Christmas "Midnight Mass" (actually at 8pm)
Parish: Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary
520 Stevens St.
Indianapolis, IN 46203
Number of families: 375
Church capacity: 400
As I stated in Week 1, Holy Rosary is my gold standard. This is where I first entered the Catholic Church, and this is the yardstick I use to measure all other churches. With that in mind, I should give this the same sort of review I've given all the others. I'll try to focus on tonight's Mass, but it's going to be more of an accounting of my past two years at this parish. Naturally, it will be HEAVILY biased, but it's hard to be objective when you're talking about a place which means so much to me.
This is the original building, built in 1911. Gorgeous neo-Gothic style, high ceilings, tall stained glass windows, a large arched sanctuary, and what I think is one of the most beautiful altars I've ever seen. Tons of statues and paintings at the front and back of the church. Everything has a sort of smoky haze on it, due to the church's liberal use of incense (and thank God for that). Confessional is the old-style room-in-a-box, with a heavy velvet curtain over the entrance (having sat outside that booth, and knowing how very non-soundproof that curtain can be, I would much prefer a real door). All in all, probably one the best looking churches I've ever seen.
And this is AFTER the effects of Vatican II. There are a few windows which have been covered up, part of the ceiling is encased, and there's the usual wear and tear. It is in fact preparing to celebrate it's centennial by restoring it to it's former glory. Open up those windows and ceiling, fix some of the worn-out kneelers and give it a thorough cleaning, and it really will be a jewel.
My ranking: 4.5 out of 5
Holy Rosary is known throughout the city for it's bells. It has real, live bells, including the second largest one in the state. You can feel your bones vibrate when the big one is rung. They just spent a lot of time (and probably a lot of money) repairing the bell system, and they sound incredible.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for their pipe organ and their choir. Both of them get out of tune frequently, hit sour notes which can make you cringe, and tend to go on and on for far too long at times, leaving the priest and the congregation mentally drumming their fingers and waiting for them to finish.
Tone-deafness aside, the music selection is usually pretty good. Tonight being a Christmas Mass, we had a mix of the usual Latin chant, the choir singing parts of the Mass, and a selection of (mostly Protestant) Christmas carols. They get an A for effort, but I wouldn't exactly call them great, and on some days, they're not even good.
My ranking: 2.5 of 5, more for the intent than the execution. I'll throw in an extra half-point for the San Salvador bell, so make it an even 3 of 5.
Father Magiera is in his early 50s, and has only been a priest for a few years. Before that, he was an opera singer. He still is very much the performer, and very much the prima donna. He LOVES to be the center of attention, and tends to prattle on while in the pulpit. He tends to talk above the heads of a lot of the congregation (including myself, I have to admit), and he is the master of what several of us have termed the "scrambled-egg homily omelet", since he mixes things up so much that it's hard to find a central or unifying theme through it. Bugger me if I can remember what tonight's homily was about, but at least it was short (7 minutes, I timed it). For an ex-opera singer, his voice isn't spectacular, and since this was a sung Mass, that's kind of a big deal. It's not bad per se, just not as good as one would expect considering his prior occupation. However, he is still a great deal better than most of the priests I've seen over the past few weeks, and his singing of the intro to the Gloria and Credo was actually quite good.
My ranking: 2.5 of 5 for the priest
Wonderful! I may not be as strident as some about their affinity for the Latin Mass, but I really think there is nothing like it. Tonight was a solemn Mass, which means there was a celebrant (the priest), a deacon, a subdeacon, and about a dozen altar boys. Thankfully, this church is a BIG believer in the liberal use of incense, so in addition to looking like a real
Mass and sounding like a real Mass, it even smelled like a real Mass.
My ranking: 5 of 5.
It was nice to see a few familiar faces.
My overall ranking: 4 of 5. I've been to Masses at Holy Rosary with different celebrants and different musicians which were definitely 5 out of 5, but tonight wasn't quite there.
Would I return: absolutely, but not just yet.
I left Holy Rosary for a reason. I'm still not entirely sure what it is, but as much as I love this church, I don't think I'm ready to return there full-time just yet. Coming back here let me see just how good a Mass can be, and that was a wonderful Christmas present. When I figure out just what it is that I'm supposed to be doing, and after finishing my cook's tour of the archdiocese, I'll be very happy to return here, not quite the prodigal son, but as a tourist who was happy he made the trip, but even happier to be back home.
Another great Christmas present was seeing Kat and J together. They were sitting cheek-to-cheek (interpret that as you will), occasionally holding hands, and Kat had her head on J's shoulder. Kat looks happier than I've seen her in years, and she and J have that level of affection and care for each other(i.e., brushing fuzz off his sleeve, the incredibly gentle way he holds her hand) that even a blind man could see.
That's part of the reason why I left Holy Rosary for a while; I expected that I would have been jealous seeing them like that, but just the opposite. I am so happy for both of them. I wanted to have the experience of seeing them together as couple in church for more or less the first time. They look so sweet together, I could eat them up with a spoon.
Merry Christmas, and God bless us, every one.