21 February 2010

Cathedral of St. Matthew

I’ve done a lot of reading and research on St. Matthew’s Cathedral, and I’ve come to one conclusion: it’s kind of a big deal. It is the seat of Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl, it was the site of John F. Kennedy’s funeral Mass in 1963, and it hosts an annual “Red Mass,” which asks the Holy Spirit to guide the nation’s lawmakers, which is attended by many Congressman and Supreme Court Justices. I figured it was about time to head over for a visit, and my good friends Loreto and Amanda decided to come along. St. Matthew’s was walking distance, about halfway between Foggy Bottom and Dupont Circle.

On the outside, the church doesn’t look like much. It is certainly big, but it’s dwarfed by the colossal office buildings that surround it. The red brick exterior is pretty plain looking. The inside of the building, however, is magnificent. Marble and tile line the walls, forming beautiful images of Christ, St. Matthew, and other Biblical figures. On top of the high ceiling is a monstrous dome, which allows light into the space.

St. Matthew’s offers a ten o’clock Mass in Latin, and I jumped at the opportunity. I initially thought the whole service would be in Latin, including the readings and the homily, just like the Spanish and Italian Masses that I had seen. But then I realized this was silly. Why would a priest give a homily in a language that literally NO ONE speaks? The readings, homily, and some of the hymns were in English, while most of the prayers were in Latin. The choir was made up of twenty or so people dressed in flowing, red robes. They led the congregation with hymns and chants that echoed beautifully through the space.

Today’s Gospel reading told the story of the devil tempting Jesus in the desert, after Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights. The priest explained that the devil tempted Christ with food, power, and control over God, things that symbolize a lack of reliance on God. He reminded his parishioners that there are greater temptations than the sweets or television that they gave up for Lent: there is the temptation to stop relying on God. During Lent, he said, we are able to overcome our temptations through Christ.


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07 February 2010

St. Ann Church

Before I talk about St. Ann’s, I want to give special thanks to Father Rick from St. Benedict the Moor. I emailed him last week, letting him know that I wrote about the Mass he gave, and he responded by asking me for my address and sending me a book on the history of the Washington Archdiocese. It’s a beautiful book, with a lot of information about the growth of the archdiocese over the beginning with the arrival of Catholic settlers in Maryland in the seventeenth century. I’m going to try to incorporate some of the more relevant information into my posts. Thanks again, Father Rick. Also, thanks to RAnn for inviting me to the Sunday Snippets- Catholic Carnival Group.

For those of you who haven’t cracked open a newspaper, D.C. got pounded with about 20 inches of snow over the past two days, and it has been a blast. I’ve been enjoying the snow quite a bit. Yesterday, I went to the snowball fight in Dupont Circle, slid down the steps near the Lincoln Memorial on a garbage bag, and walked all the way to the Capitol. I’ve been, as one friend puts it, “D.C. Chillin.” However, because of the snow, the Metro is running at limited capacity. Most of the Red Line was still up, though, so I still had access to the northwestern area of the city. I decided to balance my map out a little bit and go with Loreto to St. Ann’s in the Tenleytown area.

According to Father Rick’s history book, St. Ann’s parish was one of three formed during the Civil War in order to accommodate the needs of the soldiers, freed slaves, and others who flocked to the city during the war years. It is a pretty imposing structure on first glance, with much of the same pseudo-Gothic structure that is featured in many D.C. churches. The interior features beautiful stained glass windows, high arched ceilings, and a massive amount of stone. This church, more than any other, made me feel like I was inside a medieval castle.

I really don’t have a lot to say about the Mass. It was probably because of the snow, but there just didn’t seem to be a lot of energy in the church today. There was no music whatsoever, and it seemed like everyone was just going through the motions. Today’s Gospel reading was one of my favorites, when Jesus calls on Peter to become a “fisher of men.” I was totally shocked when the priest didn’t even give a homily! I’ve seen long homilies and short homilies, but never have I seen a priest not give one! In total, the Mass was about twenty-five minutes long, and it kind of felt like “Mass Lite.”

I understand that the weather may have thrown everyone off a little, but Mass today felt a little unfulfilling. Maybe I’ll give St. Ann another chance some day, but this morning it left me feeling as cold as the icy streets.

St. Ann Website

Snowball Fight in Dupont Circle (Saturday Afternoon)

St. Ann

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