Over the Christmas break, I was able to attend Mass at my childhood parish, St. Patrick’s in Rockville, Maryland.
My parents helped build the place back in the mid-1960s, and it was there that I first donned a cassock and surplice and served as an altar boy some 45 years ago. The church was, and is, something lovely to behold—particularly for a post-Vatican II suburban parish. (You can read its colorful history here.) I remember being in awe of it when I was a child. The last time I spent much time there was 20 years ago, for my mother’s funeral. It’s changed a lot since then.
They’ve added a rectory…
…and a parish school.
But some of the most dramatic alterations have happened inside the church. The most striking is on the wall behind the altar.
But in the late 1960s, it held a glittering mosaic of the resurrected Christ—an image both beautiful and uplifting. That mosaic also gave the stark interior a burst of color and energy. When the church was completed, there were no stained glass windows—just frosted pale green glass; that mosaic was a focal point, radiating life and light. I’m happy to report it is still a part of the church building. The mosaic now hangs on an outside wall, where it greets travelers along Norbeck Road.
There are other changes, of course: the grey and white marble altar rails (which perfectly matched the marble of the altar) are long gone; the modern box-like tabernacle that stood off to one side has been replaced by a more ornate one behind the altar. They’ve also installed a huge stained glass window at the entrance, depicting St. Patrick.
And they’ve built a massive bell tower outside, which rings a few moments before Mass and summons the people to worship.
Despite all these changes, I was pleased to see one thing is still the same: the Nativity scene. It’s the same one I remember from my youth, and rests on the edge of the sanctuary under a star suspended from the ceiling.