their folding chairs, which we gratefully accepted.

I should explain. The Abbey was built long before the Reformation and is in this shape now:

Mass was held under the hallway on the right.

Mass was in what seemed to be a cellar area, with a dirt and rock floor, no electric lights (which Jacob pointed out several times), and open air windows. The Mass was very reverent and moving. Jacob was sitting in one of the chairs quite peacefully. So peacefully that he fell asleep. I grabbed him and held him on my lap and shoulder until the end. Lucy got in and out of her chair about 100 times, but remained relatively quiet and was glad to put money in the collection plate and shake hands for the sign of peace. Jacob slept through both. He reminded me of the old days when he was one year old and would sleep through Sunday morning Mass.

Communion wasn't too challenging. Jacob was on my shoulder and Lucy walked holding my hand. The priest distributing the Blessed Sacrament blessed Jacob and Lucy after I received. When Mass was over, several people came up and compliment Lucy and Jacob (and me) for how quiet and well-behaved they were. Lucy didn't sit still for one minute, but she was pretty quiet and did stay in a very limited area. Jacob's behavior was completely undistracting to all but me.

The bishop spoke about the history of the abbey and the area. Before the Reformation, there were more Cistercian Abbeys per square mile in Yorkshire than anywhere else in Christendom. They were a great boon to the area, providing not only faith and education but also a great deal of charity. The sick and poor we cared for by the monks. All was lost with Henry VIII's legacy. The bishop spoke quite highly of the new efforts here to work with the Anglican Church and promote understanding between the two Christian confessions. A great history awaits us all.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles XLVIII

We tried out another church, St. Joseph's, which was a very interesting place. They have a car park at what you think is the back of the church. Angie and Jacob went in the back door to find the potty. I noticed everyone else was going in the same door, so I followed suit.

Walking up stairs to the left brought us around to the main body of the church. It was very decorative but small. The ceiling seemed low and there was a combination of pews in the main body of the church and folding chairs in the wings of the sanctuary. Lucy and I wound up to the right of the altar since it was quite full already. She did a great job for the first part of the Mass. Before Angie and Jacob found us.

They had tried to walk around to the front of the church out by the street but no entrance was there. So they came back and found the right way up to Mass. They stayed in back till the Gospel, when they managed to sneak up the side aisle and join us. Lucy became more rambunctious while Jacob curiously and quietly looked around.

Eventually Lucy became too much for mommy to handle, so she was taken to the back of the church. Jacob was pretty well behaved, though he still kept asking when Mass would end. He said some of the Creed and all of the Our Father. He put a pound in the collection and shook many hands at the sign of peace. He is getting better and better. Except during Communion, when he thought that he had to go peepee and it was an emergency. I received and then we snuck down the side aisle for the potty. He didn't have any, which was pretty annoying to me. He asked to ride the elevator back up, which he persuaded me was okay. I'm not so big on using the elevator all the time at church. Hopefully we can break him of the habit if we keep going here.

We stayed in the back of the church where mommy and Lucy had wound up. Lucy was ready to go, which meant carrying her around the back. At one point I thought she said she wanted to take her shoes off and I told her not at church. When I turned around, I saw one of her shoes on the floor. So I redressed her. Mass ended and we filed back downstairs. All in all, things went well, even without a real cry room or vestibule.

The sermon was swallowed up by a speech about missions to seafarers. It is Sea Sunday here in the UK. One parishioner talked about his experiences at sea. Then the priest talked about a cruise back in January where he was chaplain for the ship. He talked about ministering to the passengers and to the crew and the great divide in their lifestyles. It was interesting but not exactly connected with the readings. I guess Jesus was by the sea when He gave the parable of the seeds.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles XLVII

Sorry for skipping last week, but we were in transit and wound up going to Mass one last time in the United States. Ironically enough, we went to Our Lady Queen of Martyrs during our suffering sojourn to the UK. It was a beautiful church and we were glad to go.

Here in Britain, we went to Our Lady Immaculate and St. Robert's Church for the 9 a.m. Mass. We were going to attend the 8 a.m. at St. Joseph's, but did not get up in time. St. Robert's is a small and tastefully decorated church, not adorned wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling like an Eastern church and not bereft of decor like many a Protestant church. I liked it very much--nice stained glass windows, a few statues and a beautiful set of Stations of the Cross. We arrived 10 or 15 minutes early. Jacob had plenty of time to go potty before Mass. Like our penultimate US church, St. Robert's toilet is in the parish hall across the way. Jacob and Mommy left and returned in plenty of time for Mass.

Things started well. Jacob kept asking when the Mass would end (surely he'll figure it out soon) and if I had any peepee for the potty. I said I could wait till Mass was over, after we went to communion and said some final prayers. He seemed satisfied each time I told him. He did a great job being quiet and sitting still during Mass. He even said the Our Father with us and shook hands at the Sign of Peace. We missed the collection because Lucy had been noisy and we were all in the vestibule. I could see through the glass doors that the collection baskets looked like a mini-picnic basket with a slot in the middle. I'm not sure if they wanted to prevent people from making change or to prevent noise from clanging coins (the equivalent of a dollar bill is a coin in the UK).

Lucy was pretty restive, hence our being in the vestibule a few times. She did sing along with the songs (the "Lord Have Mercy" was sung in Greek!) and sweetly asked to light a candle. We stayed after Mass and got in the queue to light candles. Three other children went before us, giving us ample opportunity to figure out the system. Under the candle racks was a box of votive candles. You took one from there, put it on a rack, then used a wooden stick to light the candle from another candle. The box for donations was built into the wall, 20 pence per candle. I sorted through my pocket change and found forty pence for the children to put in. Jacob prayed for me and Lucy prayed for Mommy.

After Mass we headed over to the church hall for one last potty visit. We almost stayed for tea and cake, but Jacob decided to be anti-social. We did briefly talk to one mom, or I guess I should write "mum," who welcomed us to the parish.

I'm afraid the sermon was a bit of a blur due to my continuing cold, lack of sleep, and distracting children. The readings for today are quite touching, about the humility of faith and the care that God has for us. In spite of all the challenges we've faced coming to England so far, He's seen us through and we trust in Him to keep us going the right way.