The deliberate yet life-changing transition process from traditional to modern industrialized societies dissolved many conventional facts and institutions that grounded humanity to love and kindness. French sociologist Émile Durkheim explains that this state of anomie led to high suicide rates (Clegg, Cunha, & Rego, 2016). Thankfully, religious institutions only grew stronger, giving the faithful a place to belong, a love to requite, and kindness to share. The Catholic Church is one such institution. It is said to have been created by Jesus Christ himself when he appointed twelve apostles to continue with his work. Saint Peter, one of the disciples, was appointed as the head of the church to guide the Early Christian Community (Rhodes, 2015). Today, the pope is held in such high regard because he is known to be the sole successor of saint peter. However, even with such delicate upbringings, the Catholic Church has been seen to go awry due to sexual misconduct scandals (Böhm, Zollner, Fegert, & Liebhardt, 2014). Major lawsuits emerged in 2001 and even more between 2015 and 2018 (Plante, 2015). Although some of the accused priests were either defrocked or jailed and in some cases both, many people have lost faith in the institution. This trend was worsened by the explicit knowledge of the underpinning beliefs of the institution. Notably, the Catholic Church vigorously emphasizes emulating Jesus Christ. Obviously, sexual misconduct does not favor the external view of the church, and many people are suspicious of its teachings to date. The Saint Augustine of Canterbury Roman Catholic Church located at 80Shoreham Dr, Nortyork, ON M3N IS9, Canada (“St. Augustine of Canterbury,” n.d.). Basing on my firsthand encounter, the Catholic Church still upholds the emulation of Jesus in its sermons.
I visited the Saint Augustine of Canterbury Roman Catholic Church on Sunday, November 3rd, 2019. The service was conducted in English. Using the ethnographic study design, I noted that the church was attended by diverse people, who emulated Jesus in their interactions with children and adults. Firstly, the Bishop led his procession in carrying children who disrupted the service. Secondly, the congregation supplicate to God in kneeling and speaking in tongues. Thirdly, many church members spoke kindly to one another and visitors. Finally, an interview with the priest provided insights into the church’s stand regarding the confirmed misconduct claims. The entire activity showed that the Saint Augustine of Canterbury Roman Catholic Church still emulated Jesus in its teachings.
The procession was probably the longest event of the entire Sunday session. Bishop Joe Signorelli I.V. entered with priest Dominic who carried the evangelism and placed it on the altar. Other than these two, the procession included a crucifier, a 12-year-old girl. As the priest and Bishop walked to the altar, the Congregation joined the procession singing the Hosea hymn, which asks people to come back to God. Occasionally, young children would leisurely walk or run into the procession, and the priest or the procession members would hold them by hand or carry them. Upon reaching the altar, however, the parents of three children who had joined the procession came forward to collect them.
At the Altar
Candles were randomly placed at different places in the church, but the incense was burnt at the altar. Upon approaching the altar, the Bishop bowed his head in supplication. The entire congregation also bowed and mumbled prayers. Before sitting down, the Bishop kissed the altar and led the faithful in making the sign of the cross, saying “in the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit.” He then proceeded to greet the assembly saying ‘hello, peace be with you.” The members responded almost spontaneously with “Hi, peace be unto you too.” After the mumbles died out, the Bishop led the congregation in practicing the penitential act, where the priest prayed to absolve all the sins of the faithful. Later, the church recited Kyrie, Eleison, a chant the Catholics say to show repentance and the need for mercy from God (Crocker & Bjork, 2017). The priest then led the congregation in singing the Gloria in Excelsis, a hymn that praises God (Diaconu 2015). Immediately afterward, the service became solemn as the members were led to a one-minute silence to acknowledge the presence of God in their midst.
Liturgy of the Word
The Bishop then led the congregation in three readings. However, the Priest only read the first one, which came from the Old Testament’s additional book of Wisdom 11:22 and 12:2. The reading was completed with the phrase “The word of the Lord.” The congregation responded with “Thanks to the Lord.” The second reading came from the book of Thessalonians, and its completion was treated as the first.
At this point, the faithful joined the choir in singing the Alleluia. I noticed that the choir soloist interwoven the two readings into the song. The last reading was most interesting. Firstly, the congregation arose for the reading, which came from the Gospel of Luke 19:1-10. Secondly, this reading, unlike the other two, was expounded in detail. The Bishop used the two previous readings to explain the final one. After the explanation, he said, “the gospel of the Lord,” and the congregation responded, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.”
Later, the faithful participated in reciting the Nicene Creed. Notably, it prophesies the Christian belief of God (Kelly, 2014). As the congregation recited it, I noted that different ethnicities, although the unanimous voice drowned their accents. There were Africans, Americans, and Asians who probably visited Canada as tourists. This part of the liturgy concluded with prayers, where the Bishop told the congregation to pray that God guides them to live honorable lives lest they end up like Zacchaeus, the tax collector from the book of Luke.
Liturgy of the Eucharist
The Catholic Church observes various traditions that are practiced in every service. For instance, the Roman Catholic partake the Eucharist, which is the most important aspect of the mass (“Catechism of the Catholic Church,” n.d.; Nikolay, 2016). It was no different at the Saint Augustine of Canterbury Roman Catholic. The ordained priest sanctified bread and wine to represent the body and blood of Jesus Christ (McCallion & Ligas, 2018). After the readings, the priest started by placing white linen on the altar table. Soon after, the Bishop took the bread and wine and made two prayers for each item. The first prayer was inaudible. The congregation responded to the second with “blessed be the Lord forever.” At this juncture, the Bishop washed his hands and asked the faithful to pray that God may accept the sacrifice presented at the altar. Some of the members knelt as they prayed, and one sited by my side spoke in tongues. After one minute or so, the Bishop led the congregation in saying the eucharist prayer. Notably, the eucharist prayer begins with an opening dialogue of the following manner (Glover, 2016).
Priest: The Lord be with you.
Brethren: and also, with you (Irwin, 2018).
Afterward, the priest tells the audience to lift their hearts to the lord. To which they respond “We lift them up to the Lord” (Hancock, 2014). At this moment, the Bishop lifted the two items each at a time and rung a consecrated bell. The church members joined in taking the bread and wine. The Bishop then told the faithful to go and spread the word of God, and they responded by saying, “Thanks be to God.” Singing a song led by the choir, the faithful departed only to assemble outside the church, where they hugged each other. Out there, I noticed some congregation members ask some Asians whether they planned to stick around the church. Further, I noted that the priest interacted with people he thought were new to the church. For example, he asked me if I enjoyed the sermon and whether it attracted youths my age. At an earshot, I heard one member of the choir, a beautiful woman, ask some visitors if they fancied joining the choir. The service was quite orderly and people were caring and loving.
Although the conduct of one Catholic Church may not reflect the behavior of another, Saint Augustine of Canterbury Roman Catholic Church showed that it emulates Jesus’s conduct in its teaching and association with people. Firstly, the ordained members were kind to children who played during the procession. Secondly, the church leaders and congregation supplicated honestly to God by kneeling and speaking in tongues. Besides, both the priest and church members cared delicately for the visitors. These qualities show that Christians around Canada should not doubt the teachings and conduct of Saint Augustine of Canterbury Roman Catholic Church. The church is still deeply rooted in the life and behavior of Jesus Christ.
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