Yesterday, our family joined a new parish. Gulp.
This may not seem all that radical, but for us, it is huge. We have been attending the same parish for five years, and we love that parish. The Mass there is done with reverence, beauty, and the people there are kind and we are so blessed to be part of a wonderful community there. We fully hope and plan to attend Mass there once a month. Yet, a new chapter is unfolding for us. One that will, over the next two years include selling a house, buying a house, moving to a different neighborhood, and preparing to enroll our oldest in (God-willing) Catholic school. These are big transitions and we are on the cusp of something new, and somewhat strange.
Strange, because this parish is…in the suburbs. I know. The horror, the horror. Just kidding. It’s a “suburb” in the technical sense, though it is also its own town of 80,000 which is larger than the actual city I grew up in. So to me, it’s less of a suburb and more of a town that borders a large (800,000) city (Indianapolis).
This has been coming for some time, though we hadn’t really decided on this town, parish, and school until pretty recently. A perfect storm of conditions led us to realize that we want and will need a larger home, we want Catholic schooling for our children if at all possible, and we need the best possible deal financially on those things.
And it just so happened, that there is this parish, which we have gone to occasionally over the years for Mass, programming (I did my first ENDOW study there) and to their beautiful perpetual adoration chapel, which we like, and which has a parish school in the traditional model. Which is, the school is only for parishioners and the parish subsidizes the cost of the school, meaning that there is no tuition. The principal is a Dominican sister out of Nashville, and they have several sisters employed as teachers.
Imagine how fitting it was to arrive for Mass there yesterday, intending to find and fill out the paperwork needed to become parishioners, only to discover that it was the Mass celebrating the feast day of the parish patroness, Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The actual feast is Wednesday, but Sunday was the parish-wide celebration.
I’m somewhat ashamed to say that I’ve been Catholic for 30 years and have only just now been really introduced to this beautiful title of Our Lady and the devotion to the brown scapular.
Carmel is the site where the prophet Elijah defended Israel’s faith in the living God. In the 12th century hermits went there for solitude and prayer, and that is where the Carmelite order was founded, devoted to contemplative prayers and under the patronage of Mary. Of course there are many holy and well-loved Carmelite saints, including Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Simon Stock, and Therese of Lisieux. Carmel is also the home of the apparition of Our Lady where she gave Simon Stock the brown scapular, which contained the following words: “This will be for you and for all Carmelites the privilege, that he who dies in this will not suffer eternal fire.” So the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was instituted by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726.
I got this little history lesson from the wonderful homily given by the pastor, a man who is 6’5″. It also came with a reminder that after the communal celebration of the sacrament, the most important parish apostolate is prayer, particularly in the perpetual adoration chapel.
It is a beautiful chapel.
Image of altar and monstrance from OLMC website
The chapel itself is shaped like a tent, as when the Ark of the Covenant was kept in tents during the time of Moses when the Jews were in exile. The monstrance is designed to resemble the Ark, and the plain stone altar on which it rests is made of pieces of limestone which were rejected from being used for the facade of the Empire State building. “The stone which was rejected…” The dirt, sand, and rocks which surround the altar were brought from the holy land by one of the priests. The symbolism is just beautiful. I am excited to be part of a parish which has such a blessing, in having Our Lord’s real presence available anytime for those who seek him. Once we live closer to the parish (it’s now a 35 minute drive each way) Atticus and I plan to split a regular shift as adorers.
I am left with a bittersweet feeling about all of this. I will miss seeing those friends and that community we have at Holy Rosary every week. For sure, the sanctuary of that church is 100X more beautiful than that of OLMC. But I am also excited to get involved in this new parish, yet somewhat intimidated at the prospect of finding community in a parish that sees 10,000 people every weekend. I love the adoration chapel, and in fact Atticus and I spent a holy hour there as part of our date night on Saturday. For both he and I, Christ’s presence is felt most clearly in adoration, so we are eager to spend more time there.
Despite being such a large parish, the people we met were very friendly and welcoming. The parish holds a dinner once a month for new members, where they have Mass, dinner for the family, and a tour of the campus as well as description of the various (nearly 200) ministries the parish has. They also have the Matthew 25 center where they house a food pantry, various social ministries and a free health clinic for the uninsured on Saturday mornings. It is truly a vibrant parish, with the sacramental life at the center. I am sad that we will spend less time at Holy Rosary, but excited to spend more time at OLMC. I don’t know if that makes sense, but there it is. I am consoled that regardless of which parish we attend Christ is there with us. In the end, that’s what matters most.
Here are some links to some fun ideas for celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Wednesday:
Cute ideas from Shower of Roses blog (including a scapular coloring page and “mount of caramels”)
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us!