14 September 2010

St. Mary Mother of God Church

On the way back from New York, I asked my roommate Allen to pick out a church for me to go to the next day. He looked at my list of churches and suggested St. Mary, Mother of God church in Chinatown. I got my two reliable church-going partners, Dan and Loreto, to come with me on another adventure.

St. Mary, Mother of God is an interesting parish. They play host to the Our Lady of China pastoral mission, which hosts an 11:30 Mass in Cantonese. They are also the only church in the Washington Archdiocese who performs a Tridentine Latin Mass, which is the mass which was celebrated in Catholic churches before the Second Vatican Council in 1962. I decided to go the Cantonese Mass this week, I’ll probably go see the Latin Mass another time.

The church building was very nice, with a single tower in front and a dark stone exterior that reminded me of St. Patrick Church. The interior was pretty standard neo-Gothic architecture, with pretty marble columns and a light color scheme that reminded of me of St. Monica’s Church.

As for the Mass, I really didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. There were some prayers we were able to pick up on, but some, like the Nicene Creed, we were lost on. We were able to follow along during the readings in the English missal, but were lost again during the homily. It seemed like the priest took an awful long time to give his homily, but perhaps it just seemed that way because we couldn’t understand him.

They did a couple more odd things that I found intriguing. One was that the choir, or what I believed to be the choir, was not standing up near the front of the church, or even standing at all. They were seated in the first two rows of the church and they stood and sat just like everyone else. Where most parishes either sing or recite the responsorial psalm, this parish appeared to do a combination of the two: a lector read the verses, but the choir sang the refrain. I also found it a little amusing that they had two very short women going down the aisles collecting the contributions; normally that’s done by Knights of Columbus members or older parish men.

After the mass, we talked to some regular parishioners, Paul and Margaret, who told us a little more about the church and the Cantonese service. I asked them what the priest said in the homily. Paul said he couldn’t understand the priest’s sermon, because the priest was speaking Mandarin, but Margaret told us that he was talking about the story of the prodigal son. While the father’s rejoicing may not have seemed fair to the “good” son, he said, his actions were based on love, not fairness. Margaret told us that she was moving to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, but she told us to look her up and that she would cook us some delicious Chinese food if we wanted it. I’ll probably take her up on that. 


Archbishop Donald Wuerl gave mass at the GW Newman Center this past Sunday night, and I got the chance to hear him speak. (I also shook his hand and told him about this website...Are you reading this, Father?) He spoke about the New Evangelization, a call for Catholics around the world to bring others into the fold or back into the fold. He summarized his ideas in his new Pastoral Letter, which you can read in a PDF here or in neat-o flipbook form here. Enjoy!


Churches I've Been To So Far

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  1. My godmother took me to Old St. Mary's when I was four. I looked up at the Pieta statue which seemed huge back then and fell in love.

  2. Actually, there are 3 other parishes in the Archdiocese of Washington that offer the Traditional Latin Mass. If you come back, I would suggest you try the 5 pm TLM on the 2nd Sunday of each month. You'll have a fuller experience with Gregorian chant and many servers.

  3. Dymphna- That's a great story!

    Matthew- Thank you for correcting me. I'll make a note of the other Mass.

  4. Such a good choice of church!

  5. Officially, St. Mary's is a German National parish. It has no parish boundries. But the Germans have long ago moved away.