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Archive for December, 2010

“Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; call upon him when he draws near.” -Isaiah 55:6

The second significant milestone after receiving Holy Communion was finding St Anthony Shrine right smack dab in the middle of Downtown Crossing in Boston.  For 7+ years (at the time, September 2008), I had walked by St Anthony’s everyday on my way to work, completely oblivious to what it was.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I had moved into a mindset where I wanted to “go to church” more often than once a week.  I searched for services at Episcopalian churches, but they were few and far between, and of course, spread out geographically  (In fairness, I had not yet discovered The Church of the Advent, but that is still a bit of a haul from Downtown Crossing, but worth it).

Discovering St Anthony Shrine was for me a small miracle at the time, and remains as such.  It is a “center for Roman Catholic Ministry in Boston, Massachusetts directed by the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province.”  Daily Masses are held weekdays at 6am, 7am, 10am, 11:45am, 12:30pm, 1:15pm, and 5:15pm (check the website for schedule changes and for weekend Masses).  Bottom line, if you are in the area and you want to go to Mass, you have no excuse not to go.

But the plethora of daily Masses isn’t really the true beauty of this place.  The true beauty is their message, “All Are Welcome”, and I will testify to that spirit!  I have never felt uncomfortable or out of place at a Mass at St Anthony’s.  I more often than not hear an excellent homily, and I always leave in a better spiritual place.  There is ample time before and after the service for extended prayer.  There is a regular schedule of intercessions and services of healing.  The music has been called the best in Boston.  The Lazarus ministry arranges funeral Masses for those in dire need due to various circumstances.  Just last week, I attended a 10am Mass and found myself at the funeral of David Roberts.  I don’t think anyone in attendance knew Mr Roberts, but his funeral was well attended, there was a beautiful homily and we all prayed for his quick entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.

The list of services doesn’t end there.  If you live, work or just plan to visit Boston, check out St Anthony Shrine’s website (linked at the beginning of this post).  If you are reading this post in another area, feel free to post comments about places like this one or even blog about them yourselves!

Peace.

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Picking up where I left off, the next significant event that locked me into my journey after receiving Holy Communion was co-founding and then leading a Taize ministry at St Peters Salem.  A service in the style of the Taize community consists of songs interspersed with readings, intercessions, the Lord’s Prayer, and a final prayer.  What sets a Taize style service apart is the songs.  They are very meditative, normal a single two line verse repeated over and over. Jesus Remember Me is a perfect example.  The lyrics are “Jesus Remember Me, When You Come Into Your Kingdom”.  The length of the song is up to the service leader, it can be 2 or 10 minutes.  What I can tell you is that the effect of a meditative song such as this one is amazing and can be transcendental.

Now that you have some background, I will continue with the story.  Fr Paul at St Peters had announced in September 2008 that there would be a weekly Taize style service on Wednesday followed by a discussion of the Scripture for the upcoming week.  He brought some recorded music to the first service and we started to get a feel for the service.  I purchased some Taize music to listen to on my own shortly thereafter, and started discussions with Fr Paul about leading the service.  Before long, I had crafted a hybrid weekly Evening Prayer/Taize service.  I had also developed a strong desire to seek out more weekday services, but more on that later.

Unfortunately, attendance waned from a normal group of 6-7 to pretty much Fr Paul and myself.  The heat in the Chapel didn’t work, and once it turned to winter we were challenged to even brave it ourselves.  But what we did not lose was the desire to keep the ministry going.  So I helped secure the funds to fix the heat in the Chapel, and we agreed to resume for Lent.

Ash Wednesday 2009 attendance was significantly higher than the prior year, and we even had a few complaints that it was “too warm” in the chapel!  A series of weekly Lenten services followed, a Taize style service followed by Evening Prayer, Compline, and other services.  The lynchpin of the success of these services was our music director Joe Tardif.  Joe is a genius when it comes to arranging music et al for services.

Fr Paul and I discussed the future of the Taize style service, and we decided to ask Joe if he would play piano and lead the music at a service in May.  He agreed.  And that was the catalyst for what is now a beautiful monthly Taize service on the first Wednesday of every month at St Peters Salem chapel arranged by Joe.

The experience of being completely engaged in organizing and leading this ministry was key in helping me focus on my journey.  Fair warning, becoming over-engaged can have the opposite effect, so take it slow.  Find a entry point to engage, whether it be attending a bible study, serving on the altar guild, reading at Sunday or weekday services, or serving at the local soup kitchen on your church’s night.

And search for a Taize service in your area.  The Cathedral of St Luke in Portland Me also has a Taize style service, so check their website (click the link) for the schedule.  It is an ecumenical service, so all will feel comfortable attending.

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Time for some backstory.  As I noted in my first post, my return to church started at a Roman church.  July 20th 2008 to be exact, at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Salem MA.  It was a fairly warm summer day, and it was marked by two distinct memories.  The first being the Gospel, the parable of the sower’s seed and of the mustard seed.  Two of my favorite parables, so quite the Gospel reading for my first time back in a church on a Sunday for a long while. The second memory is not so favorable. I was very anxious during the service. I didn’t feel like I should have been there because I couldn’t remember the order of service. The bulletin didn’t really speak to the service at all. For better or worse, this is pretty much standard at all of the Roman churches I have attended.  That being said, most Roman churches have a Missal of some sort available in the pews, which I didn’t realize at the time.

After the research mentioned in the very first blog post, July 27th was to be my first service at an Episcopalian church. St Peter’s Salem was the closer of the two Episcopalian churches in Salem, so we chose it.  By virtue of the combined parish summer schedule at the time however, the service was held at Grace Church, but it was celebrated by Fr Paul Bresnahan from St Peters.  It was a wonderful service, an 8am Rite I said service (more on Rite I and Rite II Episcopal services in future posts).  The Gospel appointed for that day included the parable “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”  Fr Paul preached an amazing sermon!  I was filled with so many emotions, being in a liturgical church that seemed so familiar and yet listening to a priest talk about his children.  I knew that Anglican priests were allowed to marry, but it became a reality at that moment and I was very ok with it.  Little did I know at the time that the following Sunday would be celebrated at St Peters by a female priest! 🙂

One important note, I did not go up for Holy Communion at either of the aforementioned services.  I was still at the point where I wanted to want to believe again and made a personal choice to wait until I at least hit the “want to believe” stage of my resumed journey.

We attended St Peters on 8/3/08 and that was my first service ever that was celebrated by a woman.  I found the Reverend Debbie Phillips to be a great preacher, and left my Roman notions about priests at the door again.  It was either that Sunday or the following one (also celebrated by Reverend Debbie) that I went to the altar rail for Holy Communion.  I had reached the “want to believe again” point.

My life was inextricably changed at that moment.  I truly felt that all of my past sins (which I could never undo, just not do again) had been forgiven.  And I wept.

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…at which church you will end up on Sunday morning? When we were staying in Portland on the weekends, I often would wonder which church I would end up at. I attended services at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (Roman), Holy Cross (Roman, and where I was baptized), Sacred Heart (Roman), the Cathedral of St Luke (Episcopal), and St Peters (Episcopal). All different, all wonderful in their own way. The choirs at these churches (at least the first 4 listed, the St Peters visit was a said service) were all beautiful and moving.

Music has been an integral part of my existence for a very long time. Whether it be rock, classical, or hymns and carols, music has a grip on my inner being that can move me greatly. I had a continuous tear streaming from my right eye during the First Part of Handel’s Messiah. The soprano at Grace Church often moves me to tears of joy during her descant verses. The opening Kyrie in Bach’s Mass in B Minor…. So, so many more that I will likely mention later… For the moment, peace.

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So the journey so far as it relates to church goes something like this: as a kid, I was raised a C&E Roman Catholic, ok maybe just an E. I was baptized and received first Communion in the RC church. Despite having wanted to be a priest when i was a kid, I stopped going to church prior to Confirmation age. About two and a half years ago (about 16 years later) my dad and I were at dinner with our better halves and he told me about his epiphany. About a month or two later my wife and i decided to go to church. I naturally went back to a Roman church, but at the time found myself at odds with certain aspects of the Catechism. My wife did some research and we landed at an Episcopalian church. Since that day, much has happened, but I will save it for later posts. Thanks for reading.

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