Friday, March 15, 2013

Quick Takes, Cathedral Noise Edition

We live less than two blocks from our diocese's Cathedral.  It is a very beautiful building in a city of not-very-beautiful buildings.  Yes, we have lovely rocks and sand dunes nearby, but our man-made structures are...simple.  (remember: this is Reservation area---not pretty.)

Anyway, one of the perks of living near the Cathedral is that we hear the bells chime, on the hour, every hour from 8 am until 6 pm.  It is a lovely sound and I remember that I felt sorry for a friend who lives in a faraway neighborhood when she admitted that she did not even know there was a Cathedral in town, nor that it had a bell tower.* 


If only the liturgical music was as beautiful as the bells.  It is not.**  The acoustics are wonderful and I once heard a concert performed by highschoolers from a private Protestant school that was really fantastic.  If only they attended regularly... 

Another time, I heard a local parishioner who is a professional opera singer rehearsing for a funeral Mass.  He was colorful, in his cowboy boots and his waxed mustache, and his was the most beautiful singing I have heard in a long time.  Too bad for us, he's not a Sunday regular in the choir.

Christmas Children's Choir, with interior partial view of the Cathedral
(not as good performers as that opera singer, but
WAY high on the cuteness scale)

Outside of concerts, Masses and funerals, the Cathedral sees a lot of foot traffic.  The doors are unlocked for a good portion of each day and people pop in to pray when they can.  Sometimes they stay two minutes, and sometimes much longer.  Strangely, the minority Filipino population in town seems to be carry the largest number of spontaneous pray-ers (according to my completely unscientific calculations and observations).


It is a rare occasion to find the Cathedral completely empty.  Someone is usually on their way in to pray, or they are cleaning, or one of the priests is setting up for a special occasion Mass, or something. 

When I first moved here, the lady in charge of maintenance was a very quiet middle-aged woman who clearly loved her job.  She would pause while mopping and flop down on the pew with a loud sigh, pray quietly (though not silently) and then stand up and get back to work.  I chatted with her once in awhile but I am sorry to say that I did not notice her absence for several months.  When I finally inquired, I learned that due to complications of a more chronic condition, she had to undergo an amputation and is now unable to work.  Sadly, no one I spoke to knew how she was supporting herself.

Recently they have had to keep the doors locked during daytime hours because of trouble with a local homeless man.  Among the list of his "offenses:" he pretends to pray while charging his cellphone (the horror!).  I know him a little and by reputation; he is harmless but somewhat of a nuisance.  He also makes calls inside the building but I was at Mass one day when a nun took a call while still in the pew so he is not the only one.

In early December, my kids and I spent most of a Saturday helping with the Christmas decorating. There were boxes and artificial trees and lights strewn everywhere and folks wandering around and plenty of hubbub.  Mid-afternoon, a middle-aged man came in the side door and stood before the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to pray.  He was clearly surprised to find so many other people in the church at that hour and seemed a little distracted, looking around and hesitating, before walking back outside. 

But a few minutes later he returned, with a guitar strapped on and a harmonica on a bar mount.  He resumed his place in front of La Virgen and played and sang his song.  A bunch of kids and their tinsel weren't going to get in his way.


There seems to be a problem with the sound system at the Cathedral over the last couple of weeks.  It was so faint at first that I wondered if I was the only one who noticed it, but in recent days it has become much louder.  There is a radio station that plays over the loudspeakers.  And not quiet news radio, either.  It's a country music station, that also broadcasts Native music and Navajo talk shows.  Basically, as long as someone is reading or speaking, you can't hear it, but at all the key moments--the silent prayer after the homily or Communion and all those other moments when we are meant to be reverent and meditative, all we can hear are the twangy guitars or banjos of 94.7 FM.

(more 'takes' at Jen's)

* The Cathedral is probably the prettiest building for several hundred miles, period.  There are very few public spaces that are beautiful in these parts and although I have not visited all of the buildings and churches in the vicinity, I feel confident saying this. My Protestant friends agree and have often express their happiness at any excuse to visit (weddings or other occasions).
** no doubt this is why I feel the need to search Youtube for songs I like and then link to them on this blog.

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