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2553: St Thomas More, Glendale, Arizona, USA

Read this report | Other comments

June 13, 2013

Sorry to read that your worship experience here at St Thomas More for confirmation last weekend was not spiritually fulfilling for you personally. I pray it was much more so for your grand-niece and her mother. From the overwhelmingly positive (outside of your review) response we have received this week, those who were actively engaged in the celebration left filled with the Holy Spirit.

And the phrase "actively engaged" is the key to a real liturgical experience here at St Thomas More. The name of your web column would best be titled "Mystery Observer", for to be a "Worshipper" would mean you were actively engaged in the prayerful act of worship along with rest of the assembly.

For instance, did YOU offer greetings or smile at the ushers as you arrived? Were you courteous enough to offer assistance to the woman with the baby looking for a seat? Or were you more intent on taking notes and photographs than entering into the celebration? In addition to observing others, did you sing with full voice to encourage those around you to join in, even though the music was not to your personal taste? Did you offer prayers for these young people receiving the full fruits of the Holy Spirit and the grace of the presence of Christ in the eucharist? Or simply focus on how they were dressed with a sense of personal nostalgia?

Did you see around you a diversity of people making up a rich community of believers – the Body of Christ – or did you look around in judgmental appraisal, ignoring Christ’s admonition to "judge not, lest you yourself be judged."

The celebration of the mass is never about you or me personally; it is about all of us coming together as a community in prayer, praise and thanksgiving directed toward our loving God. While our ministers could certainly be faulted for their human failures, like our psalmist getting a dry throat during the psalm, an altar server not knowing when Father Adamson would want the book held for the ritual, or the young people who were acting as ushers not doing everything they could to help find seats for everyone (by the way, those regular ushers with badges were there simply in case of emergency; the people you saw were some of those being confirmed, acting as ushers for this celebration) we know that we, as a community, used the gifts God gave us, and offered those gifts back in service to those gathered, for this special celebration of the sacraments.

I would invite you to return and join us for a regular Sunday celebration of the mass here at St Thomas More. And by that I mean truly join us – leave camera, pad and pen behind and fully enter into the celebration and continue to do that on a weekly basis, really to get a sense of how this community prays. For to sit (or elect to stand) back and simply observe and judge, you embody the overall blanket title for your website – "Ship of Fools".

Steve Raml
Director of Liturgy/Music
St Thomas More

Amanda B. Reckondwythe replies:

Mr Raml, I will answer your questions one by one.

My grand-niece does enjoy worshiping at St Thomas More. Her mother, however, does not. She told me that it seems too cold and impersonal for her, that she would prefer a warmer, friendlier church, but that she goes for the sake of her daughter.

Yes, I did smile at the usher and say "Good morning," as I always do. I would have at least expected a "Good morning. May I help you find a seat?" in return. As reported, however, I received silence.

I stood during the service. Had I been seated, I would most assuredly have offered my seat to the lady with infant in arms, even though I myself am no spring chicken anymore. And you can be assured that as I did so, I would have aimed the most withering stare I could muster at the dozens of able-bodied young men so comfortably seated around me and so oblivious to common courtesy.

I did not sing, although I currently belong to a community chorus and have sung in church choirs for most of my adult life. I do not regard the music chosen for that mass as singable. Nor, apparently, did the vast majority of the congregation. Where was "Come Holy Ghost"? Where was "Veni Creator Spiritus"? Where was "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" or even "I am the Bread of Life"? All of which are eminently singable, eminently appropriate for a first communion/confirmation service, and all of which I would most gladly have sung, both for my personal gratification and to encourage those around me to sing likewise.

Yes, I offered prayers for the confirmands and communicants and for all other members of the Body of Christ who were present. I was, after all, worshiping at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as well as snapping photos, taking notes and observing.

I'm afraid I must decline your invitation to return to St Thomas More for a Sunday mass. I am Episcopalian, and can choose from among any number of Episcopal churches in the Phoenix metropolitan area that satisfy me spiritually as well as aesthetically. If I were inclined to attend a Roman Catholic service, I could also choose from among the Cathedral of St Simon and St Jude; St Thomas Aquinas, Avondale; St Elizabeth Seton, Sun City; or others that would likewise enable me to partake of a more fulfilling worship experience.

Finally, as for our being the "Ship of Fools", we do not hesitate to point at (perhaps with a chuckle, or at least with a "tut tut") those aspects of Christendom (the word my philosophy professor at college used to employ to differentiate between belief and practice) that our human failings hold up to us for inspection. I stand by my report, including my comments about the unhelpful ushers, the boorish congregation, and the underrehearsed acolytes.

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