Soon after we arrived in Sao Paulo, I wrote about finding an American-language Mass here, and how grateful I was to find it. Since that time, we’ve faded a bit in our enthusiasm. And that’s affecting how we celebrate and feed our faith.
I believe the Chapel community suffers from being primarily a community of transients, a church where most of the congregants are around for a few years and then leave. This affects the cohesion of the community, I’m sure.
But it’s not the community per se that bothers us, rather the priest who says Mass. Our paster, Father Tom Brown, assists at Mass, but because of illness doesn’t preside. The presider is a man of seeming great knowledge but who lacks a pastor’s personality. I’m not saying that to be mean. I’m simply stating what we feel, and what many of our colleagues have voiced. He comes and presides, but never interacts with the congregants.
And his homilies, which are so important to us, are almost like sticky notes: brief and referential rather than informative. I suspect that he is a good theologian, but I can follow his broad-stroke homilies because I am a student of theology myself, and I can fill in the blanks. Anyone who isn’t familiar with what he talks about must be left absolutely dumbfounded. Tom and I aren’t alone in this perception; everyone we speak with says the same. I don’t know if it’s a language thing (he’s Brazilian) or what, but we leave every week feeling undernourished.
I’m also not inclined to participate in the ministries here, not as singer or lector, though both options have been a frequent part of my life. Tom or I will read on Saturday, if no one has been assigned and we are asked, but we haven’t added our name to the roster.
And we’ve skipped Mass more here than we have in decades, simply unable to summon the desire to go. Of course, we miss when we do skip, especially missing the Eucharist. I think it’s sort of a minor protest on our part. We enjoy the community when we go, as we meet more people and greet them at Mass, but for us, Mass is more than community. It is where we go to commune with God.
I’ve started a Bible study at home, to compensate for what I lack at church. We’re not quite ready to go to Mass locally, since I wouldn’t yet be able to understand the homily, and that’s the whole point of our discontent with Chapel. Not being fed by the homily. Still, it might be time to try.
We’ve been to a non-denominational church service twice in the past two months, and I really enjoy the music and the homilies. I feel fed by the Word. But, I miss the Eucharist. I need both the Word and the Body.
I suspect that this is time “in the wilderness,” a time when we are tested and prompted to find our own way. My faith isn’t diminished or shaken, but I am more aware than ever of my need for Mass that feeds me spiritually and intellectually.
I long for a church community where we can sing our hearts out, grow in knowledge and understanding of the Word, and feel ourselves energized in the Spirit.
However: In all their doings, the most glaring sin of the Israelites was the sin of ingratitude. Their attitude was one of ungratefulness and thanklessness. Instead of continuing to praise God for His deliverance from Egypt, instead of worshiping Him and acknowledging His continued presence with them, all they could do was murmur and complain that He had not done enough. Complaining is the opposite of gratitude. The very fact that you are complaining says you don’t appreciate what you’ve been given, that you think you deserve better. (Sermon by Calvin Wittman)
Ouch. In writing this, as a friend of mine used to say, “I stand convicted.” I’ll leave this entry as it is, knowing that the penultimate paragraph is the most important. Move along, nothing to see here, folks. Move along.