|Comment on this report, or find other reports.
|Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you'd like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.
|Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.
Basilica of the Assumption, Covington, Kentucky, USA
Basilica of the Assumption, Covington, Kentucky, USA.
Roman Catholic, Diocese
The cathedral is of Gothic design. It was begun in 1894, with
the exterior modeled on Notre Dame and the interior on the Abbey
Church of St Denis in Paris. Though incomplete, work ceased
in 1915. An extensive renovation project was undertaken in 2002.
The exterior features 26 gargoyles carved in Italy. The vaulted
interior houses a magnificent collection of large stained glass
windows, mosaics, sculptures and murals. The north transept
window is said to be the largest stained glass church window
in the world and depicts the Council of Ephesus, at which Mary
was proclaimed the mother of God. The stations of the cross
are made of Italian mosaic, each station containing at least
The parish sponsors a Justice and Peace Committee and supports
the St Vincent de Paul Society. The Cathedral Concert Series
is now in its 33rd season.
Covington, population 44,000, is in northern Kentucky, directly
across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati. A suspension
bridge designed by John A. Roebling, who also designed New York's
Brooklyn Bridge, was opened in 1867 linking the two cities.
Although no longer open to buses, the bridge remains the busiest
of Cincinnati's four non-expressway bridges. Once an important
financial and commercial center, Covington fell into decline
in the 1960s and 1970s, during which time it was best known
for its strip clubs. A revival began in the late 1970s; there
are now several national historic districts in Covington. The
area around the cathedral is mixed use, and the cathedral stands
in stark contrast to the immediate neighborhood.
The Revd Raymond Enzweiler, vice-rector of the parish, was celebrant,
and the Revd Dr Jerry Franzen was deacon and homilist. Robert
Schaffer, Litt.D. (Hon.), director of music, presided at the
organ, and Gregory Schaffer, associate organist and choral assistant,
conducted the Bishop's Choir.
The date & time:
June 28, 2009, 10.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
About 65 percent full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was handed a parish bulletin and a single-page (printed on
both sides) service leaflet by an usher as I entered.
Was your pew comfortable?
Standard wooden pews with pull-down kneelers. Quite comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service
Quiet and reverential. Dr Schaffer played a nice organ piece,
not listed in the service leaflet, but obviously from the French
What were the exact opening words of the
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
What books did the congregation use during the
Breaking Bread, a combination missal/hymnal in paperback,
published by Oregon Catholic Press.
What musical instruments were played?
A four-manual, 65 rank Aultz-Kersting pipe organ.
Did anything distract you?
Just before the service began, I heard sirens loud enough that
I gathered they were quite close. Then, as the procession of
choir and clergy began up the center aisle, a parallel procession
– of firemen – could be seen going up the south aisle and
off into another room. As we never saw smoke, I'm assuming any
fire that might have existed was quickly and efficiently contained.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
This was a formal liturgy, without happy talk, that is fairly
typical of a Sunday novus ordo mass in North American
Catholicism. There were a few high touches: the deacon was vested
in dalmatic, bells were rung during the eucharistic prayer (before
the epiklesis and at the elevation of the bread and chalice),
and the altar was set in the so-called Benedictine arrangement
(crucifix in the center, three tall candles on either side).
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Deacon Franzen's delivery was fairly low-key, but if
I were grading only on content and careful preparation, I would
have given him a 9.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The deacon preached on today's gospel reading, Mark 5:21-43
(Jesus cures a woman of bleeding and raises the synagogue leader's
daughter from the dead). He began by noting the AT&T commercial
of a few years back, "Reach out and touch someone." Jesus often
healed by touch. Not only did he touch many in his ministry,
but he also let others touch him. Touch can be a more powerful
means of communication than words alone. Words can be manipulated,
but touch can rarely be programmed to deceive. And touching
is reciprocal; it is an exchange. Touch is an essential element
of many sacraments – the laying on of hands, anointing
of the sick, etc.
Which part of the service was like being in
The extraordinary beauty of the interior of this cathedral.
And I was so pleased to see that the deacon's role in the liturgy
was taken seriously, and that he was given all of the parts
of the liturgy that are proper to his order.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Not hellish, but there were some musical idiosyncrasies. First,
I should say that Dr Schaffer is a splendid organist, and equally
skilled at accompanying the choir as well as the congregation.
And the cathedral's choir is quite fine. But, intentionally
or not, the music staff have decided to give only limited support
to congregational singing. For example, at communion the choir
gave a beautiful rendition of the Ave Maria by Franz
Abt, followed by two hymns ("Bread of the world in mercy broken"
and "Whatsoever you do". The choir sang the first hymn a cappella,
and the organ registrations chosen for the second hymn made
it clear that the congregation should sing only the short refrain,
even though the verses were quite easy to sing. A choir as fine
as this should certainly be given a significant role to play,
but I cannot see any reason why the congregation should not
be encouraged to sing simple hymnody. Then, too, the acclamations
in the eucharistic prayer were listed in the service leaflet
as by Vermulst, but music was not available.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I asked the couple sitting in the pew in front of us if they could tell me the name of the celebrant (the service leaflet did not give any information about participants in the service). We chatted briefly, but the congregation filtered out of the church fairly quickly.
How would you describe the after-service
There was none.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 Don't misunderstand – I admire the seriousness
with which this parish worships, and the obvious care which
they lavish on their liturgy, not to mention the beautiful space
in which they worship. The rating simply reflects my and MaterFamilias'
personal tastes – the music would be too conservative
for us on a week-to-week basis. (I haven't heard service music
by Vermulst in decades.)
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The woman sitting immediately behind me, quietly singing along
with the verses on the second communion hymn. She obviously
(as did I) wanted to be singing, but also did not want to be
|We rely on voluntary donations to stay online. If you're a regular visitor to Ship of Fools, please consider supporting us.
|The Mystery Pilgrim
| One of our most seasoned reporters makes the Camino pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Read here.
| Read reports from 70 London churches, visited by a small army of Mystery Worshippers on one single Sunday. Read here.