I would first like to apologize for the long gap since my last post. Settling into my new life here has kept me busy these past two months (crazy, I know), and finding the time to just sit down and write has been nearly impossible.
Now that I’m making time, I’m going to do something a bit different from my first two entries. Instead of exploring overall questions about my faith, I’m going to fill you in about my experience of the Mass here because, to say the least, it’s very different.
I suppose the first thing that I noticed upon entering the church here was the lack of youth. Maybe I was spoiled at Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport by the number of teenagers who attended Mass every week, but I can honestly say that every time I’ve gone to Mass in Trieste, I’ve been the youngest one at “my church” by a good 15 years. Seriously. There aren’t even any parents with crying children! A lot of other aspects found in the Mass in America are missing here:
Music. That’s probably one of the things I miss most. Sure, there are the occasional times when an organ will play a slightly awkward polka tune, but for the most part the Mass is completely quiet except for the priest’s voice. The only time that this hasn’t been the case is when I had the chance to attend a confirmation Mass at a different church (located near my “grandparents’ ” house). There was lively music with lyrics and a cantor leading the congregation in song. It was probably the best Mass I’ve experienced in two months — amazing what music can do!
Transitions. I have been searching for the right word to describe how the entire Mass experience feels, and all I can come up with is “choppy.” There are no smooth transitions between parts of the Mass or small pauses to allow time to reflect on what just occurred. Everything just happens in a quick sequence and I feel as though I don’t have time to breathe. Maybe that’s slightly dramatic, but hopefully you get the idea.
Communion. A very different experience. You know the lines that we automatically form to receive Communion? Working from the front to the back? Well, that does not exist here. The second the priest leaves the altar area anyone who wants to receive Communion just sprints to the front. And, surprisingly, not too many people actually choose to receive, which confuses me because I thought that Communion was a focal point of the Mass. Oh, and the whole “Blood of Christ” aspect of Communion isn’t available to the public. It reminds me of Mass at school when only the priest is allowed to drink from the cup.
Organization. Minimal. I’m not sure why, but no one ever seems to know when to stand, sit, kneel, etc., which is very different from the “routine” I had grown used to back home.
I apologize for complaining about how Mass is celebrated here in Italy; I just wanted to share my personal shock at how different things are here. Although I have attended Masses at other churches in different areas of the United States and seen some differences, nothing had prepared me for this. Although I don’t necessarily get that “community feeling” like I do back home, I am extremely thankful to be able to attend a Catholic Church here every week and even more thankful that my host parents go with me.
I can’t even express to you how blessed I feel to be here. Emotional breakdowns aside, these past two months have allowed me to grow in ways I didn’t imagine was possible. I have been stretched to try new things, forced to step outside my comfort zone, and have grown closer to God with every obstacle.
And I would like to leave you with a short story. Here in Trieste most of the schools offer a religion class once a week. It’s optional. And so out of my class of 20, only four (including me) are taking the course. It’s great because it’s people who want to be there, but I feel really bad for the teacher; he has only four teenage girls in the class and one of them is a confused American who doesn’t speak Italian (a.k.a., me)! But anyway, last week he gave us a little activity to do in class. The assignment he gave the other students was more complicated, but he told me to write about what my faith means to me. So I wrote a few sentences in English and tried to translate them the best I could. And when my turn to speak arrived, all I could manage was: “My faith is my rock, my foundation.” In Italian (I hope): “La mia fede è la mia roccia, mia fondazione.” Yup. That was the extent of my Italian skills. And even though it’s simple, it’s true. In these two short months I’ve discovered how important my faith is to me. That God is the one “person” who I’ll never be without, no matter how far away from home I am.
I hope this post finds all of you well!
Your Sister in Christ,