This visit was slightly different as we had been invited to St. Mary’s to attend the baptism of a friend’s child.
While I am very familiar with a large range of Protestant denominations, Catholicism is still a bit of a mystery to me. However, it’s one that I am determined to come to grips with. St. Mary’s is one of three catholic churches in Barrie, and there were probably around 350 people in attendance at the service we were at, the second of the day. Barrie has a large Catholic population, as well as a number of Catholic schools and social agencies.
So, I can’t really say that I’m getting to know the churches in Barrie unless I understand this denomination. However, so far I haven’t got very far. I’d love to have the opportunity to sit down with a priest or well-informed layperson and get to hear what Catholicism in Barrie is all about. And because my passion is for reconciliation and cooperation, I’d love to hear stories about how the Catholic churches in Barrie are working with others to impact the city.
Coming from an Anglican background, the liturgy itself was very familiar. We sung hymns, listened to readings from the Old and New Testament and from the Gospel, and heard a short homily. This was very well delivered, and was a meditation on the question that Jesus asks the first disciples – what are you looking for?
Communion at a Catholic church is still something I’m getting used to. For one thing, it still hurts to be relegated to the role of an observer at what should be a shared meal. I’m a passionate believer in Open Communion; a priest I know invites all present to share the bread and wine with the phrase ‘We welcome you because God welcomes you.’ I love this approach, because it replaces endless theological wrangling over who should and shouldn’t be allowed to participate in a sacrament with a simple recognition of God’s grace and invitation to community.
There are also some practical issues surrounding Catholic communion that I don’t understand yet. Why do they only share the bread, and not the wine? What is the purpose of the locked box to the right of the altar? What is an ‘Adoration Chapel’, and how does it relate to communion? Some churches take time to explain what they are doing to newcomers; at St. Mary’s, even during a baptismal service, it’s kind of assumed that you belong here and you know what is going on.
So, if you’re Catholic, and live in Barrie, please get in touch with me! I’d love to have the chance to have some of these questions answered.