Saturday night my 2 oldest sons and I went to St. Benedict’s Cathedral for the Easter Vigil. In spite of showing up late we had a few very good experiences. (Rant I could not find any place on their website a posting of the service times for ANY of Holy Week. This seems like it would be a big deal for welcoming outsiders that want to join you on Easter! EndRant)
A Lot of Reading
We walked in during the first reading, which was a reading from Genesis. Then there was some singing, and then a second reading from Exodus. After some singing we knew they were getting ready for a third reading. I leaned over to my oldest son, who was already getting sleepy (it was about 8:45 at this point) and I said, “The first reading was Genesis, the second was Exodus…” and his eyes got as big as stained-glass windows.
“Are they going to read from every book of the Bible!” he blurted at me. The choir was still singing so I don’t think anybody heard. I laughed and told him no. According to our booklet, Baruch the prophet was next.
The next reading wasn’t from the prophet Baruch, however. They skipped him. We caught up though by looking through the guidebook. I must say that without the guidebook we would have been utterly lost. As a disclaimer, I was raised Catholic and love a lot of things that the Catholic church does. I am also most likely to punch somebody in the nose for taking their anti-catholicism to racist levels and making ignorant prejudice statements about people of the Catholic faith. With that said, I never realized how closed to outsiders Mass really is.
I knew that the guidebook had our script in it and I knew that we were at the Easter Vigil. That got me to page 121 in the guidebook. I handed each of my sons a book opened to the right page and they were able to follow along. They were able to keep up through each of the readings, which was great, but whenever something was chanted or sung, I could watch their fingers get lost in the script. They couldn’t understand what was being said or sung or chanted, but when it got back to talking, they regained their bearings.
During the reading from Exodus, they talked about the Hebrews being delivered to safety by walking through the Red Sea. The Bible says that
“the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” Exodus 14:29
As they were reading that, my sons and I looked up and were amazed at the architecture of the building. I’m not sure we ever go into a place that is so tall and narrow. We whispered to each other about the Hebrews walking through the Red Sea on dry ground with the water standing like walls on their sides…just like the high walls at St. Ben’s! How terrifying! How wonderful! How dangerous and fantastic!
After people are baptized at the front, the Bishop (or priest if that’s all you get at your church) walks around and flicks Holy Water on you. Since we were about 8 rows from the back we got to watch this process almost all of the way down the church. I couldn’t help but wonder if that sprinkler ever flung out of anybody’s hand and clobbered somebody. The Bishop flung water like he meant it and managed to get even the people sitting on the outer edges. I could see women politely wince, wait for him to get a few pews past, and then dab at themselves to dry up a bit after he moved on.
In true manner, my 2nd son got a drop right in his eye. I’m not sure what he was expecting but he started like he wasn’t expecting to get wet. He wiped his eye and after the Bishop walked on by my son said, “Why did that guy just fling water in my eye!?”
I told him, “It’s to help you remember your baptism last summer in the lake at CFC.” He got real happy about that. My oldest son on my right had a confused look and I told him the same thing. He got really happy too.
After the special Easter Vigil parts they began to get back into the normal Mass and we stepped out. It was 10:00 and I thought the boys had experienced the main parts I wanted them to experience. We had come to St. Ben’s for Midnight Mass at Christmas and left early because both boys were falling asleep. “These people at St. Ben’s must be nocturnal.” my oldest boy said as we walked to the car. “Every time we come here they are having church super late, and we leave early and they are still going!”