My Religious Endeavor: How Visiting The Church Has Changed My Attitude To Religion
Religion has been defined as being the backbone for the establishment of many societies whether known or unknown. However, most people that are unaffiliated with religions do not incorporate this idea due to little or no connections with them. This project has allowed me to experience an activity I would usually not ever think about doing. I went to mass at the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More on a Friday night. The experience of the mass was totally different from the idea I had created in my mind due to me being unaffiliated with any religion. There is so much information on the processes that occur in a Mass that I had never known before because my atheist background. First off, I decided to go to this former Catholic Church, which is now a co-cathedral, due to the establishment being the closest and most convenient place of religion and I had a friend who is Catholic that helped me define and explain what was happening so I could get a better understanding of the process of Mass.
Mass is a religious service that followers of the Catholic Church attend and it usually occurs on Sunday. However, this church has three days to choose from. When entering the church I observed that people were dressed in casual clothes and would kneel before entering a bench. This process is called genuflecting and the religious term for the benches is pews. The atmosphere of the church was serious and strict with a hint of leniency. Lenient due to the fact that the audience did not become angered or restless when a baby started crying. Before Mass started, the bishop walked out with the priest looking at the crowd. Talking with one of the attendees near me, he told me that it is a special occasion that the bishop is here because he rarely makes an appearance. He wore a white robe with red robes overtop and had a red hat called a zucchetto. Usually only the priest is present and directs the Mass but it is a special honor if the bishop is present due to them being regarded as “the successors of the apostles”
I had noticed that the audience present for Mass was ranging from old to young, and they all were very well mannered. I sat in the back so I wouldn’t disrupt the proceedings and so I could look around. The cathedral was very well made architecturally, as it helped portray the life of Jesus. Architecturally, the Cathedral was made in a ‘T’ shape where the majority of the people sat in the longer part while the altar and podium and chairs for the bishop and priest were in the intersection. This made it so that you would be able to hear and see the priest and bishop from all sides. Also, the structural support was made from concrete and wood, hinting at a more natural and original style with the wood being more prevalent. The windows were stained glass with red and blue tints as the primary colors and hints of gold as a secondary color. Looking up the history of the Cathedral on their webpage, I watched a video about a restoration project the Cathedral underwent to “restore the windows to their original glory so that the Lord would restore us”. Each window was a different style representing different parts Jesus’s life. Also, under each window was a cross with a scene of Jesus’s life. The ceiling lights were hanging wood with gold metal surrounding the wood.
As the clock struck 5, Mass started instantly with a Penitential Rite, which is a small amount of time given to reflect on sins, and then an entrance song was sung by a volunteer student. The song was slow with long notes that attempted to portray emotions of hope and a wishing for a better life. Only the first half of the song was sung and then the bishop spoke about meditating on Jesus and his origins. “Why do we pray?” “What benefit is it to us to pray for him?’” were questions that he had asked us to introduce the next part of Mass: singing and praying. A majority of the time was spent praying about the situations of now and after every time the bishop said something, the audience would say, “Peace be with you” as a way to pray for all of the events that are happening. The prayers that were spoken were mainly about the recent news of the Pope and their corrupt and dishonest activities and less about the teachings and the welfare of people as I imagined they would be. After the speech came singing a “response oral song” where the bishop and priest sang a line and the audience would respond with “do not forget the words of the lord” for about 3 minutes. The song we sang was from Psalms 78 and we would sing it from a book of psalms that was in a cubbyhole behind each pew. After singing the psalm, the bishop picked up his curved staff called the Crozier, and stood in the middle of the room singing a gospel hymn, which is a song for a celebration. His hymn was about paradoxes that occur within the church and religion. By using the hymn as a transition, the bishop spoke about the paradox of a snake and how Jesus told people it would kill but then afterwards he told people it heals.
Another paradox he continued to talk about was the paradox of the death of Christ lead to the birth of us. The death of Christ is what brought life to us, as he loved all. “It was God’s will that everyone lived a healthy and prosperous life through love. He wanted us to love each other because love is at the basis of all actions we do. And love is what will make people strong and have happy lives”. This description for the Christ Center of Positive Learning group is similar to the speech given by the bishop at the Co-Cathedral about paradoxes and how God sacrificed himself in the name of love for the people, as he wanted the best for everyone. By comparing bread to the body of Christ and wine as his blood, communion was given to all in the name of love as those who followed his teachings by loving themselves and in turn loving others. Communion is a tradition eating bread and drinking wine as a way to connect to the soul and divinity of God. Since I was not Catholic and only a visitor, I received a blessing instead of communion. As the communion ended, everyone kneeled as more prayers were given as offering for being blessed by the communion. Many of the prayers given were for those who have sinned. The bishop specifically prayed for those who continue to sin as it is “far serious to have a tendency to sin instead of being able to overcome the sin through dedication”.
Once these prayers were over, the second half of the song that was sang at the beginning was sung. After the song was finished, Mass was over and everyone left. As people were exiting, I noticed the bishop was loitering around the exit area so I was able to talk with him about Catholicism and how it diverges from other sects of Christianity. He explained the different sects and Catholicism is one of the oldest branches of Christianity and that the other main branches were Protestantism and Orthodoxy. He said that the clergy was different with each sect where Catholic has the Pope and Bishops while Protestant has Pastors and Orthodoxy had Monks and Nuns. Also the way people confessed to their sins was different as well. The website Diffen, a comparison site, helped clarify what the differences in leaders and act performed were better than the bishop himself due to the straight facts the website gave compared to the bishop’s unintentional biased explanation. “Catholics confessed to God through priests, Protestants confessed to God through Jesus, and Orthodox Christians confessed to God through pastors”. With a huge emphasis, the bishop explained that Catholicism is different from the other sects due to the belief that love and peace is the reason people can be saved from their sins.
In conclusion, this experience has brought a whole new world to me. By observing the Church and the audience, I discovered a totally different side of religion compared to the imagined ideas that have been created from the various sources on the Internet. By immersing myself in the activities and brainstorming the reasons why people go, I have developed an understanding that this faith brings people together through the idea of everyone loving each other so everyone can have a place to feel wanted.
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