My Catholic Experience

-by Elaine@hymnserve.com   hs-home-01

It was a venerable neighborhood Catholic church in Wichita and my first paid organ position after finishing college.  

For a person raised in the evangelical tradition, it was very much a new experience.  In my growing up years, we gave wide berth to anything Catholic.  There was a loud bell like the recess bell at school that would sound out and give me a start, signaling when the bread and wine was actually turning into the blood and body of Jesus.  The young director would roll his eyes when the priest was singing knowing how impossible it was for the choir to get the correct pitch from his singing and continue on through the liturgy.  There was a big drape hiding the statue of Jesus at the front during Lent, so that on Easter Morning it would be triumphantly removed.  This had to be good for the children to help dramatize our Lord’s resurrection, I thought.

Every Sunday the Latin was sung and the same words were used.  They would ask for mercy from God….  Kyrie eleison, (Lord have mercy), Christe eleison, (Christ have mercy). I had studied the parts of the Mass, the Kyrie, the Gloria, and all.   Even as the statues in the darkened church when no one else was around felt a bit spooky to me, neither had we put that much emphasis on asking for mercy from God in my growing up years.   However, this time at the Catholic church was to add an important dimension to my life experience.

The congregation was in the throes of transition at that time, changing from Latin to English for the Mass and learning new music…hymns.    The young choir director would rush downstairs on Sunday mornings before Mass began and lead the congregation in the hymn they would be singing that day.  They never sang hymns before…that was a Protestant thing.   The favorite new hymn and best standby for the congregation was Holy, Holy, Holy.  They sang it often.

Since I was invited to join them downstairs for weekly coffee after Mass, I began to know the people more personally.  I observed what a struggle it was to make this transition, especially one dear gray-haired woman.  I felt a lot of compassion for them, and was very sympathetic with their decision to move toward the opposite spectrum of Christianity for the sake of more unity among us.  After all, if the early Christians had not written down the scriptures by hand at candlelight, preserved them, and kept the faith alive, I, myself, would never have known the story of Jesus.

One Sunday morning, the choir was singing one of their a capella parts of the Mass.  I was sitting over at the side there in the balcony.  As I listened to their singing, I felt something familiar in this unfamiliar surrounding.  The warmth of God’s Spirit just settled down right there all around me.  This was a big surprise to me.   I never expected to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit here in this place.  

So this was a big lesson for me.  God’s Spirit can flow here as I listen to the music of the liturgy.  This was the beginning of my peeking around the huge wall that I thought separated me from other denominations, only to find that there wasn’t a wall there at all.  God’s Spirit lights in many places, at the mall, driving in a car, anywhere.  It flies away just as easily, like a gentle dove.  It won’t stay where there is discord in the heart, preferring love, peace, joy, all those fruits of the Spirit.

After the Catholic Church, I went on to work in the Baptist, Methodist, Congregational Christian (Disciples of Christ), Greek Orthodox, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Christian Science, and others I may have left out.   It has all been to my benefit, for I know now that there are wonderful Christians implanted everywhere.  They are like yeast in bread, and are enmeshed amongst all types of humanity shining there for all the world to see, adding salt to a tasteless world.

The favorite first hymn of the dear Catholics in Wichita is highlighted here, Holy, Holy, Holy.

Holy, holy, holy!  Lord God Almighty!

Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.

Holy, holy, holy!  Merciful and mighty,

God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy!  All the saints adore thee

casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;

cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,

which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy!  Though the darkness hide thee,

though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,

only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,

perfect in power, in love and purity.

Holy, holy, holy!  Lord God Almighty!

All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.

Holy, holy, holy!  Merciful and mighty,

God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

– Elaine@hymnserve.com Elaine is the founder of hymnserve.com.  Her website provides downloadable hymn accompaniments for congregations, small groups and individuals.

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10 thoughts on “My Catholic Experience

  1. Mary Jo

    Being raised Catholic, I was able to sing this hymn while reading the words you provided. It came back to me instantly! Took me right back to the pew in our small Catholic church where my family attended.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity « Prepare for Mass

  3. Dixie Merrill

    Precious Elaine, when are you going to put these wonderful hymn stories with the hymns in a book? They are inspiring and bring such a warm sense of God’s eternal presence in every style of church and worship that honors Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Love love love them! You continue to be in my love and prayers

    Reply
  4. elaine@hymnserve.com Post author

    We know it is true, don’t we Dixie. Hearing from you brings to mind not so long ago when I visited your Grief Class at Lakeside. Your skill and sensitivity with those dealing with grief and loss is so valuable. And then all your other projects! We need to have a cup of tea and visit again.

    Reply
    1. elaine@hymnserve.com Post author

      Hi Carolyn, There are some things we know about God, but most of it we don’t really comprehend. What we like so much are the small learning experiences we have along the way when they shed light on who he is and what he is like.

      Reply
  5. Carolyn

    God is with his people, and they are everywhere. I am thankful that God is not confined to a denominational box.

    Reply
  6. Pingback: My Catholic Experience | Hymns That Help | Worship Leaders

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