Monday, December 16, 2013

Praying in Waikiki

While we are talking about prayer and Hawaii, (last post), I must talk about Catholic Cathedrals.  Whenever we are downtown in a large American city and it happens to be a Sunday, it seems not so simple to get to a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod church, but a huge Catholic Cathedral is at hand.  So it was in San Francisco, for example, and so  it was in Honolulu--right on Waikiki beach.  In Hawaii it also happens that the time zone is three hours behind Edmonton's, so that one ends up getting early, even against one's wishes, to see sunrises,  finely chiseled demi-gods rise out of the ocean after their first swim of the day, and notice that there is already a Catholic mass at 6:00 or 7:00 AM.  The gate is open and you can walk on the driveway to get to the open church.

What I want to relate is that a big Catholic church seems to be always open for worshipers and that there seem to be many services.  I recall, too, from long ago, that in my little Bavarian village, when we were waiting for public transport to get to the larger city for grammar school/ gymnasium, the older women were making their way to church at that hour for daily mass.

In the large Catholic churches, we note, too, that there always seems to be opportunity for confession and absolution;  sometimes one can see people lined up for this.  Usually, we only see this in some sort of sinister movie, with someone plotting murder or villains getting absolution before they head out for an evil deed, if they are not killing someone in a confessional.  Since I hail from Bavaria, which is super-Catholic, and having attended Catholic school, this sort of thing is not new to me, but the fact is impressing itself on me that I  meet this everywhere on my travels.

And it makes me a little jealous.  Why aren't our churches open all the time so we can go in and pray?  Why are there no posted times for confession and absolution?

I did go into the church on my early morning ambling and I did go and pray, there.  I even genuflected the way the other people did.  It seems like a good and right thing to do.--In Europe we were taught to curtsy and to bow when we met people.  There can be no theological difficulty with making a gesture toward the big cross in the front.  (I wouldn't have done it if it had been a Madonna in the front which can also happen in a Catholic church.  This sort of thing makes me want to leave, not stay.  Once we were in Syracuse on Sicily and there is found an ancient Greek temple, with Doric columns, converted to Christian church; but the whole edifice was for Mary and this is what it said on top of the front.  We had never seen quite such a strange thing before.)

Nevertheless, the whole business of the availability of time and space and planned services adds something in the way of a practice of piety.  The opportunity to just come into some quiet place and pray is a real gift to be relished.  We could use more of it.

I am also thinking, what a blessing it is for older people to have a reason to get up in the morning, walk to church, sing and pray, receive the sacrament and get busy with some community work, as you can see them do, planning meals for the homeless, and so on.

When you come out of the church in Waikiki and you have been thus refreshed, you walk more serenely and contently.  It strikes you as strange that you should be shopping, and buying and consuming every step of the way.  This reminds me of Jesus' zealousness for the temple.  It is a house of prayer, not for buying and selling and cheating while you are at it. -- You can only serve one master.

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