26 July 2010

St. Euphrasia Church (Granada Hills, CA)

I decided to continue my tour of the Southland’s churches by visiting my friend Todd in Granada Hills, CA. He invited me to visit his local church, St. Euphrasia, which is also home to the school where Todd and his brother attended first through eighth grade. (Side note: I had never heard of St. Euphrasia before, so I looked her up. I assumed she was Middle Eastern and that she was somehow connected to the Euphrates River. I was dead wrong. She was a nineteenth century French-born nun who dedicated her life to assisting women and girls, eventually founding the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.)

The interior of the church was rather plain-looking (as Todd’s father warned me it would be) with plain white walls and wood paneling reminiscent of St. Thomas Apostle. While absent many of the architectural flourishes seen in other churches, St. Euphrasia had a few design features that made it a pleasant space to worship.  The small stained glass windows on the outer walls of the church were donated by different people at different times, leading to a somewhat eclectic collection of images. Like any parish, St. Euphrasia was nurtured with the help of many different individuals, all of whom left their mark on the parish community and the tiles were a perfect illustration of this. Also of note were the large stained glass image on the exterior face of the church and the positioning of the altar so that it was surrounded by pews on three sides; it was interesting to see this in such a small space.

We ended up finding Todd’s grandfather when we entered the church, and appropriately enough, Father Jim’s homily today was about family. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus teaches his followers the Lord’s Prayer. Father Jim reminded us that the prayer starts with “Father,” or the Greek word “Abba,” which translates into “Papa” or “Daddy.” Later in the reading, Jesus asks, “What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?” Through praying the Lord ’s Prayer, Father Jim said, we become part of God’s family. We become children whom the Father will always grant love and salvation, as long as we ask. To end the Mass, Father Jim asked all of the children present to come up and receive a special children’s bulletin. It was a very cute way to end the Mass and it left everyone in attendance thinking about how we are all children of Our Father. 


Churches I've Visited in Southern California:

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20 July 2010

St. Dominic Church (Eagle Rock, CA)

This past weekend, I spent a night at my grandfather’s house in Eagle Rock, CA (It’s a small neighborhood north of Downtown L.A. and east of Glendale), and I decided to visit the local Catholic church, St. Dominic, the next morning. My father’s side of the family calls Eagle Rock home; I spent my early childhood there in a house just down the street from where my father was raised, and where my grandfather still lives.

I would describe the church as medium-sized, without many of the architectural flourishes that I’ve seen in churches that try to imitate the Gothic style (what I call “pseudo-Gothic”). St. Dominic seemed to incorporate even more elements of Spanish architecture than St. Monica’s did. The wrought iron chandeliers were a telltale sign of Spanish influence, as was the use of wood in both the interior and exterior of the church. The modeling of churches after the Spanish missions seems to be a running theme among churches built in Los Angeles in the early 20th century.

Eagle Rock has a large Filipino population, so I expected to see a good amount of Filipinos at the church. My prediction was confirmed when I heard someone ask, “Kumusta?” to another churchgoer, who responded, “Mabuti.” (Tagalog for “How are you?” and “Well.” My mother’s family is Filipino, but this is about as much Tagalog as I know.) The church seemed pretty crowded for a 7:30 Mass, filled mostly with Filipino parishioners.

There were no singers, but the beautiful organ filled the space with wonderful music. The organ as an instrument can be powerful, intimidating, and soothing at the same time, just as the presence of God can be in one’s life. The homily today discussed the theme of Christian hospitality. The priest encouraged the congregation to provide hospitality to others by serving their community and those in need of protection. “Providing hospitality,” he said, “recognizes the dignity of the human person,” and is an act “motivated by faith, hope, and love.”

Also, for all you adventure-seeking Angelenos and those who may be visiting the Los Angeles area, I have a recommendation for a sight you must go see. The Watts Towers are a Los Angeles cultural landmark, built in the 1920's by an Italian immigrant named Simon Rodia. These brilliant structures are almost 100 feet tall, built out of concrete, tile and glass. I just learned about them recently, and was amazed when I visited. The site is now struggling for its life as it faces budget cuts from the city. I highly recommend visiting this incredible historic site, for your own pleasure and to preserve this treasure for future generations.

St. Dominic Website (Not totally up to date, but still interesting)
Watts Towers Art Center Website


My friend, Annu, and I at the Watts Towers:

Churches I've Visited in Southern California:
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13 July 2010

St. Monica's Church (Santa Monica, CA)

It has been a few months since my last post, and I have been enjoying my summer back in California. I’ve enjoyed Mass a few times at my home parish, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, and I figured it was time to start exploring other churches in southern California. My mom suggested St. Monica’s in Santa Monica, which we had previously visited for a family wedding.

Built in 1926, St. Monica’s had much of the same feel as many of the churches I’ve visited in Washington, with a high, arched ceiling and two sets of colonnades leading to the altar. The church also had a touch of Spanish design, incorporating a beige color scheme and several iron chandeliers.

My mom specifically remembered the music at St. Monica’s, and it didn’t disappoint. The main cantor, a very talented woman, led a group of about ten singers and a full rock and roll band. They had the audience singing and clapping through the whole service. There was definitely a feeling of energy and community in the church; one of my favorite moments was when everyone crossed over the center aisle to hold hands as we recited the “Our Father.”

The priest, Fr. David, had an entertaining and important reflection on the day’s readings. He started by discussing the feeling of having love for someone who just wants to be friends, and cited old high school crushes, Ray Charles’ song “You Don’t Know Me,” and Jacob Black’s love for Bella in the Twilight series as examples of this feeling. (Father David said he rated movies based on how many homilies he can make out of them. He was disappointed that The Twilight Saga: Eclipse was only a “two-homily” movie.) He said that this feeling is what God experiences when we sometimes “just want to be friends” with Him. Most of us, he said, are still falling deeper in love with God. He called on the congregation to pray for God’s grace, and reminded them that in the story of the Good Samaritan, we are the robber’s victim and God is the Good Samaritan, who helps us up and nurses our wounds.

After Mass, I was chatting with someone who told me that Arnold Schwarzenegger was sitting a few rows behind me during Mass. I’m always very skeptical of such claims, but sure enough, I spotted the Governor chatting with a few parishioners outside the church after Mass. I got the feeling that he was a regular at this Mass because there didn’t seem to be a throng of people around him. I managed to get a quick picture of him before he left. Wonder who I’ll run into next week!

St. Monica's Website


The Governator Himself:

Churches I've Visited in California So Far: