Never Judge a Book By Its, Cover, or Maybe You Should

Today I went to St. Albert the Great. It serves the NMSU and the surrounding neighborhood. I expected, (hoped?) to find a younger, more tolerant crowd. That didn’t happen, but what did was not unpleasant or disagreeable either.

I arrived a bit early. The church is in the adobe style, modern, meaning post Vatican II. It was pleasant inside although the pews were without kneelers. For those who don’t know me much, I am, good or bad, rather impressed or depressed by the physicality of a church. Some leave me flat and spiritless, others inspire. I prefer the latter.

This did inspire, until I sat down. For the next 10-15 minutes I was hailed by a variety of aged men and women, who chattered so loudly that at times I thought I was in a sports arena filling for a title bout. The usual complaints and explanations of physical ailments, treatments and medications ensued. Hardly the place where one can quiet one’s mind turn toward God. You can make the usual arguments, I’m well aware that I’m being petty.

About three minutes before Mass, the place began to fill with the families and the college fare until it was fully bursting at the seams.

The music began, part in Spanish and part in English, which I find utterly delightful, and voices rose in harmony and vigor.

So far, my experiences in New Mexican Catholic churches suggest that most homilies are left to the deacon. This one was neither especially good or bad, average, which most are. Father was attentive and friendly.

I learned that the diocese is getting a new bishop and the parish a new priest. This suggests to me a great time to schedule an appointment and go in and talk to Father about my marriage issues, and get a feel for the reception I might receive there as a permanent member. It will be a bit of drive when we move to our new house (should we get it), but still it is only 20 minutes, and frankly the only one close to our new house has an awful mass time of 11 am which I dislike. And I’m not particularly fond of Saturday evening masses, though I will surely do it at least once to give it a chance.

All in all, my first impression was bad, but my the end of the Mass I found myself quite taken with it. It was much more warm it seemed to me than the Cathedral which is no cathedral at all, and cannot even maintain a piano player for the Sunday mass.

I find all this surprising, since New Mexico is overwhelmingly Catholic. I expected to find really old churches here, instead I find that most are modern and rather unappealing architecturally speaking. The one closest to our new home, looks from the outside to be a warehouse that has been converted. It’s long and low. Where are my spiraling and soaring vaults to heaven?

Again, I know, the place is not important. But frankly it is to me. This has always been the case and frankly I don’t think I’ll be changing now.

Anyway, it was a good Pentecost.



3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tim
    May 27, 2012 @ 14:17:01

    I’m so happy to hear how the church search is going, Sherry, even if not as smoothly as one would like. 😉

    What flips the switch and says, “This is home,” always fascinates me. And so often it’s not what we’d expect when we’re looking for a new parish. Walt and I literally walked past our church for almost 20 years, in all honesty not the least bit curious about what went on inside. We were driving across town to worship and when he said, “As much as I love it, this isn’t working for me,” I set out on a neighborhood church safari. Since we live in Boystown the results were all over the board: too much emphasis on the gay thing, not enough on diversity and theology; too dry in that go-through-the-motions way; too hip to the point of lacking substance; too loose; too up-tight.

    Finally I decided to try the place nearest to us–not expecting much, as we’d never noticed much going on there. (To tell the truth, I expected about 30 seniors wheezing through pompous hymns and preaching that veered toward the God-is-like-a-butterfly soft-soap laziness that I detest.) Boy, was I surprised. I walked in on a vibrant, radically diverse community–all ages, orientations, and ethnicities–with a solid liturgy that nonetheless provided ample opportunity for self-expression. When the service paused midway for worshipers to give personal thanksgivings, the flip switched. “I could get to like this,” I said. Then the preaching blew me away. All these years later, we still laugh about how we misjudged the place–and we kick ourselves for not getting there sooner!

    Keep the faith, dear sister. The place you’re looking for is also looking for you. You’ll know it when it finds you!

    Many blessings–and I’m so delighted to hear that you guys are settling in!


    • Sherry
      May 28, 2012 @ 11:08:15

      Thanks Tim. I know my “feeling” is a bit weird, as is my allegiance to the Roman Catholic church which is not my theological cup of tea. I keep vacillating. I’m going to try a non-affiliated Catholic church here in town I think next week and see what I think of that. In any case, the experience is informative, and perhaps teaches me more about my own weaknesses of faith rather than anything else. The Episcopal churches here are very split as best I can see. From the yellow pages you can discern pretty much what is going on, when it says things like “exemplifying traditional values”….code for the obvious ultra conservative church. I can at least say that I’ve traveled around a lot. I instinctively think I would probably like COC for their theology, but I’m not sure. I haven’t seen one here. I was so looking forward to old adobe churches that had been there forever,and such is not forthcoming in Las Cruces at least. I think God must be suggesting something to me lol that I am avoiding. Blessing.


  2. athornamongmany
    May 28, 2012 @ 21:17:03

    Hey Sherry,

    You’re not weird, you’re just normal, like me:-) I admire you, venturing out and checking out the churches. I suppose that’s what I need to do, again. I didn’t know that LC was losing Bishop Ramirez. He’s been a welcome presence in a very unwelcome climate for many Catholics in this region. The AB of Santa Fe rules the roost in these parts, and you would recognize very little of Jesus in that man.

    Finally I hear someone asking the same questions I’ve been asking since coming to New Mexico. It’s sense of relief to hear that someone else wonders about the Catholic Church in New Mexico and just where are all the Catholics in this Catholic place? Where are the Catholic schools, the Catholic colleges and universities? I’ve been asking this question for years now and people often just look at me, they have no response — it’s similar to your sunglasses experience at K-Mart (sorry I suppose that’s blog incest). Evidently, as in other locales across this country, many Catholics no longer have a working relationship with the Church. Here, they seem to identify as and consider themselves Catholic in a cultural sense, but since their lives don’t reflect the local church’s “expectations” — they just withdrew, stopped going, got tired of being told they should keep their cleavage covered and skirts to the knee, they apparently grew weary and worn down by homilies not even closely akin to the Gospel — too many homilies berating same-sex marriage and co-habitation of any flavor.

    Also, after spending so many years with the Jesuits at the Univ. of San Francisco, and professionally being a teacher, I often thought of teaching in one of the several Catholic schools here. That was…until I discovered that every one of the schools is attached to a right-wing conservative parish and I wouldn’t be allowed to be who I am — who ever that is?

    Along these same lines, the Sisters of Loretto’ University of Albuquerque folded years ago and the Christian Brothers’ College of Santa Fe went broke and was acquired by the Laureate Group, and is now Santa Fe University of Art and Design. Also, many, many former Catholics turned to the warehouse-like big box churches — they are overwhelmingly the most popular here in Albuquerque. They represent everything that I detest. They preach abundance, and more abundance and throw in a dash of hate and a pinch of greed here and there, but their God approves, so it’s okay. Not to mention, when looking for work here, people tend to hire those that attend the same church. I used to work for a principal in an elementary school that ran off the “misfits” and proceeded to replace them with fellow church members. The place went from business casual elementary school teacher style to long hair in buns and prairie skirts. That’s public education for you:-))

    You know…there is the Ecumenical Catholic Church (ECC) in Las Cruces. I’ve looked at the website more than once, but to me, something feels “off” there. Of course, it’s not like I’m going to drive 323 miles every Sunday:-)) Of course, it’s on the “Heretic” list that the AB sends out every month. The list seems to be growing. That could be a good sign:-)

    I suppose we’ll never know where “home” is until we find it. I thought I had found mine, but then things changed. About the time the Mass changed last November, it seemed like everything to grow stale, during Mass people seemed lost and comatose, all you ever heard about was money and how they needed and wanted more of it. When they decided to make “how to do direct deposit for Jesus” at the forefront of the webpage, I decided I’d had enough. Of course, being without work for almost 3 years, that didn’t go over real well with me. As far as I know, it’s still the “only” church in town — I’ll probably try again, maybe when I get some money LOL.

    SO…for now I’m back to what I term “House Church” — just me, Craige, George, Grace and God and usually Mass from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Univ. of Notre Dame, it streams live at –just choose live programming on Sunday at 8am DMT. In my heart, I don’t think God via computer linked to the TV is the answer for me, but for now it’s all I have. And it’s nice to exchange the Peace of Christ with all of your loved ones in a place where you feel safe and loved.

    Prayers are with you and just remember…I’m only 323 miles to the north:-))..Jer…


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