Thursday, May 31, 2007

Clarification:

I love the Catholic Church. I have spent the last year plus going regularly to mass and soaking up everything I could about the Church and its beliefs and practices. And, overall, I appreciate it very much and am in awe of most of what it teaches, professes, and lives.

And I have learned that most of what I learned about the Catholic Church before this year was based on common but incorrect assumptions. Catholics are seemingly more often than not misrepresented by mainstream Protestants.

And this is not something that many of you will understand -- but I invite you to talk to me about it if you want.

And, at the same time, there are some things that sadden me about the Church (like the lavishness of some of the worship spaces) and some things about which I poke a little fun at the Church (like the over-generality that Catholics don't sing very well). Just as there are things that sadden me about the Church of the Brethren and about which I poke fun at the Church of the Brethren. I feel those things, along with the joy and hope in both the CoB and Catholicism, because I deeply love both.

Please understand that this is not the whole story -- for me or for the Church. There are myriad expressions of Catholicism, including the very simple to the very ornate and everywhere in between, including emphasis on music to emphasis on silence and everywhere in between -- indeed, it seems, there are as many expressions of the faith as there are believers who express their faith.

A friend pointed out that I had perhaps misrepresented the Catholic Church in my last post, even as I am frustrated by the many people around me who do so. If so, I apologize. And I invite all you readers to learn more and not just to lean on your already formed ideas of the Catholic Church. You might just like what you learn.

NYC and NYAC

So here are the results of my glorious (though short) vacation:

I went to NYC first off -- leaving at 4 am for an hour car ride and a two-hour train ride to Grand Central Station. I get the "city that never sleeps" thing -- I was surprised, small-town girl that I am, at how many people were up and fully awake at 5am, 6am, 7am. I actually forgot a few times that it wasn't the middle of the day.

I arrived at GCS, and a subway ride, blackberry donut, bathroom stop, and walk later I arrived at St. John the Divine -- Episcopal Cathedral. I'm sure it is a very impressive structure with very beautiful worship normally. However, at the moment a full 2/3 of it is boarded off completely -- floor to ceiling boards with no opportunity to peek anywhere. The rest of it has the stained glass windows boarded up. And there were two people (other than me) and one priest present for the morning Eucharist... pretty disappointing, but I liked the Episcopal liturgy and it still was a good way to start my day, even if not how I expected it to be.

I then went to the wrong hotel (not my fault) and walked a mile to find the right hotel -- the one that was housing my college's choir for the week before their Carnegie Hall concert. When I found them, I walked through, seeing lots of people I didn't know and a few people I remembered from college. It was fun to get the double-takes, as no one but the director knew that I was going to come.

My director, the accompanist, and a senior from the choir and I went out to a French restaurant for lunch and had lots of fun conversation and way-over-priced food. I enjoyed watching midwesterners ordering posh foods that they couldn't pronounce and "pop" (rather than "soda") and being more disappointed with the tiny portion sizes and somewhat misleading descriptions than with the lack of garnishes or the non-organic-ness... I miss the Midwest and its wholesomeness -- the simplicity and raw honesty of Midwesterners is too rare out here in the East.

I then found my way to St. Patrick's (a Catholic Cathedral) for a quick look around, took a leisurely walk back to the hotel, and watched my choir do another rehearsal. They are incredible!! I have always admired my director -- she has spoiled me into not being able to find a conductor that I'm really excited to sing under (no one else is as good as she is...). I'm pretty sure the choir is even better than when I was in it. And they were singing some really meaningful and really challenging songs, like Peaceable Kingdom, Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day, and a couple of pieces composed by college professors. It all made me really miss singing in a good choir and, even more, conducting a good choir.

After rehearsal, I said goodbye to some folk and headed back to St. Patrick's for Mass at 5:30. On the way, I found myself a street vendor hot dog and peanuts (a must, it seems to me, for any good trip to NYC). Mass was very meaninful. The organ was huge (it probably had more pipes in the choir than in the entire Monterey UCC organ) and was played very well. We sang some of my favorite Catholic songs and the sound resonated incredibly. (I love Catholics. And in many cases they don't really know how to sing very well -- three people actually turned around to look at this girl who was singing on the hymns...I felt like I had a third eye or something, but I kept singing anyway.) The priest gave a good homily and was easy to understand, despite the echo. The Church of the Brethren in me was noticing the lavishness as money that could have been spent on the poor, but the parts of me that are really appreciating the Catholic faith were awed by the mystery and grandeur invoked by the space alone.

And then, alas, my tour in NYC was over. I had more time before the sun set and I had to go to the train, so I ambled (purposefully, though... so as not to look clueless... try ambling purposely sometime -- it's an interesting experience) past homeless people and vendors and tourists and families and street musicians (even singing harmony with a couple of them), past bookstores and theaters and department stores and McDonalds, and I was amazed at the diversity and individuality and stimulation and lack of connection or community. I missed the farm and its simplicity. I stopped by a bookstore to get a drink and browse, found a book on training cats (my, aren't I adventurous ;) ), and finally made it back to GCS to get on a train and relax back into the thought of going home. This small-town girl likes the city and the confident persona she gets to put on when she goes there -- likes the stimulation just as much as the next person. But she is also very relieved to get back to a more familiar pace of life, a more connective way of being.

More later, as I'm getting tired. Time for some Harry Potter reading. But stay tuned for NYAC and how much difference a little "A" can make.

Friday, May 25, 2007

I need a...

Vacation!!

I need a vacation.

Oh -- did I say, I need a vacation?

But, look -- here it is!

I'm headed to New York tomorrow morning (at 4 am) to brave the city as a midwestern "suburban" girl - turned Berkshire boondocks girl... Thank goodness I lived in Chicago for a bit and am quite adept at not looking clueless...

Off I go. I'll let you know how it is.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Inspiration... how long will it last?

I was looking at various others' blogs and came away from the experience with a mix of awe, guilt, and inspiration... So I'm going to include links to some of them on the sidebar now for you all to read -- Life in Avalon is the blog of the mother of the family in whose house my apartment is. (did that make any sense? just goes to show that correct grammar is not always the best way to get a point across...). Traveling Shoes is a blog of a friend here at the farm (who I'm trying to convince not to leave, but who is determined to see the world and to do it well).
I figure this will perhaps inspire me to blog more often. Or, if it doesn't, it'll give you all (millions of fans that you are) something interesting to read in the mean time.
I want to go to bed -- I just finished working second shift and have a meeting in the morning...
So no more tonight... but perhaps more soon.