Week 5: The Feast of the Holy Family
Parish: Saint John the Evangelist Catholic Church
126 W. Georgia St.
Indianapolis, IN 46225-1004
Number of families: 294
Church capacity: 950
St John's is the oldest parish in Indianapolis, and the current church, built in 1871, was the former pro-cathedral. I've gone to daily Mass a few times before, but this is my first Sunday Mass here.
"Spectacular" doesn't seem to cover it. This building really is a cathedral in everything but name. Vaulted ceilings, intricately carved woodwork, side altars (LOTS of them) which could serve as main alters in their own right, and a large marble table (obviously newer than the rest of the church) was front and center. The pulpit is actually partly down on the right side of the church, and is approached by climbing a set of spiral stairs. This place is not the biggest church I've ever been in, but it is probably one of the biggest in Indianapolis. If you look at the disparity between the number of families and the church capacity, you'll see what I mean. Walking in here, you are definitely entering a house of God.
My ranking: 4.5 out of 5
They have a very nice-sounding pipe organ, and the sound really fills the space. The choir is a little muted, and was occasionally drowned out by the pipes. Then again, they were in the back of the church and I was sitting in the front, so their voices had a long way to travel. The cantor was also at the back of the church, and his singing was loud and clear (thanks to a good mic). Happily, they were all pretty much on key, although the gentlemen who started the male choir in "Angels We Have Heard On High" was following a different set of notes at first.
I was pleased with their music selection...until we got to the recessional. Their choice was the old African-American spiritual "Go Tell It On The Mountain". Not a bad hymn in and of itself, but so totally out of character from the music that preceded it. It took what was a wonderful musical experience and knocked it into a cocked hat.
My ranking: 4 of 5 before the recessional, 2.5 of 5 after.
Father Noah Casey is a big, burly man. In body and face, he kind of resembles Ralph Kramden. He's also a part-time crimefighter. However, for such a big man, he has a surprisingly soft voice. He's been at St John for many years, and is actually professed to a local Benedictine order.
I would say that he gave a textbook Mass. No improvisations, no gross variation from the norm, just a good and reverent Mass. I can't really say anything more about him, because in my opinion, he didn't do anything he shouldn't have.
Heck, I even liked his homily: he talked a little bit about the 1950's TV sitcom families (Leave it to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet), how real families aren't like that, talked about the Holy Family and how their situation was far from ideal, and how we are all part of different families (our relatives, the parish family, the family of God).
I know there are some people who have varying opinions of Fr. Casey, but from where I was sitting, as someone hearing him say a Sunday Mass, he is an excellent priest.
My ranking: 4.5 of 5
Again, I couldn't find anything to complain about. No embellishments to the liturgy, no surprises. They actually used quite a bit of song in their liturgy. The Kyrie was sung by the cantor, then repeated by the congregation. The Gloria was sung using the music from the "Mass of the Bells", which has a wonderful verse-chorus-verse pattern. The Sanctus and Agnus Dei were also sung, but oddly, they had an almost mournful tone about them, the only aspect of it that I didn't quite like. Still, as far as Masses go, this one was right on the money.
My ranking: 4 of 5.
Four altar servers, (3 men, 1 woman) all of them college-age or older. The parking lot was jampacked.
I wish I worked downtown; they have a daily Mass at lunchtime, and have evening prayers (Vespers) every weekday at 5:15.
My overall ranking: 4 of 5.
Would I return: certainly.
What Holy Rosary is to the Latin Mass, St. John's is to the English Mass. This will not be my last Mass here, and once football season ends, I may start attending here somewhat regularly. I could quite easily see myself changing my "home" parish to St John, and after a few more Masses here, I may do so.