[img_assist|nid=127811|title=Holy Family Cathedral Signage|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=241]While not a stranger to Roman Catholic services, I don’t often attend their services, due in part, to my Protestant background. One of the responses to my blog suggested I visit Holy Family Cathedral in downtown Anchorage. I put this suggestion in the hopper and finally visited the church on July 13. Located downtown at 5th and H, it is a prominent local landmark. There are many rites within the Catholic Church. A call to the church office confirmed Holy Family follows the Roman Rite .
A surprising first: personal pastoral welcome!
Upon entering the church for the 12 p.m. Mass, I was immediately greeted by an older priest who, after the service, introduced himself as Father Donald Bramble, OP, the pastor of Holy Family. This greeting was unique and a first among my Anchorage church visits. While not a prerequisite, and arguably not the best use of a pastor’s time, it was a great beginning to a friendly and warm service. My visits are unannounced, as I want to experience the treatment a church extends to any visitor.
The church was quite full but I found seating toward the rear. A kindly usher kept finding room for late arrivers and soon there was little open seating. The congregation is very multicultural with even a few mantillas in evidence on women, a reminder of a bygone era when women dared not enter certain churches with their heads uncovered. This lent a further air of respect and old world reverence to the service.
Told I was Catholic and it was OK
Catholics follow a formalized order of service as described in the missal in the pew. Following a formal procession of alter boys, lay servers, and the priest and deacon, Father Donald gave a very warm, all-inclusive welcome noting that to the ends of the earth, the fact that you were here makes you Catholic . This term can be construed broadly and it felt comfortable to me.
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Sow the seed
There was a lengthy reading of Matthew 13 which pertained to the homily, based on the parable of the sower. Deacon Gerry Grewe delivered a very warm and understandable homily, noting Jesus’ use of parable. He drew two lessons from the parable of the sower: That Jesus liked the sower who sowed seed liberally, and that whatever crop resulted was a gift of God who showered down rain. The summation of the homily was we are to minister to those around us despite discouragement. That we’re all called to be sowers and not to worry if the seed will grow. Plainly spoken and well delivered, this was an excellent sermon. What a delight!
I don’t claim to understand the Catholic order of service. There were responses, and rising, sitting, rising but one would become accustomed to this in time. The Eucharist concluded the service and was quickly and efficiently delivered. I was sorely tempted by a commercial at the end of the service to purchase fair trade coffee, proceeds to foreign missions, and homemade enchiladas, proceeds to the parish. The service ended promptly at 1 p.m. I was amazed at all that occurred during that short hour.
They sang a number of hymns with a woman leading out in a side pulpit, accompanied by beautiful sounding, and well-played pipe organ. A person seeking a Catholic family, from this brief visit, would be well served and welcomed into this church, for which my commenter was correct. From their bulletin I noticed Father Donald Bramble is leaving this parish on August 8. With one-quarter of American churchgoers being Catholic, I will need to visit Catholic churches more frequently to be fair.
For a fascinating glimpse into the Catholic Church, through the life of its last pope, I highly recommend the Frontline film, John Paul II: The Millennial Pope. This PBS link provides a video excerpt and much extra material or it’s available here for purchase.
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