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Christian Experience of San Francisco St. Patrick Church Essay

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Updated: Mar 3rd, 2021

Introduction

I attended a Sunday church service at St. Patrick Church, which is located on 756 Mission Street in San Francisco. This occasion was my maiden visit to any Catholic Church establishment, and thus it was a new and exciting experience. I was keen to note the different practices that happen during the service. I noted several practices, but the Holy Communion or simply the Mass caught my attention. Therefore, this paper will explore the practice of Holy Communion in the Catholic Church.

The congregation’s tradition

As aforementioned, I had never visited any Catholic Church congregation before, and thus I had to consult the person seated next to me from time to time in a bid to understand this practice. I saw a man enter the church using a covered door right in front of the building. Another man accompanied the first person, and I later learned that the two were a deacon and a priest respectively. My seatmate alerted me that it was time for the Mass.

On the pulpit were several other people, whom I learned were servers on the altar. The priest made what appeared as a cross sign on his chest before greeting the congregants. He uttered some words, which I understand was the confession and absolution. The congregation then recited a well-choreographed piece titled ‘lord, have mercy’ before concluding with another one known as ‘glory to God in the highest.’ Finally, the session ended with a collective prayer from everyone within the church building. My seatmate informed me that the just-ended session was the introductory part of the mass.

A brief historical sketch of the tradition

The Holy Mass draws heavily from Jesus’ Last Supper as chronicled in the New Testament of the Bible. Whilst writing to the church at Corinth, St. Paul emphasized the practice by giving directions in the book of first Corinthians. Jesus directed his followers to break the bread and drink the cup because they are a representation of his body and blood respectively. The Last Supper heralded the crucifixion of Jesus, and thus he commanded his followers to carry on with the practice as they commemorate his death. The death on the cross signifies the redemption and forgiveness of sins for the believers.

Therefore, the Catholics follow this tradition even to date. The priests consecrate normal bread cooked without yeast and wine in the process known as transubstantiation. After this process, the bread and the wine are no longer normal, but they take the body and the blood of Jesus respectively. Even though the substances do not change in shape and form, they change in meaning. Therefore, the Catholics observe this practice in obedience to Jesus’ words when he instructed his followers to do the same in his remembrance.

Its characteristic theology, practice, and the worship service

The theological background of the Holy Communion hinges on the principles highlighted in the preceding section of this paper. To the Catholics, the Holy Communion is a command from Jesus himself and he is the initiator of the practice.

After the introductory part, as highlighted in the second section of this paper, the congregation is taken through a liturgy of the word, which is composed of three readings. The initial reading is from the Old Testament, while the second reading was from the New Testament with a Psalm, either read or sung, between the two, thus making the third reading. After preparing the altar, the congregation stands before the priest exhorts it to pray so that the sacrifices might be acceptable to the father in heaven. The priest then engages the congregation in a dialogue via intonations based on written scripts drawn from Jesus’ Last Supper as recorded in the Bible.

After this session, everyone sings the Lord’s Prayer under the guidance of the priest. Whilst seated, the congregation is taken through the homily, which is essentially a reflection of the goodness of the Lord under the guidance of one of the clergymen. The congregants then give their offerings in terms of money, in a session known as an offertory. The priest then blesses the bread and the wine by following a set rule of principles and practices.

The congregants then receive the consecrated bread and wine from the priest as he utters some words underscoring the saving power of the cross. The congregants respond by noting that they are unworthy of such salvation, but by grace, they receive it. After everyone receives the bread and wine through a procession, a prayer is offered before concluding the session. The service ends with the priest’s blessings upon the faithful whereby he beseeched the attendees to go out, spread, and practice the word of God.

Conclusion

The Holy Communion dates back to the Last Supper before Jesus was crucified on the cross. The Catholics observe this ritual in remembrance of Jesus’ death on the cross, which is the final act of human salvation from sin and eternal death. I attended a service at St. Martins Church in San Francisco and learned about the practice as highlighted throughout this paper.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Christian Experience of San Francisco St. Patrick Church'. 3 March.

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