Sunday, December 4, 2011

Our Mother of Good Counsel

I had plans for the late morning on Sunday, and something I've done in the past in such instances is to locate a Catholic church so I can -- bluntly -- quickly burn through a mass and get on with my day. It is the absolute wrong approach to worship, especially during the holiday season. God, like Santa, knows if you're being bad or good, so be good... or He'll send you to a mass that seems to go on forever as punishment.

Our Mother of Good Counsel is, quite possibly, the only thing in Los Feliz with ample parking. It is also a Catholic church with a music program. Mass included a decent-sized choir, a pianist, flautist, and bass guitar player. Multiple hymns were sung, and the call-and-response portions of the liturgy featured an array of musical arrangements. The priest was dressed in the same color purple as the alter fabric and fabric of the ceremonial tapestries at the front of the church. In short, at times during mass the priest seemed to vanish. I found this more amusing than a should have.

The homily wasn't really centered on the quoted passages in the Bible. Instead it was a cultural history lesson of the Catholic church, all five branches... or maybe six (the priest himself seemed uncertain). By way of clarification, not all Catholics are Roman Catholics, and there are differences amongst the other branches. Some are identified by their cities of origin, while others are just -- well -- different.

Some Catholic priests are allowed to marry and do not need to remain celibate. That's one of those facts that often slips past laypeople. Then there is Christmas itself. Advent is not universal to all Catholics, and those who do count down the days have unique traditions. Some consider the weeks leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus as a somber time, a time not to be filled with parties and lights and song. Others have not agreed on when to celebrate Christ's birth, and reserve Epiphany (January 6th) as the day to sing happy birthday to the Lord.

When I lived overseas, I got to experience this up close and personal. Multiple branches of Catholicism, as well as other Christian faiths, celebrate different ways on different days. Only us westerners celebrated on Dec. 25th, while others celebrated on the new year itself, then there were those who celebrated on Jan. 6th. And as Christians, we were basically allowed to celebrate all of the above instances.

Here in the west, where Christian denominations have intertwined and meshed together, we often forget there are differences. Certainly, the atheists who actively campaign for the removal of God from our lives tend to lump us all together as one. And more often than not those TV punditry shows will list any believer merely as a Christian. That is not altogether bad. There is more that unites us than divides us, but there are times when it is important to recognize the differences. Just as not all atheists are out to close church doors, not all Christians are picketing at the funerals of soldiers. On a base level, regardless of whether we are talking about religion, we need to be able to embrace differences and celebrate similarities.

We also need to remember that praising God is not just another trivial item on somebody's "to-do" list. At least, I sometimes need to do a better job of remembering that.



Sunday Scorecard

This will be a regular part of my weekly reviews, a series of short-answer questions about the day's experience.

What is the contact info for the church?

Our Mother of Good Counsel
2060 North Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027

What was the denomination?


What Bible verses were referenced?

What are the demographics of the congregation?

Mostly Asian and Hispanic, mostly older

Was the atmosphere formal or casual?

Formal mass

What was the music like?

Decent choir, accompanied by piano, flute, and bass guitar

How was the use of PowerPoint?

No... I don't think Catholics believe in Microsoft

Being Hollywood, were there celebrities in the congregation?

None that I could see

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