Day three of my solo trip from Cincinnati, Ohio to Seattle, Washington.
After a marvelous hot, home-cooked breakfast by my sister-in-law this morning, and a nice visit with everyone, I set out again on my way westward. As I was driving out of town I passed the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rapid City and thought I should, to hold true to the last two days, pop in for Sunday mass. But, mass was already three quarters completed and the next one wasn’t for another hour and a half. So, I looked up other churches in town and found one who’s mass was starting in fifteen minutes and I had just enough time to get to St. Therese the Little Flower church. I was greeted at the front door by a nice man wearing a white shirt with a blue bolo tie. The clasp on the tie was engraved with a Knights of Columbus emblem. The church was small, about the same size as the old church in my home parish. There were twenty pews on both Mary’s and Joseph’s side and they were all packed! I estimated about 350 people in attendance. As I looked around I noticed something different – all the ushers were wearing the same white shirts with the same bolo ties, all with the K of C emblem. Interesting. As the mass began I noticed something else different, something different than, I think, any other church to which I’ve ever been – the entire congregation sang the hymns and spoke during the responsorial parts. They didn’t mumble and they didn’t sing in low voices. No, they blurted it out like they meant it! I was awestruck. These folks had some spirit, now, I’m telling you! Then, as luck would have it, there was an infant boy being baptized. I watched as the entire congregation craned their necks to be a witness to this sacrament. When we got to the offering of peace to our neighbors, I wasn’t sure it was ever going to end. Folks were walking across the aisle to people on the other side, down the aisle several pews to shake hands with people they knew. It was amazing that everyone found their seats again. By this time I was wearing a huge smile. It was a sight to behold! And then, to top things off, for Holy Communion, the Eucharistic ministers assembled in front of the altar and, you guessed it, they were all wearing white shirts with K of C blue bolo ties. As intrigued as I was about it all, I was surprised, though, that there were no women involved. I should have asked someone why. I would have liked to hang around and talk to some of the parishioners and find out more about what I witnessed but I was afraid it would be hours before I got back on the road. One thing in particular came to mind: the two prior days I attended huge, impressive and immaculately built cathedrals. The congregations, however, had the typical life in them to which I have become accustomed, neither dull nor exuberant. St. Therese the Little Flower was an unimpressive building, certainly nowhere close to a real cathedral. But, to the men, women and children attending you could tell they considered it their cathedral.
Is mass sometimes dull for you or is it an exuberant experience? Is there anything you can do as an individual that can improve your experience?
Somebody asked why I’m visiting a new church every day and why I’m posting about it. Good question. There may be many of you wondering the same thing but you’re afraid to ask. Without an answer from me, you’re free to come up with your own reasons however wrong they may be. I do have a few reasons. First, I find it’s easier for me to pray in church than anywhere else. And why all the praying, you ask? Because I know some people for whom I need to pray, with one person in particular being very special to me. Second, I’m posting about the various churches because I find them interesting and I’m trying to hold true to the intent of this blog – to provide food for thought to other Catholics. I travel a lot, I have my whole life. But I know other people who have never been a hundred miles away from the town in which they were born and have never attended a church other than the one in which they were baptized. Although a Catholic mass is about the same everywhere you go, there are some slight differences in the way the mass is performed, and certainly differences between the church’s community, as I described above. Third, I think this blogging business is kind of my way of evangelizing – maybe a way of showing others there is some pretty cool stuff in this life called Christianity, especially as a Catholic. And, last but not least, because I can. I’m on vacation alone with no one to tell me what to do, where to be or how fast to go.
Talk about evangelizing – I stopped in a McDonalds in Spearfish, South Dakota to use their wifi to post yesterday’s blog. The place was crowded with teens. Their shirts said they were a youth group from a Catholic parish somewhere in Colorado. They had been on a mission trip to an Indian reservation in northwestern South Dakota. As they were preparing to leave and get back on the bus, they all stood holding hands in one big circle around the interior of the restaurant and sang a hymn. It was an awesome experience! Even the bikers headed either to or from Sturgis were impressed.
How do you evangelize?
When you head west out of Rapid City you travel several miles through the beautiful Black Hills of both South Dakota and Wyoming. When you come out of the Black Hills approaching Gillette, Wyoming, there’s nothing but grassy rolling hills without a tree to be seen. There really aren’t any surprises around each bend in the road or over the next hill, the vista is about the same until you get to Buffalo at the foot of the Big Horn mountains. Oh, that stretch of road is beautiful in its own way but it is a little boring. I took advantage of my ennui on this stretch of road and decided to do something useful – pray the Rosary. I had been to one family Rosary once before but this was the first time to try it on my own. I took out my Rosary and retrieved the instruction book I brought with me and began to read what came first. Fortunately, there aren’t many cars on the road in this part of the country and I was able to do what I needed to do without much peril to me or anyone else. As I prayed and reflected on each of the Glorious Mysteries I felt at peace. I wouldn’t have done this on the road back home but out here where there is less traffic and the beauty of God’s Green Earth is so evident, it was a special event.
A few miles later after I made the turn at Buffalo, Wyoming and headed for Billings, Montana, I saw a huge thunderstorm brewing in the direction I was heading. It had the massive ‘anvil’ of one that could produce some large hail and high winds. It looked like I might miss the worst of it but the road was climbing in elevation up into the storm cloud. I started catching the fringe of the storm with a LOT of wind and rain but, fortunately, no hail. The road actually went up into this dark black cloud! As I was passing through it it was like night and visibility couldn’t have been more than a hundred yards. But, it only lasted about a mile until the road began a descent and we came out of the cloud. It was a pretty cool experience. I’ve flown through clouds on planes and helicopters but can’t say I’ve ever driven through one quite like that before.
A beautiful consequence of this storm was that it produced a magnificent double rainbow just a couple miles down the road. I’ve seen some nice rainbows before, and several double rainbows, but none quite like this, especially with the backdrop of this one. I felt sorry for those who might look at it as only a rainbow and not the God moment that it is to me.
I wrapped up the day’s drive of 580 miles (1,980 todate) by stopping and setting up camp at the Headwaters of the Missouri State park. I built a campfire and ate a snack and thought about what a perfect day it was as the western sky got dark and the stars came out in full force.
I’d love to hear from you about your God moments.
Today’s destination: my daughter’s house in Seattle, Washington.
God bless you all.