|805: St Andrew's Cathedral, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada|
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Mystery Worshipper: Liturgia N. Tatt.
The church: St Andrew's Cathedral, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: St Andrew's was completed in 1892, ancient by North American west coast building standards. It is Victorian Gothic architecture, complete with a 175 foot spire. The interior is encircled by 21 grand stained glass windows in the Portland style, two immense rose windows on either side of the nave and a smaller one above the second gallery, and a number of smaller stained glass windows – a church filled with light. There are two galleries above the narthex, the upper one houses the pipe organ and choir, the lower one is for congregational overflow. Unusual features are the cedar altar and lectern, patterned and carved by west coast native Americans. At the rear of the church building and connected to it is the Bishop's Palace, now used as a parish centre for administration and small functions.
The church: There was an impressive sea of silver hair, typical of Victoria (known as the city of the newly wed and nearly dead) and an equally impressive sea of black hair: Philippinos and other Asians. Sprinkled here and there were the teens, twenty, thirty, forty and fifty-somethings, but only a few babies, as the family mass is right before this one.
The neighbourhood: This is a downtown church. Some members of the congregation seemed to be on a first name basis with the street people begging on the front steps. There is a city parkade across the street that offers free parking on Sunday. To the north side of the building is a hotel/bar/bistro with a beer and wine store not 30 feet from the main entrance to the church.
The cast: Father John Laszczyk, Rector; Deacon Clarence Rousseau (ex-Anglican priest, I heard someone whisper); Fr. Emmerich Vogt, OP, guest and presenter of the Lenten Mission. And six servers.
What was the name of the service?
High Mass, Third Sunday in Lent.
How full was the building?
The building was packed, with three rows of people standing at the back. A conservative estimate would be maybe 700 souls.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
When I got there just after 11am, the church was already full and the procession had just reached the front. There were several greeters, all Knights of Columbus, who were kept extremely busy seating people well into the service. Even so, they managed to say hello to nearly everyone that came through the doors!
Was your pew comfortable?
As mentioned earlier, I didn't get there in time to sample the pews. I stood at the back with about 40 others.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I was hoping things would start late – because I was late. I missed the procession and arrived in time to hear the opening words.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The pews contained self-published "St Andrew's Cathedral Music for Lent" leaflets, as well as the newest Catholic Book of Worship hymnal. The Church Bulletins are handed out after each service, presumably to keep the easily-bored from rattling paper during the proceedings.
What musical instruments were played?
Pipe organ and flute. Both musicians were excellent, not one discernible wrong note anywhere. And I must compliment whoever runs the sound system in this church for the acoustics it serves.
Did anything distract you?
The Gospel reading and homily were given by the visiting mission priest and while I was desperately trying to focus on his words (spoken with a distinct German or similar language accent), someone over in the pews to my right started entertaining their baby. You can always tell when a baby is being "entertained" when you don't hear the adult but are treated to short bursts of baby's burbling, yelps, giggling and cooing. Grrrr!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
High Mass, sung. There was plenty of singing by the congregation, too, unlike other places I've been where they leave it all up to the priest. Credit to the music director for a choice of tunes that promote audience participation! Something for everyone... from Latin to Marty Haugen.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
35 minutes. Almost eternity to Catholics who generally get 10 minutes, max. But it was the mission priest who was preaching, not the rector.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 This guy made me wish I could attend the Lenten Mission. He covered so much ground I wished I had a tape of it all! Or a perfect memory, in lieu.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
There were so many good points, it's hard to summarize. And he didn't use notes! He opened with: "What we ought to be, we can be." We heard quotes from Kierkegaard and Goethe, explanations of Jewish symbolism, witticisms on listening for the voice of God, and encouragement for our Lenten journey. He talked about Judaic number symbolism, particularly the number 40. It is not, as we would think, related to 10x4, but to 5x8, 5 being the number symbolizing grace, and 8 the number of renewal. Too much here for a few sentences!
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The rector has an incredible baritone voice, with perfect pitch, and he knows his chant. The choir was heavenly, and with the choir and organ up in the loft at the back of the nave, the music floated down and swirled around... the organist, flautist and soloist were top notch, too. Especially moving was when the priest and entire congregation sang the litany to and for the catechumens.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Wondering who the adult was who was the instigator of said baby's bursts of burbling, yelps, giggling and cooing. Not very hellish, but it was annoying, knowing that someone was responsible. Also not exactly hellish, but there were smells and no bells. Maybe not in Lent? I don't know!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. Aside from the priests and deacon who remained in the narthex for the quick hellos, the one person who did notice me was a lady who handed me a bulletin. Admittedly in a congregation that size and in a tourist-oriented city, it stands to reason that a whole lot of us were visitors.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There wasn't any. I was amazed at how quickly the church emptied. Overheard on the front steps, though, were numerous groups discussing what restaurants they were going to for brunch.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 Even without after-service goodies, I would love to be able to be part of this church. The entire service was so carefully crafted and executed and the main players so conscious of their roles... perfection in liturgy.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
A resounding YES! Even though nobody talked to me, I felt connected through the service itself.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Singing "Lord have mercy" to the catachumens.