So long as the weather was neither too wet nor too cold in Groton, Massachusetts, the students would process out to a grotto during the Fall or Spring mornings ( May & October ) for the rosary in front of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Even as beautiful as the grotto was, and even as pleasant as the weather, one of the things that seemed to cause me distress was that at the end of the rosary, the closing prayer included the phrase, “… poor, banished children of Eve…” I knew that this was not my mother’s name, her name was Valentine, not Eve. But, since all of the other children were also saying the same prayer, and not all of their mothers could possibly be named Eve, it was okay for the moment.
Couldn’t They Have Told Us?
Pius XII was over halfway through his papacy, Ike was in the White House, and all of the nuns had holes in their habits so they could see from the eyes in the back of their heads. It took me years to realize that the picture of Pius XII, or any Pontiff at the correct angle, was essentially a mirror the nuns could use to watch the children while the nuns wrote on the board. This discovery could have saved me from writing all of those extra assignments. These extra assignments did however provide me with the opportunity to learn how to write while holding up to four pens in the same hand, so that I could write on four lines of paper simultaneously, “I will not ( yada, yada, yada )…”
A Small Part of the Larger Whole
Our parish was all I knew of the Church. I understood, to some extent, that our little parish was aligned with other parishes and they were aligned with the Archdiocese of Boston. This, in turn, was connected to other dioceses and then to other states, the nation and maybe the entire world, but my little parish was all I needed to know about the Church. It was here that I served as an altar boy, here that I received my First Holy Communion.
One weekend, we missed Mass at our parish and we raced off to a neighboring parish since their Mass started 30 minutes later. That day, the pastor asked any man who could swing a hammer to come by and help build an auditorium in the basement which could be used for parish functions, additional Masses if required, and various meetings.
My father was the only man who arrived, and thus started what would become his 40-year career as a sexton for that parish. Along the way, the altar which he had made for my bedroom became the altar in the auditorium. My Confirmation was held at this parish and my wife and I were married at this parish. It was at this parish that I started my participation in various ministries; Rel Ed, Holy Name Society, etc.
Our First Geographic Change and the GIRM
In late 1979, due to a job change, we had the opportunity to make the first of 10 relocations we have made during our married life. We left the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and moved to the Seacoast of New Hampshire.
One of the first tasks at hand was to find a new parish, we found one that was just off the campus of the University of New Hampshire (UNH). This parish was far more “progressive” and “liberal” than the parish we had just left, but, for the most part the GIRM ( General Instruction of the Roman Missal) was still being followed.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) explains the importance of this instructional book:
Also included in this edition are two other valuable documents: The Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Roman Calendar and the Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds for the Dioceses of the United States of America, both of which also appear in front matter of the Roman Missal, Third Edition. Together with the GIRM these documents provide a comprehensive overview and instruction for the celebration of the Mass.
Pope Benedict XVI reminds the Church that the Liturgy follows the ancient axiom, Lex orandi, lex credendi (“the law of faith is the law of belief”). Not only is it a matter of words that communicate the faith of the Church, but the way in which the Liturgy is celebrated witnesses to what we believe.
The full text of the latest edition can be found at the USCCB website.
Our Next Parish Searches
A few years there, then following a house purchase, the search for another parish was undertaken once again. The town we found had three Catholic churches, and gave us the opportunity to seek out the one which felt more like home and family. The parish we found was a couple of miles from the house, and the priests were much more conservative than the parish at UNH. A few years there, another significant job change and another parish search, back in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts once again.
Over the passage of time, we have been parishioners in Westford, MA, Littleton, MA, Durham, NH, Dover, NH, Milford, MA, Hudson, MA, Sioux City, IA, Round Rock, TX and Morristown, TN. If you were keeping track, that is only nine towns, yet, I mentioned that we had made ten relocations. One of the towns is where we had two addresses, we moved but did not change parishes.
Many of the moves, particularly the first few, required that we move away from family and friends and start over. Moving from one state to another has been a rewarding experience in that we got to explore different regions, different foods, different geographies, etc. Most moves required that we find another parish and a service/ministry vehicle. Each ministry is rather much an instant family made up of friends that we did not realize that we already had.
While our kids were in school, Rel Ed participation was a great way to meet other parents, and share relationships. As the kids grew older, our ministries changed. The Society of St Vincent de Paul, the Ladies Guild, the Legion of Mary, Knights of Columbus, Nursing Home Ministry, Home bound Ministry, Adult Faith Formation have been vehicles to help make new friends easily, quickly, and meaningfully in each of the new parishes.
The other item that makes a parish search much easier is the use of the GIRM. I understand from Protestant co-workers that for some of them, the search for a new church involves many weeks of trial and error. Find a church, attend once or twice, find another, attend once or twice and repeat until a church is found that “speaks to us”.
Within the Catholic Church, one priest’s homily may be more significant than another’s on a particular week or topic, but, given the GIRM, each Mass will be the same as the next parish.
My Advice When You Move
My wife and I have been married over 50 years, we have moved multiple times, we have explored many areas of the country, yet, we are always home. The GIRM helps to keep Mass constant state to state, diocese to diocese, parish to parish.
If you are not at home in your church, find a ministry, speak with the pastor and start a ministry. To be at home, make a home. With each move, we find that we are home again in short order. Different people involved in different ministries, different skills in use, goodness knows different personalities, but, after all of our moves, we are still at home. A church home is the result of an investment in prayer, passion, talents, skills, and simple participation.