Monday, December 27, 2010

Church is a Verb

While at Upaya Zen center, we had the opportunity hear Father John Deer speak passionately about Gandhian non-violent social action. We joined him for a demonstration at Los Alamos, and afterward, joined in a private discussion with some of that event's organizers. One of them was a Catholic priest with whom we eventually struck up a friendship. My return to New Mexico was confusing in many ways, but none more confusing than my feeling a pull toward the religion of my youth, which I quite deliberately left behind over two decades ago.

So it was to my surprise that I found myself attending a mass said by our new friend, Father Earl. The church was progressive in the same way that Santa Fe itself is, down to the art hung in the lobby. Rather than the long, narrow, and aged mission style churches found throughout New Mexico, this was a circular structure, all white and well lit. We were seated in the first row, made to feel welcome by the smiling faces around us. I've attended a few masses over the years with my mother down at her 300 year old church in Tome, but the mass said was world's apart from any I'd experienced before. The song were new, and our voices were led by a pair of altar girls, no less. There was a strong emphasis on study, rather than on mere worship and faith, an emphasis that knowing God takes some hard work. And being offered communion wine was something I hadn't seen since my childhood in the '70s. Most of all, was the sense of inclusiveness. Many of the pews up front were led to by ramps for wheelchairs. And the statues around the church showed faces beyond the usual long-haired, bearded hippie types; here was an African, there a Native American.

It would take a huge ideological shift in Rome to bring me back to the flock. But for one afternoon, I saw a glimpse of how wonderful Catholicism can be, if it were to listen to the tenets of love on which it was founded.

On the turntable: Dinosaur, Jr., "Where You Been"

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