Catholicism

In the final analysis, for the believer
there are no questions,
and for the non-
believer there are no answers.


-The Haffetz
Hayyim
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Sunday, July 14, 2001, I visited The Church of The Little Flower
located at 2711 Indian Mound Trail, Coral Gables, FL 33134. The Church is
open for worship everyday between the hours of 6:00 AM and 9 PM.There
are three masses held daily. Two of them are in English and one of them is
held in Spanish. The English masses are held at 6:15 and 8:00 o’clock in
the morning. The Spanish mass is held at 5:00 in the evening. On Friday
and Saturday the Church customarily hosts sacramental weddings. Baptisms
are customarily held on Sunday afternoons. Sunday is said to be the first
day of the week. Sunday masses are held at 7:30, 9:00, 10:30, A.M. and
12:30, 5:30 and 7:00 PM.

Catholicism is the first sect of Christianity. Similar to Jewish and
Muslim tradition Catholicism is monotheistic. Unlike Jewish and Islamic
beliefs, Catholicism’s perception of G-d is three-dimensional. The
Catholic’s three-dimensional view of G-d is called the “Holly Trinity.” The
Holy Trinity consists of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is
the second person in the Holy Trinity. The Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus
Christ without sexual relations by the divinity of the “Holy Spirit.” Jesus
was sent to the people to be the redeemer and he did so by sacrificing his
life. The sacrifice of Jesus redeemed his followers and grants them the
opportunity to be the children of G-d. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is
believed to have been three days subsequent to his death. Other Christian
sects began to branch from Catholicism during the eleventh century
Orthodoxy.

Catholicism has come a long way since it’s earlier times, with its
diminishing dogmatic views. However in recent years the Catholic Church has
begun to regress in that very same aspect after overcoming the suppression
it had on other beliefs. Within the same geographical area Catholic
churches slightly vary from one to another based on the influence of the
parish leader. Some Churches are more conservative than other, the songs
and hymns might vary however fundamental scriptures do not change between
churches.

Having been raised in a predominantly Catholic community, on numerous
occasions I have attended and participated in various church events such as
baptisms, weddings (where I was Best Man at Church of The Little Flower for
my friend Angel Larramendi’s wedding), and common Sunday masses. On
previous occasions, because of insecurities with my own religious beliefs
in Judaism, I’ve been very reluctant to enter a place of worship with an
open mind, heart, body and soul. I attribute my unwillingness to
participate in any ceremony outside of Judaism to the fact that I was aware
of my susceptibility to being influenced by other faiths. As Sunday July
14th approached I was apprehensive about attending the services because of
my newfound promise to myself to actively participate with an open mind in
the services.

As I walked up the limestone steps last Sunday morning a sense of
holiness began to engulf me. Entering the threshold of the Church gave me
a feeling I had never had before in any place of worship. The scent of
incense, the flickering candles, the stained glass windows and the holy
water – an ambiance to which I was once indifferent – now became enticing.

This new experience padded my senses with warmth. As I observed members
of the Congregation dipping their right hand into the holy water and then
genuflecting, I followed their actions. I had always felt as though I was
distinguishable as a Jew because of my lack of ritualistic knowledge and
perhaps even because of my ethnicity. This visit to the Church, whether my
faith by origin was apparent or not no longer mattered to me. I was there
for the same reason everyone else was; because I truly wanted to establish
a connection between G-d and myself. Ultimately, I was soul-searching for
a house of worship through which I could establish a relationship with G-d.

If doing so entails my attending a Catholic Church, Muslim Mosque, or
Hindu Temple, for example, then my religious-search goal served its
purpose.

On my many visits to a Catholic church in the past I had always felt
like an outsider while at the same time I observed a sense of unity amongst
the congregants. On this most recent visit I came to realize that I was
the one to blame for the feeling of isolation. When I smiled at others,
they acknowledged me in return. I realized that the peace and nobility
within the confines of the Church was very special and meaningful. I took
advantage of the kindness of others and warmly welcomed the young couple
with children, as they entered on my left side, as though I were a regular
at the Church.

As the Priest entered the Church, the organ filled the Church with a
smooth, flowing melody resembling peace, love and holiness. The Priest
wore a green gown with golden embroidery symbolizing the period of the year
known as “ordinary time.” He was following one of the altar boys carrying
Christ embossed on a Golden Cross. As the Priest then walked down the aisle
he held a red Gospel high above his head up to the Altar. He then bowed
out of tradition and/or respect.

When the services commenced I was able to relate because the readings
were from the Old Testament. The spiritual movement throughout the Church
was so intense that I felt that I could have been awaiting a vision to
appear before me. As the Mass carried on I became isolated within my own
dimensions, feeling as free as a bird soaring above. My attention was
continuously diverted from the Mass and absorbed by the images of The
Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint Theresa, and many other intimidating
sculptures of saints. I interviewed Father Bazan of Church of the Little
Flower, and he adamantly insisted that there was absolute neither worship
nor idolatry of saints within the Catholicism. I found this hard to accept
considering the vast amount of sculptures and paintings of saints’ spread
throughout the entire Church.

Surprisingly however, I learned what it was like to pray meaningfully
for the first time in my life. As I approached the Priest to receive the
Eucharest I repeated to myself “I am consuming the Body of Christ”,
repeatedly. As the Eucharest’s texture softened in my mouth, I returned to
my original pew, kneeled down, in observance with the other congregants.

Not having yet swallowed the Eucharest, perhaps out of an inner feeling of
faith never before felt and with closed eyes, I began to pray. I prayed to
G-d for moral strength, emotional stability and well being. I encompassed
all those who are dear to me in my prayer and for the first time felt a
spiritual connection. Immediately after my “Amen” I opened my eyes and
felt dazed.

The impact that my two minutes of real prayer lasted will stay with me
and serve as a guiding light for the future. I now know that praying
entails much more than simply words to a superior being called G-d.

Praying requires invoking you’re innermost feelings to reach out to G-d. My
visit to Church of the Little Flower has been an ethereal experience
indeed!