March 9: Fifth Sunday in Lent
Parish: Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church
379 N. Warman Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46222
Number of families: 848
Church capacity: 750
This is an old, late 19th century church, looking very much like most of the other churches from that era, with asymmetrical spires and a large rose window in front. My architectural vocabulary isn’t the greatest, so I’ll just post a picture
(by the way, take a look at my old entries; I’ve updated them with pictures)
Inside, they mercifully did not trash it too much, and the ceiling goes all the way up. One thing I can say, though; the place looks old. Not “old” as in classic style or hundred-year old grandeur, but “old” as in run-down. The carpeting was industrial-grade from the 80s, the pews were well-worn with nicks and scratches, and the kneelers were missing most of the rubber “feet” that stops them from crashing down on the concrete floor.
The sanctuary was a good size, has the traditional round curved ceiling, originally painted tan but now covered with soot from decades of incense and candle smoke. You can still see where the altar rail used to be. The brass candlesticks were somewhat tarnished, as was the chalice the priest used during Communion
Overall, it has the look and feel of an inner-city church that has seen better days, suffering from the ravages of time, but not what you would call neglected as much as care-worn.
My ranking: 3.5 out of 5.
The sole instrument in the church was a pipe organ in the choir loft, also with tarnished brass pipes. Thankfully, it was in tune. The choir was small but up to the task. The female cantor had a strong voice, but her soprano was a bit falsetto, not really giving a lot of inflection during the psalm.
The music was acceptable, a mix of old (16th century English and 17th century German) and new (1970s, but actually written by a Benedictine brother). The Agnus Dei was a little long-winded, but the rest of the music liturgy was pretty straightforward.
My ranking: 3.5 of 5.
The priest looked to be in his mid 50s. According to the archdiocese website, the priest assigned to this parish in only in his early 40s, so this was probably substitute. This probably isn’t his dream parish, but he seemed comfortable with it. Nothing outlandish in the liturgy, although his elevation of the host and chalice was a little brief.
However, he did make one very positive impression with his homily. The Gospel today was about Jesus’ raising of Lazarus. The priest focused on a passage in the Gospel – John 11:21-26:
Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you."
Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise."
Martha said to him, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day."
Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die….”
The priest recounted when he was a novice at St Meinrad’s Monastery. One of the monks died, and the priest was sad, saying how it was a loss. The priest’s spiritual director told him “No, it’s not sad. You see, he is the lucky one. His sufferings in this life are over, and he is where we all long to be, in the presence of God.”
The priest kept returning to that theme, that as believers in Christ, we can live knowing that one day, although our bodies will die, our souls will live on with Christ, and we will be the lucky ones. Furthermore, we will all rise up again at Christ’ second coming. Lazarus was dead and buried for four days, so he has had a foretaste of that bliss that comes with Christ.
The priest also quoted from the Rule of St. Benedict, the principles behind the Benedictine Order (and Trappist, and most monastic orders): To keep death before one's eyes daily. Only by being mindful of our own inevitable death can we truly understand that we are living not for this world, but for the world to come.
Now when is the last time I went on and on about the homily?
My ranking: 4 of 5.
Numbers posted above to the contrary, there wasn’t a huge turnout. Since this church is in the middle of the Haughville neighborhood, it was a working-class crowd. Their Sunday best was mostly jeans and work clothes. I suspect that a number of these people had to head to their jobs straight from Mass.
The music wasn’t overwhelming, and the singing of the Sanctus and Agnus Dei didn’t greatly distract one from the proper of the liturgy. The communion hymn was in English and Spanish, and for once, that was fitting, since about 1/3 of the congregation was Hispanic.
There really wasn’t anything disturbing about this Mass, but I got the feeling that there wasn’t a lot of pomp about anything in this church. That’s just the way I like it.
My ranking: 4 of 5.
Two altar servers, one boy, one girl, both middle schoolers in jeans and sneakers.
My overall ranking: 3.5 of 5.
Would I return: Actually, I would.
This church isn’t a grand cathedral, and doesn’t try to be. It is content to be what it is: a small parish meeting the needs of the neighborhood.
I can’t answer yet if I made the right choice between the two churches, but I do know that this wasn’t a wrong choice. Yes, I felt like an outsider, but I didn’t feel unwelcome.
I plan on going to the other church in this area in a few weeks (the next two weeks are spoken for). I’ll be able to better answer that question at that time.