Santa Clara Church is a Roman Catholic Church located on the North West area of Rose Avenue at 101 Freeway of Oxnard, California (Santa Clara Church 1). I have never attended a Catholic Mass. The idea of conducting this study made me nervous because of the entire experience I would have during the Mass. It is not simple to attend a strange church if you are not familiar with the practices. Santa Clara Church provided the perfect opportunity to experience Catholic Mass in person.
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On June 16, 2013, I went to Santa Clara Church to experience my first Catholic Mass. The Parish has provided order of services and the kind of activities to be conducted every Sunday in its Web site. I decided to attend the Mass scheduled at 10:30 am. The Parish usually conducts this Mass in English language with the traditional choir to sing throughout. It lasted for two hours.
The Church has a Gothic design. It remains a monumental building in the area of Oxnard. Santa Clara Church has a spire tower with a cross on the top. It is a complex institution with school too. The Chapel can accommodate several hundreds of people at a time. Seats are neatly arranged in rows. It has a large altar with shining materials. It is a well-lit church. Santa Clara Parish serves people of different ages, background, social statuses, and gender.
Many people are from the surrounding area. The most outstanding people in the Parish were the youths in their neat attires. The general atmosphere of the congregation was warm. There were old people too, but majorities were mainly people in their 20s and 30s. Children also attended this Mass. Catholics wore their best dresses, suits and slacks to church. There were others in black and white attires. I wore my suit so I felt as a part of them.
A large crowd turned up for the Mass. I learned from the Web site that the Parish served a family of 3200. The congregation consisted of people of different races and gender. The greetings were warm, and the Priest shook everyone’s hand as they entered the Church. The same thing happened when the congregation dispersed after the service. Church members helped visitors around the church. I can say that attending the Catholic Mass is a good experience because one does not need a friend because it is simple to follow the crowd and do as they do.
I noted that the Mass Celebration was an important part of worship at Santa Clara Church. The Priest conducted the Mass in traditional English as scheduled. Although I had no idea of what the next step would be, I observed the congregation carefully. A member seated next to me noticed my uneasiness and informed me that the celebration was uniform throughout the world and that nothing was strange.
Inside the church, there was a font of water at the front end. A member informed me that it was holy water for baptism and for members to bless themselves whenever they come to the church. The procedure involved dipping a finger into the holy water and then making the sign of the cross on the upper parts of the body. However, not all members of the congregation who entered or left the Church blessed themselves with the holy water. The blessing procedure was simple, but one must accompany it with a short prayer about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as they touch the forehead, the center of the chest, and both sides of the shoulders.
All members who entered the Church took their seats, faced the altar, and went down on their knees in prayers. This was a form of genuflection in the presence of Christ at a holy place. This was a procedure, which I failed to follow. Instead, I simply took my seat and watched the celebration as it unfolded.
There were hymnbooks and Missal at the back of the seats. It was simple to get the chosen hymn, but is not simple to use the Missal. I just watched everything as they happened. Some members have memorized most parts of the Mass. They only used Missal for some specific references when reading, but someone had to read out aloud for all members.
The Mass started as soon as the celebrant entered and the entire congregation stood. The celebration has moments of standing, sitting, kneeling, singing, and reciting prayers loudly. These are simple procedures, and I noted that many members performed them with ease. As a visitor, I watched the proceedings carefully and noted that one simply had to follow what others were doing and then repeating the same.
I was a little nervous. I did not expect handshakes accompanied by broad smiles. As soon as people had recited the Lord’s Prayer, the celebrant announced that people should now show peace to one another. This took me by surprise. The members started to move around as they shook hands and mumbled, “Peace be with you”. I had no choice but to join them.
After the sign of peace, people moved toward the aisle and the altar to receive the Holy Communion. The celebrating priest gave people the communion as they moved forward. It was a small and round wafer, which people took as they moved forward to the priest. After the wafer, the congregation then moved to the next priest who offered them a cup of drink. People drank from it while others dipped their wafer into it and then drank.
I watched this moment carefully. I noted that it was a solemn moment in which the congregation was most humbled. I learned that it was like that because the communion (wafer and wine) represented the Body and Blood Jesus Christ. Nobody moved. Some were kneeling while others were sitting. As soon as the congregation had taken the communion, the celebrating priest returned to the altar. The altar boy helped him to clean all the vessels he had used in the ceremony. It did not take long before the final prayer and the priest announced the end of the Mass celebration.
However, I remember the most moving part of the ceremony. As soon as everyone had taken the communion, they returned quietly and some calmness came to the Parish. This was a moving moment as sudden sounds of trumpet filled the hall with the message of Christ. Suddenly, a choir came and sung.
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It is not difficult to note that the Catholic Mass is an organized ceremony. The singing is moving and the voices are clear. It is difficult to know that it is a mass of people singing. The choir sung in unity with distinct and clear voices during choruses. There were also some unique experiences I noted. First, the reading of the scripture was simple. The priest did not struggle to get the message across the congregation. The inclusion of the Bible elements supported the ceremony. There were no weird activities during the ceremony. All the kneeling, recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, asking for forgiveness, peace, and the communion celebration were all peaceful, comfortable, and moderated sessions.
The Mass celebration also had varieties of activities. For instance, songs, kneeling, sitting, hymns, reading the scripture, sessions of prayers, standing, homily, communion, and others throughout the Mass. The Mass was not monotonous. I also noted that the celebration evoked all five senses of human beings. For instance, there were candles for light, burning of the incense for smell, congregation’s greetings for touch, music for the ears, and wine and wafer for taste.
It is also important to mention that the entire service was interactive. The congregation mingled freely, the priest shook hands with members who entered the church. After the service people also interacted with new members. There were also other members to assist with various activities throughout the Mass. I learned that they were volunteers.
The Mass had a strong sense of reverence throughout. The congregation maintained calmness. I believed that they had experienced presence of God as soon as they entered the church.
I did not take part in the communion. I guessed it was not for everyone. However, I could tell that it was a good experience for members of the congregation who were accustomed to the celebration.
Although not everyone is a member of the Roman Catholic, I noted that the celebration evoked a sense of peace among the congregation. I also noted the importance of Mass celebration to the church. It elicited a deep sense of personal transformation and interaction with God. Overall, my experience at Santa Clara Church was wonderful. The Mass was amazing. It was in traditional English, but I learned that under some special occasions the celebrant could conduct it in Latin.
The form of worship kept the congregation active throughout the celebration. It was an engaging service that appealed to all human senses. One volunteer informed me that the church encourages people to understand its traditions and practices. A simple explanation is all it requires. Finally, one does not need an invitation to attend the mass.
“The unexamined life is not worth living” – Socrates
One fascinating statement from Socrates was “The unexamined life is not worth living”. This was a strong statement, which Socrates made. One may wonder why Socrates made such an unequivocal statement. Socrates made this statement after choosing death instead of a life of exile or life imprisonment and commitment to silence. Socrates faced the trial because he encouraged his students to be free thinkers and challenge the established beliefs of the time. Although Socrates had other options, he chose death as the ideal punishment.
From this statement, we can note that Socrates believed in a purposeful life rather than a mere existence. The alternatives that Socrates had would not allow him to examine his life. Thus, if Socrates could not examine his life, then he had no purpose to live. As a result, Socrates decided that death would be the best punishment for his service to Athens (Lang 24; Wilson 4).
According to Socrates, human life has no purpose if one cannot pursue personal growth and think for himself or herself. In this regard, we observe that what Socrates had in mind was understanding one’s true nature by conducting a thorough examination of one’s life (Kemerling 1).
We do not have to decide on death or an examined life. However, most people fail to examine the purpose of their existence. It may not be simple to examine one’s life as Socrates suggested. However, we have to acknowledge that, at the basic level, one should live a worthwhile life, and actively examine his or her life. However, people who fail to examine their lives also surrender such duties to others. In other words, they let other people to control their actions. This situation denies such people self-autonomy over important decisions. Thus, Socrates advocated for a sensible life based on independent choices and rational actions as the fundamental aspects of humanity.
The rational of an examined life is reasonable, and one should no object it. The statement encourages people to be full and independent human beings. It shows that people should use their developed faculties to think rationally and elevate their statuses in society. This statement may also suggest that people who fail to think may be like animals.
Socrates’ statement raises a serious question of whether there is a life, which is not worth living. However, unless one raises such fundamental questions and seeks for solutions through thorough reflections, critical evaluation of issues, and careful examination of events, he or she would not realize the purpose of humanity.
Kemerling, Garth. Socrates: Philosophical Life. 2011. Web.
Lang, Mable. “Illegal Execution in Ancient Athens.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 134 (1990): 24–29. Print.
Santa Clara Church. Santa Clara Parish: History. 2013. Web.
Wilson, Emily. The Death of Socrates. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007. Print.