Posted by: Christine Johnson | July 6, 2006

Not Quite Catholic

This past weekend, our family went to the Philadelphia area for a Baptism. The blessed event took place at an Episcopal parish. When we learned this (Saturday night), my only prayer was that it would not be celebrated by a woman priest. My prayer was granted.

Now, my poor children missed Mass last weekend (as did their parents, naturally) because I misread the directions and we got lost. Gone is one hour, and gone is the time needed to clean up and get to the local Catholic church for Mass on Saturday. Baptism took place at a time that made it impossible to go to Mass on Sunday. I let our daughter know that it wasn’t her fault, so it is not a sin for her to have missed. However, I did let her know that we ought not take Communion at the Episcopal church. And so that began our morning. Oh, and as we were walking towards the church (following behind the rest of the family, none of whom are practicing Catholics), I also whispered to the girls that they needn’t genuflect, either. *sigh* I was pretty sure it was going to be close to a Mass, and so I also prayed that they wouldn’t be confused by anything and that I could explain anything they had questions about.

We arrived in time to sit for a few moments before the service began. Really, this was a beautiful church; it is in between West Chester and Philadelphia, and it’s old. Stained glass…saints…side altars to the Blessed Virgin…in some ways, it’s actually more Catholic-looking than my own parish. Okay, in a LOT of ways it is. It’s really beautiful. There’s even a pipe organ! We take our seats in the pew and wait.

The entrance hymn is Catholic. And I’m talking about singing a hymn about rejecting schism and loving the Church that Jesus founded! Holy mackeral, it was ironic! Especially since, as we sang this song, the priest came in with a deaconess!

Big Girl grabbed my arm and whispered, “Mommy! Is that a WOMAN DEACON???”

I took a deep breath, prayed for a spirit of charity, and said, “Unfortunately, yes. It’s a woman deacon.”

“That is CRAZY!” she whispered back.

From the mouths of babes, I tell you.

It was pretty much like a Mass from there on out. I just tried not to look at the deaconess, including when she read one of the readings. She assisted the priest during the Baptism, which took place after the readings and before the Communion part. (I feel funny calling it Eucharist, though that is the name they used.)

The homily was very nice, and the only thing I had to explain was that Episcopal priests can get married, which helped explain why the priest was talking about his daughter going away to college. Big Girl thought that this, too, was strange.

The Baptism was truly beautiful, though, and the rites overall were lovely. It was beautiful. Oh, and their translation of the Nicene Creed is very close to what we in the US will be saying soon. They don’t use consubstantial, but they do say “incarnate.”

What I did find interesting was that parish announcements happened smack in the middle of things. Like, Baptism is over, then announcements, then Eucharist. Strange. It’s like I was interrupted in the middle of prayers for someone to tell me about something unrelated.

The Eucharistic prayers were similar, and though Jesus was not to become physically present, we knelt with everyone else during what is called the words of institution in a Catholic Mass.

“Why are we kneeling, Mommy?” asked Big Girl.

Good question. She knows her stuff. “Because everyone here is, and we want to be unified with them and not stick out a lot. That way we won’t draw attention to ourselves.”

“Oh. Okay.”

By the way, there were no kneelers. Just some pillows to take out and kneel upon. VERY uncomfortable, I must say. Offered it up, in case you care.

Then it was time for Communion. I took out my handy-dandy prayer book and we all prayed for a Spiritual Communion. (This is something Little Girl does anyway because she is too little for the Eucharist. She is quite happy to be able to ask Jesus into her heart each and every time we go to Mass.)

I sat there, watching people go up to the Communion rail (Big Girl noticed this and was quite excited by it!), and I prayed for the Episcopal church and the Anglican church. God only knows how they can right themselves to come back into communion with the Holy Mother Church, but nothing is impossible for God. I was in tears thinking of it. It hurt me so much to see the people there who obviously love God, knowing that they are in schism and separated from the Church that Jesus founded. Really, I think that my own missing of the Blessed Sacrament this weekend hightened my grief for them. I am so saddened by it.

At the end of the service, we sang “Faith of Our Faithers,” which was also quite ironic, since its original lyrics include a prayer for the reunification of the Holy Catholic Church.

I managed to completely avoid the deaconess after the service, which was a relief. Honestly, I just was embarassed for her. Oh, the priestess there was on vacation with her family, but I discovered that they are called “Mother,” which is something I wondered. I was confused when I saw the annoucement in the bulletin that Mother so and so was on vacation with her family because I was thinking nuns…like Mother Angelica.

So God answered my prayers, and the girls were not too confused by anything, and my dearest husband and I pondered what the problem was (priestesses and deaconesses aside) between the Anglicans and Rome. I said that it’s papal authority, or that was mostly the beginnings, from what I could gather. Of course, with what the ECUSA has done lately (gay bishops and women bishops), the chances of the Anglican community returning to Rome are slimmer than ever. There could even be an official split, I mentioned. It’s a shame, and I really was just moved so deeply by how sad it must make the Lord to see His children moving away from His Church.

Please keep the Anglican church, and especially the Episcopals, in your prayers. God wants to lead them home, but they must also be willing to be led there.

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