The pews aren’t always softer on the other side

Note: This column appears in the 3/26 issue of The Glendale Star and the 3/27 issue of the Peoria Times

My wife and I are Catholic. We’ve been attending St. Thomas More in Glendale since we moved here, but never officially signed on to be parishioners.

Why? Well, to be honest, we were holding out. For one thing, St. Thomas More is about 35 minutes from our house in Peoria. Plus, the Masses themselves are long, making what’s supposed to be (in our minds) a 50-minute mass an over two-hour-long event. The distance also makes it nearly impossible to attend Mass during the week for any other Holy Days, which we’re rarely aware of anyway. (There are few things more guilt-inducing than when either of us call our saintly mothers back home only to find that they just returned back from Mass because today is, after all, the Feast of Saint Agnes of Bohemia, yet we are home watching American Idol.)

So while we attended Mass each week, we were all the while waiting for a new Catholic Church to pop up closer to our house, where they don’t sing every verse of every song and you don’t have to hold hands during the Our Father.

This has not happened. That it ever will is starting to feel far-fetched. But we have been able to explore some other options in the meantime. For example, we did try attending a different church that was a similar distance away in a different direction. I also got the opportunity to attend Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica in Phoenix a couple of months ago.

The one church, well…didn’t exactly set our worlds on fire. (We were the youngest people there. By 50 years.) And while St. Mary’s was beautiful, the homily I heard was blah (yes, I judged the oldest church in Phoenix based on one sermon), and I couldn’t bend over for three weeks after sitting in the pews there.

So a funny thing happened on our journey to find a new church: we started to appreciate the one we had been going to all along. We began saying things like, “That’s not how they do it at St. Thomas,” and “Why are there dentures in this collection basket?” and “Wake up -- we’re in church!”

We began to realize that St. Thomas More, though not perfect by our idealistic standards, had everything that was really important to us. We feel welcome there, the pastor is fantastic, and every week we walk away stronger in our faith. (There’s also a Dunkin Donuts nearby. I’m just saying.) When our family comes to visit us, we take them to St. Thomas More for church, because that is where they expect to go. We’re starting to know our fellow churchgoers as well, like the couple who always winds up sitting behind us and the guy who goes up and down the aisles to shake hands during the Sign of Peace. And people know us, too. As “the couple who refuses to hold hands during the Our Father.” But still. They know us.

Last week during Mass they made an announcement inviting any visitors to sign up and become parishioners. My wife and I both looked at each other and decided it’s about time. After all, it doesn’t look like anything is “popping up” closer to our house. And even if something did, who knows if it would be as fulfilling. We plan on becoming parishioners, officially, this week. I think St. Agnes will be proud. St. Thomas, too, of course. I think they are friends. I’ll have to ask my mom.


Steve Raml said…
Mike –
Welcome to St. Thomas More!

We may be guilty of the sin of pride, but we like to think we’re unique – and we’re glad you thought so, too. We’re thrilled you took the time to write about your experience with us on your blog and in the Star.

If you’re driving 35 minutes to come to mass, I suspect you’re passing a couple Catholic churches along the way. So you’re making quite a commitment to join us on Sunday morning, and we appreciate it.

Yes, St. Thomas is your friend, and your mom will be proud.

Steve Raml
Director of Liturgy&Music
PS – I don’t get to hold hands at the Our Father, ‘cuz I’ve usually got a guitar in mine.
mkenny59 said…
Thanks Steve! We see you every week at church and you do a fantastic job! I'll make it a point to say Hi next time I see you. Thanks again for the feedback, and for the welcome...
Anna said…
Mike, so happy to read that you & your lovely wife have become members of St. Thomas. It was the right thing to do. You have just extended your spiritual family. How wonderful. Because of our faith we all need a parish church to belong. On our last visit I felt very comfortable & welcomed at St. Thomas & it felt wonderful. Great article