Sunday, January 3, 2010

Epiphany of Our Lord -St. Louis

Happy Feast of Epiphany!

To celebrate the Feast of Epiphany (and to get my plenary indulgence :) ), I went to the 11 am Mass at Epiphany in South St. Louis City.

Epiphany is a rather vibrant parish in South City and is roughly middle class.  The church building is in a classic style, but very plain on the inside.

There is a choir loft, but it is not used.  The choir sits on the St. Joseph side of the sanctuary.  The Mass was accompanied by an electronic piano.
The music:
Opening:  The First Nowell
Gloria: Mass for John Carroll with the refrain in Latin
Offertory:  As With Gladness Men of Old
Holy and Great Amen:  St. Louis Jesuit Mass
Lamb of God: Isele (Lamb of God, Emmanuel, Prince of Peace)
Communion:  Child of the Poor/What Child Is This (sang together at the same time)
Recessional:  We Three Kings

There was a family that joined the Catholic Church today (HOORAY!) so Mass was much longer and the Homily incorporated the fact that there were Baptisms and Confirmations.

Epiphany is one of the many parishes that do a Children's Liturgy of the Word.  This involves having the children come up before the readings, receiving a special blessing from Father (or the whole parish)  and they go off to color somewhere.  Epiphany sang a special song for the children as they left.  I have to say that I'm slowly becoming convinced that separate liturgies for children are a bad idea.  First, and probably the least important reason, is that it smack of being Protestant.  Second, you mean to tell me the children can't listen to the Scriptures and Father's Homily?  I don't think it is a matter of understanding, as I've had some homilies that I don't understand.  Children need to learn how to behave in Church, sending them out of Church doesn't model the proper behavior for them.  Third, it is incredibly disruptive to the flow of the Mass.  This ties in with the fourth reason.  Today there were Baptisms and Confirmations after the Homily.  The children were still coloring and did not see the Baptisms.  They were essentially excluded from the community of faithful and participating in this Sacrament.  They came back smack in the middle of the Confirmation Rite.  That's right, while the 5 people were being Confirmed, the children returned from wherever.  This was a shame, because it was disruptive and it denied these children a chance to see what Confirmation is.

Father's homily addressed a variety of topics.  He talked about how the Church is still celebrating Christmas unlike the rest of the world.  Also, that the accounts in Matthew and Luke are different and the small details do not matter, but rather it is the big picture overall that matters.  The story of the Magi illustrates the inclusive nature of God's call.  Father hopes that we will all come to know (and love) Jesus Christ.  Additionally, we need to be challenged in our Faith to keep it alive otherwise it just becomes an intellectual exercise.  Throughout this, Father mentioned how this all connects to Baptism, Confirmation, Communion and Confession.

Next came the Baptisms and Confirmations.  A family of five was brought into the Church.  I have to admit, I'm throughly confused.  Why were they all baptized now and not at the Easter Vigil?  I thought that we had an RCIA program and that adults had to go through Scrutinies and stuff?  I could understand why the children were baptized, so that perhaps they could be confirmed with their classmates.  But they were confirmed today.  The youngest was around 10, so it seemed odd she was Confirmed today, as I believe the norm here is 12-14.  Granted, there are most likely reasons that I'm not privy to.  I'm not saying it was wrong, it just seemed odd, given that the Easter Vigil is 4 months away.

Additionally, I was confused by the proceedings themselves.  Admittedly, the last time I saw an adult baptized into the Church was Easter Vigil around when I was 13.  However, I have been to my goddaughters' Baptisms so I know how that works.  If what I saw today was correct, then adult Baptism is lame, lame and lame.  When an infant is baptized, the baby isn't just dunked or splashed with water.  The baby is also anointed with the Oil of the Catechumens on the crown of the head and on the chest.  There's a phrase about being anointed priest and prophet.  Additionally, there is part about being clothed in Christ and the baby gets a new white garment.  There's an exorcism part too.  Today, the members of the family were just splashed with water while the correct words were said.  No anointing, no new garment of Christ.  Now, granted the family was then Confirmed like five minutes latter, so maybe anointing isn't necessary.  But when you are Confirmed, you are anointed with Chrism, which is a different oil.  I'm all confused.  I will say it seems like combining both Baptism and Confirmation is rather lame.  Note:  I want to make it clear that the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation are not lame and a very aweseome.  However, the execution of those sacraments can sometimes be rather lacking.  Additionally, call me greedy or whatever, but if you combine them, that's one less excuse to party and get presents ;)

Father said Eucharistic Prayer III and no bells at the Consecration.


View from the Back Pew

The Creche

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh


Jesus Meets the Women
Station of the Cross

Rose Window

These are some of the windows in the Sanctuary.
They are angels that are holding symbols of Jesus.
The yellow blue angel is holding a lamb.
The greenish one is holding a pelican.
The blue girly looking one is holding leaves.
In photoshop I can only make out the pelicans and lamb
I didn't realize they were angels holding things until I zoomed using photoshop.

Upper Windows
The upper windows had various symbols in them.
This one has grapes and lilies.

Etching on the Main Glass Doors
Father's Chasuble has these symbols on them,
only vertically.

Epiphany Parish, information for St. Louis Archdiocese
Exterior photo from Rome of the West


  1. Having attended Mass at Epiphany before, I found Fr. Miller and the parishioners to be very nice but the liturgies were rather lacking. Also, the beautiful exterior of the church hides how plain and contemporary the interior is. That said, I appreciate that Epiphany is one of the few churches I have found that stays open during the day for private prayer and devotion. In this way, I wish more parishes were like Epiphany.

  2. I was babtized (conditionally) and confirmed at an Easter Vigil by the Bishop where I was, and it sounds like the service was like what I experienced. No white garment etc. But, I was profoundly impressed by the ceremony and the entire service. Then again, this was back in the "old days" ;)

  3. OK, I've been with you up until now on your blog, but clearly your assessment of Epiphany today shows your bias. The Liturgy of the Word with Children is not just "coloring", as you said not once, but twice. The Church permits this practice (see the "Directory for Masses with Children #16-17) and it can be a good and practical way to introduce children to the liturgy (Of course it should be done well, and should not just be coloring!)
    It's a fair question to ask why a family would be brought into the Church on Epiphany Sunday, rather than the Easter Vigil, but there may be pastoral reasons you do not know of. And it is the norm for anyone above the age of reason (7-ish) to receive all the Sacraments of Initiation at one time. This shows the unity of the Sacraments, and has nothing to do with getting presents. After all, aren't they receiving the greatest gift of all? If one is confirmed after Baptism, the anointing with the Oil of Catechumens is omitted. The clothing with the white garment is optional. Indeed, the ceremony may seem to be rather lacking to a casual visitor, but as a one-timer, how can you really expect to be privy to all that a parish community is doing and celebrating?
    Charity in all things!

  4. Hi John!
    Thanks for commenting. I am sorry I wasn't clear in that I was comparing the Baptisms and Confirmations to other Baptisms and Confirmations I have participated in or have seen. I clearly didn't convey that I was confused as to why the Rite was so different. I never said it was wrong, I just thought it was odd. I thought it was a requirement to be anointed at Baptism as part of the Sacrament. I seem to recall at the Easter Vigil mention being made of the new garment in Christ. I was just confused really. I thought the Rite of Scrutinies and being introduced to the Bishop and parish as catechumens were requirements. Again, I'm just your average Catholic trying to learn more about my faith.

    Again, I am coming at this from my personal experience. I do know adults who have not received both Baptism and Confirmation at once. Sometimes the Confirmation is held off until Pentecost. I did say that there may be reasons I don't know of in the post. In my confirmation class, one of my classmates was baptized and then confirmed with the rest of us 3 months later.

    As for the Children's Liturgies, how much can they really accomplish in 10-15 minutes, or the time it takes to get through the readings and homily? When I see these children come back from this, they inevitably have some sheets they have colored. Shouldn't these children be enrolled in Catholic schools or PSR? Shouldn't they be learning this in that environment? Epiphany's school is slated to be closed. If we really think 15 minutes during Mass is going to cut it to communicate the Catholic Faith, then we are deluded. Additionally, I have a big problem with these children missing out on the opportunity to see these Sacraments being received. These are Sacraments of Initiation and these children were left out of the community celebration.

    The document you cite only applies when the Mass is made up of 80% or so of children, when children are the majority of the congregation. Children do not make up the majority of a normal Sunday Congregation.

    I agree if these things are done properly they could be a very good thing. But how many of them are done well? Additionally, how are children supposed to learn how to act in Mass if we send them away? What message are we conveying to them when we send them away?

    I am attempting to be charitable or at least neutral. It is a little harder than it appears. I do leave a lot of stuff out, especially the stuff that I can't spin in a positive light.

    But I will query you this...what impression do these parishes make when they do have visitors? Are their actions encouraging the visitor to either become Catholic or to come home to their Faith?

    I do hope you keep following along!

  5. What I will add, is the liturgy is about us as a community coming to Almighty God, offering our gifts, our sacrifice to him as a community. if we all share in the Mystical Body of Christ...then it only makes sense for us ALL to be there. Thus, that is the flaw in reasoning with Children's Liturgy of the Word. It separates them from their elders, and the rest of the community. Thus, they lose their Catholic Identity, as they arent experiencing the fullness of both Pillars of the Liturgy.

  6. Hi again! Of course I'll keep following!

    Actually, the Directory does provide for the Liturgy of the Word with Children (not just when there are 80% or more children, as you cite). To wit: "Sometimes, moreover, if the place itself and the nature of the community permit, it will be appropriate to celebrate the liturgy of the word, including a homily, with the children in a separate, but not too distant, room. Then, before the Eucharistic liturgy begins, the children are led to the place where the adults have meanwhile celebrated their own liturgy of the word."

    Your points about Catholic schools and PSR and how much a child can learn in 15 minutes and communicating the Catholic faith would be appropriate if the Liturgy were about learning... but the Liturgy is not an academic exercise, for adults or for children! It's about deepening our relationship with Jesus Christ, about being transformed, about joining our sacrifice to His, about being open to God's grace. And the Church rightly knows that children and adults do this differently. It's entirely appropriate for children to gather together to pray and to listen to and reflect on the Word on their level. We do need to learn about the faith, adults and children alike, but that's not what the Mass is for. That's all I'm saying. Of course, as you've noticed in your travels, this is done well in some places, and it's done poorly in others. We're human.

    Your last question is a good one and one that I'd like to hear you answer in your experiences visiting our Churches. I haven't found too many Catholic Churches to be very welcoming (the Protestants run rings around us on that one). What Churches were you greeted and welcomed? What parishes made you feel that you wanted to invest yourself there? Which communities seemed most alive and vibrant? It's fine to know if there were bells at the consecration, I suppose, but that's not what does it for me. I want to know: which are the communities whose love for Jesus Christ and others really shows in the way they welcome and worship and serve?

  7. One thing I have noticed is that the age range for the children leaving for the Liturgy of the Word is quite large. I've seen from age 3 to 9/10. That's quite a range to try and teach to, given that different pedagogy is needed for those children.

    I suppose, since I went to Catholic school for 12 years, and for the first 8, I had weekly Mass with my classmates, I feel that is the best way, because by 8th grade, my classmates and I were planning our weekly Masses. You learn much more from doing. That's when the Mass was brought to our level. Then again, I don't think Sister Mary Ann subscribed to that school. She was more of the we can bring the children up to whatever level school.

    I'm keeping track of the EPs and the Bells for a reason... :)

    I have been in churches were I was greeted but it was "cold" in the Church. I was in one church were the usher kept her eyes on me before Mass as if I was going to run out with the candlesticks... One of the problems is that what floats one person's boat doesn't do it for others. I will tell you the absolute friendliest Masses I've been to have been at the CNC UMSL...

    I suppose we will ultimately know what Church is ultimately welcoming to me when I finally register in a parish ;)

  8. The comments about being greeted or made to feel welcome are interesting. I've been a Cathedral parishioner for six years, though I live ten miles away. I love the majestic pipe organ, the classic musical repertoire, and the reverence of the liturgy. But to me, the atmosphere is cold. (I think it's partly because the place is so big, and often feels empty; the vibe is different when the "house" is full, like at ordination.) There are few families, but seem to be many tourists and short-term CWE residents. I was even chastised about a year ago by a staff member for taking one copy of the music sheet out of a box on the floor on a Saturday morning, when they would all be tossed by Sunday night. Ridiculous! The bulletin runs the same list of "thou-shalt-nots" week after week, year after year...don't park at the wrong angle (no joke), don't leave valuables in your car, don't forget to bow at Communion, don't display a bare midriff in church (even in JANUARY we get that reminder). And while I've read umpteen death notices in the bulletin, marriage banns and baptismal announcements are never printed. But hey...we're pro-life!

    Contrast that with an experience a co-worker described to me today. It's her habit to visit a new church every year on New Year's Day. This year she went to St. Alphonsus "Rock" Church. She was welcomed the moment she entered, and taken by hand to the front of the church when she said she was a visitor. She was surrounded by parishioners who treated her as a valued guest, and said they would love to have her return. She felt blessed by the spirit of warmth and kindness.

    Now I would find that slightly overwhelming. But what about a happy medium?

    Sorry...I'm feeling cranky and that was a rant. :-)

  9. I agree...a happy medium seems to be lacking. Now I had a slightly different experience when I went to the Rock 2 years ago. Mass was 20 minutes late, which I thought was disrespectful. Then a woman, I'm sure she was well meaning, proceeded to give me diet advice at the Sign of Peace.

    The Cathedral is a different beast altogether I imagine. And uhm, if you've already parked, isn't it a little late to tell people how to park?

    Rants are okay. :)

  10. I really enjoy following your blog. Is there any way for regular readers to tell when a new comment has been posted, short of scrolling through all your entries, and opening comments for the various posts? "Rome of the West" has a nice sidebar that highlights recent comments. (I know nothing about blogging, so maybe some software doesn't support that feature.) Thanks.