A Few Surprises

On the drive from the airport last Wednesday, my brother detoured us through our old neighborhood. A few things surprised me.

First, the trees are back. When we moved into our house in 1967, the street was shaded by several stately elm trees. The next summer they were all gone, all except one black sheep sugar maple near the school at the far end of the block. Brown leaves dropping in May, and boo on Dutch Elm Disease. Maples were planted to replace, and those were vandalized. Eventually their replacements grew to house-height. Chapin Street was nicely shaded, with leaves just beginning to change color.

The parish church where I was baptized is now houses a Pentecostal community for worship. Urban flight to the suburbs, and no evangelization to make up for people like me who moved away for a career. When I became a Catholic, the Sunday Mass schedule was 7:15, 8:30, 9:45, 11:00, and 12:15. Six Masses on a weekend to zero in two generations. Make of that what you will.

The church on the other side of the park from my sister’s house is one of three campuses as part of a new merged parish for the suburb that separates the city from Lake Ontario. My brother was picking me up for a sailing adventure yesterday, so I went to the 8am Mass, and wondered if it would be like the old 7:15 Mass at St Andrew’s–no music. I was surprised to find a competent ensemble of piano and five (!) guitars accompanying a small women’s chorus.

I’m not a fan of metrical hymnody during Communion, but they led this song, which is new to me, and people sang it fairly well. I was the only one who brought my book into the procession. I was also surprised they altered the meter on David Haas’ “We Are Called,” playing it in cut time rather than as a gospel waltz.

The young associate presiding at Mass had a pleasant singing voice for the dialogues and the preface. I’m not sure I like elevating one part of the Eucharistic Prayer to priest singing and leaving the others alone. That’s my main objection to the old Mass of Creation, by the way. The homily had a good lead-in, but the idea stumbled when the priest insisted on equating the Kingdom of God with heaven. Several times. He also talked about the main purpose of the Christian is to be saved, which, while important, is not quite the mission we are given in the Gospels. Our mission is to preach to the nations. The distant ends of the universe, if you will. Christ takes care of salvation.

I feel particularly sensitive and attuned to things this week. I see and hear a lot more of my parents as I watch my brother’s interaction with his children and my sister’s care for our mother. Some good, some not so good. I’ve found myself slipping into an old pattern or two: some good, some not so good.

I also see some growth. My brother, when younger, was much into cars and racing and going fast. Sailing seems to have taken an edge off him. He has the competitiveness still, of course. But a fun afternoon regatta in very light wind would not have held his interest a few decades ago. He took great pleasure in making the best of what seemed to be a calm day and navigating a course with a crew not entirely a well-oiled machine.

Blogging will continue to be light as the month draws to an end.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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5 Responses to A Few Surprises

  1. Hi Todd, I have been praying for you on your journey, but have not had a chance to comment. I am also trying to imagine where you are, not that I know all the parishes in Rochester so well.

    Peace and many prayers.

  2. Atheist Max says:

    Todd, Thank you for being so generous and sharing your journey so openly. Going home can be a mixed bag of feelings. But it is wonderful to grow and to be able to reflect on things.
    Best wishes.

  3. Bari Colombari says:

    I bring to mind the quip of a friend, “Hometown is that one place on the face of the earth that looks best in the rearview mirror as you leave!”
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and impressions.
    Indeed, “some good, some not so good.”

  4. Liam says:


    I am glad for you that you’ve had the opportunity to return to Rochester, even if the circumstances for it are not what you’d prefer. When I visited my family in the area, I don’t frequently get much to the north wards of Rochester, for reasons you’d probably understand, though I do get around.

    If you have a chance to go to the Strong Museum, do so. It’s really a superb museum, one of the very best in the USA in my estimation. I expected to be underwhelmed (a museum of toys and play, hmm) but was blown away on my most recent visit with how they’ve built, grown and curated the collection.

  5. Liam says:

    PS: Something very different from the lovely neo-Romanesque (I much prefer that style to neo-Gothic) of what I take to be your former parish church, it should be noted that Rochester has had some fine modern church architecture, too. Sadly this example closed in 2010, but this is one of the finest examples of a modern Catholic parish church – Byzantine-inspired, to be sure- I can recall, the former St Thomas the Apostle parish in Irondequoit – I love sail vaults like these, as they tend to be acoustically helpful for active participation:

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