Mystery Worshipper: The Roamin' Catholic
Church: Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes
Location: Spokane, Washington, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 25 December 2011, 10:00am
A large church of red brick in the Italian Romanesque Revival style, begun in 1903 and elevated to the status of cathedral in 1913. Steep stairs lead to the great west bronze doors, but the side entry is easier for access. The inside is simply beautiful, featuring ornate stained glass windows and the sacrifice of Cavalry depicted on the high altar. The cathedral was beautifully decorated for Christmas.
As a parish church, the cathedral hosts among their ministries a chapter of the Knights of Columbus and a social concerns group that carries out projects to help those in need. There are two masses each weekday plus the Saturday vigil mass, and three masses on Sunday mornings plus one in the evening. The sacrament of reconciliation is administered on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament held at the conclusion of the Saturday schedule.
Spokane is a city on the eastern edge of the state of Washington, bordering Idaho. Served by four railroads (Northern Pacific; Union Pacific; Great Northern; and Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul and Pacific), Spokane became one of the most important transportation hubs in the western United States by the early 20th century. However, the railroads are gone now, and the city suffered a steady decline as the century wore on. Spokane's fortunes revived briefly after it hosted the Expo '74 World's Fair, but became stagnant once again during the recession of the late 70s and early 80s. In the 21st century Spokane has experienced a revitalization of the downtown area that includes renovation of old landmark structures as well as new modern construction. The game known as speedball (sort of a cross between football and soccer), an essential part of many high school physical education programs, was invented in the late 1970s at Spokane's Lewis & Clark High School.
The Revd Jeff Lewis, parochial vicar, was celebrant and homilist. He was assisted by a deacon whose name was not given.
What was the name of the service?Mass for Christmas Day
How full was the building?
About three-quarters full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A musician greeted us outside as he was arriving with his instrument in tow. At the door, ushers very well trained ushers welcomed us and provided handouts including special music. We were early and so we found our own seats.
Was your pew comfortable?
Standard hard pew nice kneelers.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very welcoming yet reverent. The musician greeting us outside was a nice touch, we thought. People seemed to be arriving on time and there was some "merry Christmasing" as people came in and greeted their friends. Some folks, including myself, went up to see the Nativity crèche.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome and merry Christmas" spoken by the cantor.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Song sheets and missalettes.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and other instruments. The musicians and choir were in the loft behind us.
Did anything distract you?
Some of the architectural and decorative features of the cathedral were a pleasant distraction.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Standard well done Catholic liturgy with excellent music.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – The young priest spoke with great vigor. This young man is a blessing! I complimented him afterwards.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He tied the scripture readings to the present day and brought things into perspective.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The singing and organ playing were outstanding!
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The distribution of communion left a lot to be desired. Eucharistic ministers were stationed at various points, but for every two who were ministering the hosts, there was only one chalice bearer. This caused congestion. The two with the hosts on our side stood much too close together.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Father Lewis and the deacon were available at the back of the church. We wished them a merry Christmas and I complimented Father Lewis on his homily, but we did not linger after that.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Being Christmas, I doubt that they had a hall set up for fellowship.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – If I lived in Spokane, yes, but unfortunately I live 1200 miles away.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
It has been seven days and I remember the homily.