January 27, Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Parish: Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ
7225 Southeastern Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46239
Number of families: 898
Church capacity: 500
I very rarely say this about a building, but this church is tacky. The front entrance has a certain “je ne sais quoi”; it has tall, skinny windows and a roof that looks like the flipped-up brim of a baseball cap.
That slightly quirky start, however, is the highlight of the place. The rest is pretty uninspired, and could have been stamped from the same cookie cutter as half of the Presbyterian churches of the later 1960s. From a distance, it looks like a circus big-top landed on top of it.
The interior is even worse. The ceiling over the sanctuary is just a large white stucco semicircle, and the support beams are supposed to radiate out. It looks like someone took a Trivial Pursuit playing piece (the round “pie”), cut it asymmetrically in half, flipped it upside down, and spray-painted it tan. The columns on either side of the sanctuary have woodcarvings in them that look straight out of a 1970s art studio. The other wall hangings are similarly clunky and chunky.
I know from personal experience that the “room of reconciliation” is not in the church proper. It is down a corridor…past the bathrooms…behind an unmarked door…across the hall from the janitor’s closet. The only way they could make it more out-of-the-way and uninviting is if it was outside in the tool shed. I honestly think they built the church, and then realized “Oh, crap, we forgot the confessional”.
I used the word “tacky” earlier, and that really applies to the altar. The altar cloth was off-white with the silhouette of grapes, and probably would not have looked out of place in your grandmother’s house in the 1980s. The chalice was blue glazed stoneware, something that I am sure was made with love on some potter’s wheel in an artist’s colony, or could have equally been picked up at the local Pottery Barn outlet store from the mix-and-match clearance bin. For that matter, none of the altar pieces really matched with anything else.
My ranking: 1.5 out of 5
I was expecting to see a guitar, drums, and a cantor-cum-diva. I steeled myself for that, but there wasn’t a guitar to be found. Instead, I was to have to Nativity School children’s choir inflicted on me.
I don’t hate kids. I used to be one myself, once upon a time. They were doing their best, and I’ll give them points for trying, but I had to keep from visibly cringing every time these red-faced, red-shirted refugees from a Charlie Brown musical started to sing. Their teacher was banging away on a piano, so the kids had to really strain to be heard. What they didn’t realize is that louder is not necessarily better. Some of them were practically yelling their parts. I know some of them were only doing this because their parents and teachers made them, and it showed.
And the songs...I mean this in the truest sense of the words: holy shit. Naturally, the songs were geared for a child’s vocal range, but for crying out loud, these are hymns, not schoolyard sing-alongs. I could really do without the clapping to emphasize certain verses, and just because one of the hymns out of the hundreds in the book just happens to have some Spanish verses does not mean this is the time to show off your student’s language skills. I know I just came back from hearing the sonorous sounds of the monks of Gethsemani, and I certainly don’t expect that sort of glorious music, but give me a break.
One final note: I’m fine with only having a piano. I would have even been OK with an acoustic guitar, drums, and even an electric keyboard (I may not like it, but I’ve gotten used to it). However, if you don’t have the necessary musicians, DON’T USE A CD AND A BOOM BOX! I thought I was listening to something out of a TV infomercial: “Songs of Praise and Protestantism.”
My ranking: 1.5 of 5 (I gave the kids a 3 of 5, the music director a 2 of 5 for the music selection, and a -1 penalty point for the incredibly schmaltzy CD accompaniment)
I can’t really say that much against this priest. I’d be afraid of hurting his feelings. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a mild-mannered, milquetoast celebrant. He didn’t say or do anything that was out of the norm, but there really didn’t seem to be much pizzazz there either.
Because this was Catholic Schools Week (hence the kids choir), the priest didn’t give a real homily. That time was turned over to one of the school administrators and one of the students. I suspect, though, that it would probably be fairly forgettable.
It’s been about 36 hours since I attended the Mass, and about the only thing that stands out was that he only used one hand when raising the host and chalice during the consecration.
My ranking: 2.5 of 5
I don’t think I’ve ever cringed so much at a Mass. They didn’t stray from the norms per se; it was more that every time the congregation spoke, it sounded like a funeral dirge. I really don’t think I’ve heard a more lackluster, toneless response. They were just punching their timecard. The lector wasn’t much better. I guess that in honor of the Catholic Schools week, they decided to get someone who most sounded like she was speaking at a PTA meeting. A very uninspired, monotone reading, and you could just tell this was the first time she saw the material. If you’re going to speak at church, at least take the time beforehand to read the text through once.
The children’s choir just jangled my nerves during the singing of the Gloria (clapping of hands, three different key changes, and a tin-pan-alley piano), managed to do alright during the Sanctus, but absolutely destroyed the Agnus Dei. I don’t know who wrote that version, but they should be tarred and feathered.
There were four Eucharistic ministers. Do you know how I knew they were Eucharistic ministers? They all wore crosses with the words “Eucharistic Minister” written on them. Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat on a pogo stick! And to make it worse, when I approached the guy to receive Communion on the tongue, the putz just stood there with a confused look on his face for about three seconds, waiting for me to put out my hands, until he realized I had my tongue sticking out. THIS is why I don’t like the laity distributing Communion.
My ranking: 2 of 5. The liturgy itself wasn’t too bad, but the congregation and the incompetent minister really got under my skin.
I’ve left the best (or worst) for last. Right at the beginning of the Mass, right after the first blessing but before the Penitential Rite, the priest asked us to turn to one another and bid each other a good morning. When a few hundred people start muttering “morning” to each other in not-quite-unison, the sound is almost identical to a flock of migrating geese.
My overall ranking: 2 of 5.
Would I return: not bloody likely
As I said above, this was the first Catholic church I attended in Indy. I remembered it being pretty lame, but in the interest of fairness, I wanted to give it another look with a fresh set of eyes. I’m glad God (and my ex-wife) brought me to Holy Rosary; there’s no way I could have ever joined the Church if I had to go to this every week.