Sunday, November 29, 2009

St. Agatha - St. Louis

Happy New (Liturgical) Year!

For today's Mass, I thought I would do something special to celebrate the First Sunday in Advent.  I decided to go to the local Polish parish, St. Agatha (Hey, I'm a quarter Polish...).  I attended the 10 am Mass, which is entirely in Polish.

St. Agatha is a personal parish rather than a territorial parish.  I imagine when it was first established there were many homes in the neighborhood.  Now the parish is hemmed in by Anheuser Busch Brewery and Interstate 55.  There were only about 75 people at Mass, in a Church that holds most likely 500.

When you first walk into St. Agatha, you can smell incense.  It smells like a Catholic Church.  It looks like a Catholic Church.  The pews, the part you sit on, are very narrow.  The kneelers were the right height for me though so that more than makes up for the narrow pews that creaked every time I moved.

There was a choir accompanied by an organ in the choir loft.  I think the organ has a bell setting or the choir played bells because one song had bells, but it sounded more like a carillon (which Iowa State University has...totally awesome...especially playing say Jump by Van Halen...but I digress).

I wish I could tell you the normal details of the Mass like if Father adlibed or what Eucharistic Prayer was said or what was even sang.  I can't.  The whole Mass was in Polish.  Everything.  The only words I recognized were "Amen" and "Alleluia."  I know see the value of one liturgical language (Latin) for the Universal Church.  It must have been so comforting to immigrants who were in a strange land with a strange language to know that at least they understood what was going on in Mass.

I have a suspicion that the Polish liturgy, that is the liturgy approved by the Polish bishops, is different from the liturgy approved by English speaking bishops.  It seemed that the Introductory Rite today was much longer than it would be in an English speaking parish.  We didn't sing the Gloria or anything I could recognize as the Gloria.  During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, there was more bell-ringing than at the Consecration.  Father sang the Opening and Closing Prayers and the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer.  The congregation sang the responses to the Prayers of the Faithful and the Our Father.

I was kind of surprised that the Advent Wreath wasn't blessed at the Mass.  That was the part I was looking forward to.  I was wondering if the candles would be purple and pink, or red like German wreaths (I'm still looking for why the Germans use red.)  The candles were purple and pink.  We didn't sing O Come O Come Emmanuel either.  I'm pretty confident I can recognize that melody regardless of language.

I was shocked! when at the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) the server came down and shut the gates in the altar/communion rail.  Communion at St. Agatha is old school, like at St. Francis de Sales.    Everyone, who chose to receive, knelt at the rail and received on the tongue.  I have to say, receiving in this manner is a different experience.  Additionally, at the end of Mass, about half the congregation stayed to pray.  It is such a different feeling not to have people rushing to get out of Church, as if an extra 5 minutes in the building might cause them to burst into flames or something.

(I don't have as many pictures as I would have liked...they turned the lights off 5 minutes after Mass and it was really dark in the Church.)

View from the Back Pew!
It's interesting people either sat in the front or in the way back,
not in the middle.

Cross on the floor, right in front of the altar gates.
I saw pictures of Sean Cardinal O'Malley consecrating a Church,
and there was a big sand cross in that Church right where this one is.
I wonder if that is why the cross is here.

Window in the Sanctuary
Noah after the flood.
I love rainbow stained glass windows.

The windows surrounding her are flowers and other symbols of Mary.

Mary's Altar
That's a rosary hanging in front.
And a Polish Flag.

This is the last window on St. Joseph's side.
 The top half is covered by the choir loft.
I think it is  St. Agatha and St. Barbara.
I'm thinking the saint on the right is St. Barbara because she is holding a chalice,
and she is the patron saint of brewers as St. Agatha is surrounded by breweries.
Their names are in the halos but it's a bad photo.
At the bottom is the name of the donators of the window.

St. Agatha Parish Website (in Polish and English)
Photos from Rome of the West


  1. There would have been no Gloria, since there is no Gloria sung during the seasons of Advent or Lent.
    And "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" is proper to the latter days of Advent, so I would hope that no Church would hear it yet; it's better used after December 17.
    I enjoy your reflections!

  2. Oh. I knew there was no Gloria in Lent. I guess I forgot that there wasn't one in Advent either... Is it supposed to reflect the penitential nature of the season?

    I'm glad you enjoy the reflections! Thanks for visiting!

  3. Great blog. I take it that since Holy Communion was distributed kneeling at the communion rail that this parish celebrates Mass very reverently, but could you provide more details about the Mass itself (i.e., vestments, sacred vessels, posture, involvement of lay ministers)?


  4. It's an odd historical anomaly that there is no Gloria during Advent. It came from a time when the days of Advent did take on a more penitential tone like Lent (the same reason why violet vestments are used during Advent, like Lent). But now the Church has an awareness that the seasons are different: Lent focusing on penance, Advent on joyful hope and expectation. Yet the vestiges of Lent remain in Advent, even to this day.

  5. Thanks Brett. The vestments were violet and had some gold embroidery (wheat? crosses? P and X) down the center. It was the typical Gothic cut seen in nearly every parish. There were altar servers, adult men. What was odd, was one wore a cassock and surplice while two did not wear cassocks but just surplices. The processional cross resembled the ferula (sp?) of Pope John Paul II. The Precious Blood was not distributed so there were no lay EMHCs. There was a female who did the readings.

    Father bowed at the Consecration and appeared to do all the appropriate postures. He kept the chalice covered on the altar. It was a gold one. I only saw one person do the orans posture at the Our Father.

    Confession was right before Mass.
    Does that answer everything?

  6. That answers it all. From what you said, it sounds like a good parish to go for Mass.
    Thanks again and keep up the good work!

    God Bless

  7. I went to Mass at St. Agatha's for the Christmas vigil last year. It was in English (not Polish), and there was no kneeling for communion. This may be ridiculous, but in advance I thought it might be an especially reverent service, because of the piety of many Poles. It just seemed like a typical American Mass, though. It sounds like the Polish liturgy may be more traditional.

  8. "I'm thinking the saint on the right is St. Barbara because she is holding a chalice"

    Sorry, it's not a chalice, but a parfum's vessel. She is Saint Mary Magdalen :)

  9. Oh! you are right! It is perfume! Thanks!