Loras College’s Christ the King Chapel
Dubuque, Iowa. Nov. 29, 2009. Christian
Enthusiasm level (1 to 10, highest 10): 9
Average age of congregation: college-aged students (the church is located on a college campus)
Serves donuts/coffee: tons of cookies and hot apple cider
Dressy attire: a whole lot of jeans
Believes in Hell: yes
Sermon quote: “Maybe this advent season will be a time for you to get a little more real.”
No, that was not a line from the Real World Christmas special. That was a priest delivering his sermon at Loras College’s Christ the King Chapel. He read from The Velveteen Rabbit, spouted metaphors about toys coming to life through love (so we can become more real through Christ’s love, the priest said).
After our first nightly service, the congregation proceeded out the door to the nativity scene. The priest chucked holy water at a smiling plastic family, said a prayer and someone placed the Baby Jesus in his manger. Will the baby doll become real, Courtney wondered. How would you explain that to the Department of Human Services?
As Courtney wondered about the horrifying possibility of dolls coming to life, Stacey thought about the kind older gentleman who sat next to her during the service. The majority of the people were college-aged, so the old man in the leather jacket stood out like a couple of agnostics in a Catholic church. When the time came for parishioners to give their tithe the old man looked at Stacey, noticed she wasn’t rummaging through her purse and threw a dollar bill in her lap. Point taken.
Every time we attend a Catholic mass, we feel even more lost. Hand gestures, kneeling, standing, sitting, recitations of unfamiliar phrases and prayers… it all catches us off-guard. We feel like total outsiders, which of course, we are. But there are also the things that bring us back, like the warm greetings of “Peace be with you.” Maybe after a few more Catholic masses, we’ll feel a little more on track, if not included.