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Tour of St.Paul's

Peace be with you! Perhaps you are not Catholic and are visiting this website. We’d like to welcome you and show you our parish church.

By the doors of every Catholic Church there are small bowls of water – sometimes attached to the wall or otherwise freestanding. We call this “Holy Water.” It is not magical and we have no superstitions about it. We place it upon ourselves with the “Sign of the Cross,” all the while remembering that we are baptized persons. The Christian meets Christ for the first time in the water of Baptism. It is there that we are “born again,” “born from above.”  Baptism is our “second birth” whereby we begin the long process of assuming the likeness of Christ in faith and love.

The focal point of our church is the altar-table in the sanctuary. Catholics have been gathering for the “Breaking of the Bread” for over 2000 years now. We call the event “Mass” or the “Liturgy.”  The word “Mass” comes from the Latin word “missa” – dismissal. We don’t stay in church at the end of the liturgy, but we are dismissed so to bring Christ to the world.

At Mass Jesus “re-presents” or renews His Calvary gift. This is why the Sacred Food is broken, poured out, emptied, given away. This images Jesus offering of Himself to the Father always – interceding and pouring Himself out for our world. The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of this priestly role of Jesus.

We believe that the Bread and the Wine are changed into Christ’s Body and Blood. Why do we believe it? Simply because He said it and He is the Truth. He will not lie to us. We take Him at His word and we also know very deeply that in order to live lives of love we need to be fed regularly. You can’t take a journey without food.

At the top of the 3 stairs behind the altar is a “tabernacle.” It is a kind of “Ark of the Covenant.” Unlike a contract, a covenant is a heart to heart agreement. Christ’s heart – our hearts – in prayer, in trust, in joyful confidence. Our prayer is that of adoration, ever expanding and deepening gratitude, contrition for our own sins and the sins of the world, supplication or intercession for a needy and troubled world.

A red light burns by the tabernacle. It is a light of presence. It is a kind of “Burning Bush” or like the lamps in the ancient temple. God is here! The light “says.” Christ is our light. And so wherever candles burn in church we remember that at our baptism we were entrusted with a burning candle and told to keep the flame of faith alive in our hearts and to walk by Christ’s light until he returns for us. In the back of our Church there is a lovely prayer for the lighting of a candle:

“Oh Christ our Savior

Shed Your light upon the path I have to tread,

That I may keep it without stumbling and without faltering,

And come in the end to see you face to face

In the heavenly Kingdom. Amen.”

  The Crucifix is above the sanctuary wall. The body of Christ is on the cross which is exactly what makes for a crucifix. Of course we know that Jesus is not on the cross any longer. He is risen! But to see the image of Jesus on the cross says, “Look at what human sin has done!” It also says in the gesture of outstretched arms, “Here is love that seeks to embrace and encompass all the shipwreck which is this world.”

Why is there a skull on the bottom of the cross? Jesus was crucified at Golgotha. Golgotha means “skull place.”  Translated into Latin it is “Calvarium.” This is how we arrive at the word Mount Calvary. But an ancient tradition says that the cross of Jesus was set up over the burial place of Adam. The skull represents all of sinful humanity for which Jesus died. Sometimes the Blood of Christ seems to wash over the skull – as if to wash away our terrible pride and hunger for power.

 

The alpha and omega are seen on the wall as well on either side of the crucifix. Jesus Christ is indeed the beginning and the end for us – the beginning and end of every day, every work we undertake, every relationship, and every project.

  There are a couple of statues in our church. We don’t worship them. They are not gods. But they are places of pause and mindfulness. They are places that invite us to consider and to pray. This statue is of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In the Heart of Jesus the world meets and encounters the “heart” of God. This is the Incarnation – Christmas. God becomes picturable in the Incarnation. God becomes knowable through the sensory things of this world. The Church knows this and employs it in our spiritual living. The Incarnation legitimates the use of images, statues and paintings and other kinds of artistic work. It makes for a bright, warm and rich spiritual environment.

To the right of the sanctuary is a statue of Mary – Jesus’ Mother. In 431 A.D. (long before the Reformation) the Church gave Mary the title, “Theotokos,” which means “God-Bearer.”  Actually it is a title more about Jesus and his divinity than about Mary. She’s important! She is in the gospel, “not for nothing,” as they say. She images Christian discipleship for us. She is the first to welcome Jesus, the first to say “Yes” to Jesus. Even before Peter! And She says, “Yes” though it will cost her dearly – A “sword of sorrow will pierce your heart,” old Simeon says in Luke’s Gospel. At the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary, “Blessed among women.” We’re happy to share Elizabeth’s greeting and belief. And Mary says of Herself in the Magnificat, “Henceforth, all generations will call me blessed,” We agree!

Do we pray to Her? Yes. Why? Because Jesus listened to His Mother. Good sons do that. And she is alive in heaven, yes? In the Resurrection? We regularly ask people to pray for this or that concern, why wouldn’t we ask the Mother of Jesus to pray for us as well. Does she have power in Her prayer? Why not? Especially if I believe there is power in my neighbor’s or relative’s prayer!

Our statue of Mary shows Jesus resting happily by Her, in Her arms. He is an image of each of us. Our souls are held by God tenderly, maternally like this.

The “Stations of the Cross” are on the walls of the church. This is a wonderful prayer because we walk along as we pray. There are 14 stops that tell the story of our salvation in the passion and death of Jesus. He is condemned, he falls repeatedly and gets up again (don’t we all?), He meets His Mother (She must have suffered deeply with Him.) Simon helps to carry the cross and Veronica wipes his face (images of the serving Christian.) Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem; He is stripped of His clothes, is nailed to the cross, crucified and buried. Jesus suffers still in the broken, the poor, the forsaken, the anguished, the despised, the marginalized and those killed so unjustly.

We have a pulpit too. Catholics hear a great deal of Sacred Scripture in our liturgical gatherings. At weekday Masses there is always an Old Testament or New Testament reading, followed by a Psalm and a Gospel. On Sundays there are readings from the Old Testament and New Testament, a Psalm and Gospel. Masses for other needs and occasions and feast days broaden the exposure still further. We take the sermon or homily very seriously. It seeks to open up God’s Word to us. We want to live the Gospel-Life deeply.