Friday, June 22, 2007

Treasures magically found

Sometimes, I don't think I remember much about growing up Catholic. This week, I've been attending the annual Novena Mass in honor of La Conquistadora, (the oldest image of the Madonna in the US). It's an annual tradition in Santa Fe, going back centuries now. (Links to come later.) A really good friend of mine invited me to go with her. I don't think she thought I'd show up on Monday. Well, I got up way too early and picked up our mutual friend, L. and we met her at 5:45 at the little chapel where La Conqusitadora will be till Sunday. That first Mass was incredibly beautiful and uplifting. Now, I grew up Catholic. I live in Santa Fe, an old-Spanish Catholic City and I have never done this. I've known about this procession and novena all my life but for whatever reason my family never did it.

It's been a culturally rewarding and spiritually enriching thing for me. Since probably college, I've been a pretty much lapsed Catholic and now, as an adult, I'm finding myself drawn back to Catholicism for whatever reason I'm not quite sure, but so far it's been an interesting journey. Who knows where it will take me.

I've been reading blogs, websites, forums and various bits of things about Catholicism lately. I grew up in the 70's, post Vatican II, so everything to me about church was a bit more loose and relaxed, definitely all about acceptance and love, social justice and peace were the messages I learned. Good stuff, I think, however, I've found a lot of complaints on the Internet about how too loose and too liberal the church became and still is in places. I just don't feel like that is the way the church is here. Of course, things are so different in New Mexico that maybe that's why I feel a bit confuzzled by what I read these days. I certainly don't want to see it get so conservative and so closed up that I don't feel like there is a place for me there. I don't think that will happen-- at least I hope not, especially here, and I do love the ritual and traditions. I even can wrap my brain around most of everything the church teaches and I do believe there is a God. There has to be something. Yet, I'm a bleeding heart liberal and truly feel like religion and politics, church and state should remain separate. I definitely keep religion out of the voting booth with me.

Maybe I'll muse a bit in here about that later. Right now, I'm not really sure if I can articulate those thoughts yet.

Nonetheless, I think to the surprise of my friend D. I've been going to Mass everyday at 6:00 and it's been the most amazing experience. I'm exhausted today. It was the 5th day but I really enjoyed it. Every day a different pastor from a different parish has celebrated the Mass. Every day has been different and special. My friend, D. who talked me into going (this is her big Catholic thing she says) was right when she said it is a bit like being in heaven. We are sitting on the right side of the altar. On the other side of the altar, the big doors are open and as the sun rises about 6:15, the sun's rays shine through the old crooked and stately Evergreen trees into the chapel, lighting up the altar with golden morning light. It's a beautiful sight. It makes getting up in the dark worthwhile just to see that in the morning. Sadly, I don't know what I'll do after Sunday.

Today, there were trumpets and it was more "Spanish" than the other days so far, because much of the Mass was in Spanish. (I wish I could remember the "Our Father" in Spanish. I still wish I could speak Spanish period.) There was beautiful. music, lots of singing in Spanish and lots of rejoicing. Tuesday, there was an Indian blessing. She, La Conquistadora, I mean, was dressed in Native American clothes. (I wonder if she has as many outfits as the Infant of Prague?) Monday there was levity and banter and it was so festive. So far, no dry or mundane church hymns. Not sure what tomorrow will bring, but I'll finish out the Novena and watch part the procession back to the Cathedral on Sunday. Right now I need a nap.

(Photo Taken by Herman Lovato, copied from the 2007 Novena Pictures at the Santa Fe Fiesta Council Web Site.)

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