Because Going To Mass On Vacation Is Easy

One of the neatest things about being Catholic is that I can go to Mass anywhere in the world and feel comfortable. I never felt that way beforehand. Growing up as a non-denominational Christian, we visited other churches rarely and when we did, it felt weird.

As a result, when on vacation we just skipped church. We didn’t know anyone, and we really weren’t missing anything except a sermon and who knew if that was going to be any good? When visiting relatives, if it happened to be a Sunday, we would sometimes attend with them, so there was a modicum of safety from being singled out as potential new members.

But if we didn’t know anyone? Nope. What was the point? We were just passing through and the fellowship of our local church would be absent and we would be like strangers and stick out like sore thumbs.

Now that I’m a Catholic, I love visiting other parishes! And I know that the fellowship of our home parish community is not the big draw anyway. The big draw is Christ and His Presence in the Eucharist. We don’t need to know anyone locally because the most important Person there knows us backwards and forwards.

The photograph above is of St. Peter Claver Church in Simi Valley, California. Full disclosure: we attended this parish the other night with my wife’s family for Simbang Gabi, a Filipino Advent Vigil Mass traditionally held before Christmas. And thanks to my in-laws, we enjoyed a catered dinner complete with Filipino dishes with about 200 of our new parish “friends.” Neat!

The second photograph is of the Blessed Sacrament Parish in Seattle, Washington. We attended services there this past summer when I attended a conference in that city. Run by Dominican Friars, it featured a homily given by someone dressed like St. Anthony of Padua.

Aside from a few nuances here or there, the Mass follows the same format as in our home parish, and you can count on that worldwide. Dominicans are known for their skills as preachers, so the homily was quite good too.

I have had friends who are not Catholic ask me about visiting a Catholic Church. I’ve told them that it is a very comfortable experience because if you don’t call any attention to yourself, no one will bother you. Heck, for all they know you are a super-devout contemplative so engrossed in your prayer life that they wouldn’t think of bothering you. Or if you are the outgoing type, you’d probably be welcomed like a long-lost family member and given the grand tour of the building. Now that is hospitality!

The last photograph is of St. James Cathedral in Seattle. When my family and I attended mass here, we were asked if we would bring up the gifts of bread and wine that would become the Blessed Sacrament. I said the only thing I could say: Absolutely! Yes!

Did we know where to stand or any other particulars? No. Did we know anyone there? Not a soul, except Our Lord. And when the time came for us to present the Gifts, all went well and without a hitch. What a blessing to have even been asked!

And that is how it is when we are on vacation on the West Coast now. We go to Church as a family. We’ve even been late for the English-speaking Mass and sat through a Spanish Mass before. Did I understand the words in the liturgy and homily? No. But everything that really matters we understood just fine.

This is yet another of the graces and benefits of belonging to the largest Christian Church in the world. Thanks be to God.

"Vaya con Dios, Leonard; Rest in Peace."

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  • I wholeheartedly agree Frank. Whenever I go to mass away from hope I am reminded that I am part of a worldwide family of believers and that we belong to 'one universal and apostolic church'. I wrote a blog post about it a couple of months ago.

  • I used to travel a lot for my job. While away, I would always ask at the hotel desk for a list of local churches. (Of course, this is pre-internet. Its a lot easier to plan now!) On more than one occasion, the hotel clerk would say to my "Oh, you want a Catholic church". When I asked how they knew, they would tell me "Oh, you're the only people that every ask."

  • Glad to see I'm not alone again! And ducttape…talk about "sticktoitivness"! LOL.

  • +JMJ+Have you ever heard Mass in another language (not counting Latin, of course)? The only time that ever happens to me is when I hear Mass on vacation . . . and yet I always know exactly what to do when the collection basket comes around! =D

  • Webster Bull

    Yes, Katie and I heard mass in Irish when we were in the west of Ireland last year. In a fishing village where the ceiling of the nave was designed to look like an inverted fishing dory. Very moving, also very confusing! 🙂

  • Enbrethiliel: Yes, at the Spainish Mass we attended I understood that part too!And thanks for giving me a new riddle to solve. +JMJ+ stands for the Holy Family…n'est-ce pas?

  • Anonymous

    We've been fortunate enough to have attended Mass in in Churches large and small in our travels and whether it was a small parish in Pennsylvania or in the midst of the grandeur of Westminister Cathedral it is a comfort to know that Mass and the Sacraments are available everywhere. That was an advantage of the Latin mass because then even the language of the Liturgy was universal. This past September while visiting our son at Umass we heard Mass in the chapel of the Newman Center and it was a remarkable experience. The gymnasium sized chapel was packed full and the attendees were the most diverse group I think I've ever been seated. with. I should of realized that in a large university setting it wouldn't be unusual for there to be such an international congregation but it did surprise me at first and then I felt pride and joy at the gift of being a Catholic and in the presence of worshippers from from so many countries and states. The other aspect of attending Mass while away is the appreciation it helps to engender for our home parish – St. Mary's Star of the Sea. We are blessed and fortunate.

  • Webster Bull

    Anonymous, I have no idea who you are and don't need to. It's just touching to know that fellow parishioners at SMSS are reading this blog, because like you I have a tremendous appreciation for our parish, our priest, and the many many caring, thoughtful Catholics who worship there with me every week.

  • +JMJ+Frank: That's right! "JMJ" stands for Jesus, Mary and Joseph. =)

  • cathyf

    Are you sure those were Dominicans in Seattle? St. Anthony of Padua was a Franciscan, and Dominicans generally wear black and white habits, while Franciscans wear brown.Oh, and Dominicans write +JMJD+across the tops of their papers. Because they have promoted St. Dominic into the Holy Family!

  • Yes, you can go to Mass anywhere in the world — and not only Mass, Confession as well. Being able to go to Confession at St. Peter's Basilica, as well as attend Mass there in the presence of St. Peter and so many of the popes, is quite an experience. So what if the Mass was in Italian? (Thankfully, they have confessions in many different languages, including English.)I was even able to go to Mass at the Rome Airport just before getting on the plane to come home.But the thing is, not only are we "allowed" to go to Mass in any Catholic parish church, in a very real sense, that particular church is our church too. Being members of the universal Church, we are, in a sense, members of each of those individual churches as well. Each one of them is "our home."

  • @cathyf: I have a picture of the sign for that parish which says "Blessed Sacrament Parish" and under in smaller letters "Dominican Friars".Other than that, this rookie has no idea. 😉

  • @flexo: Thanks for your comment and a hearty Amen to your last paragraph.

  • Anonymous

    I travel extensively and have been to Mass in many a language I do not understand. More than the collection basket it is indeed a great comfort to know the rhythms, gestures and moments of the Liturgy even in the most unusual of languages. It is at times like that when I appreciate what those blessed to hear St Peter on that first Pentecost must have experienced.

  • Blessed Sacrament is a Dominican parish, so either the homilist was impersonating the Franciscan saint (and THAT would be a stretch! [see all the various fights between OPs and OFMs] or you missed out on who he was.And you guys… "heard Mass"? Honestly. One does not "hear Mass" unless the radio is on in the other room.