Saint John Berchmans Cathedral Parish: Authentic Catholicism in the “heart” of the “Bible Belt”

CathedralSJB

by Doug Lawrence

We traveled to northwestern Louisiana this past weekend to attend a family reunion. On arrival, it became abundantly clear that the people living in and around the Shreveport area tend to be very religious – but mostly – NOT Catholic.

Out of the estimated eighty or ninety who attended the reunion, only six Catholics assembled early Sunday morning, in order to attend Mass at the Cathedral of Saint John Berchmans, originally constructed in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1902.  (Saint John Berchmans – pronounced “Berkmans” – is the patron saint of altar servers.)

A Cathedral is considered to be the principal church of a diocese and it is also typically, the “seat” (cathedra) of the local Bishop.

Near as I can tell, most everyone else at the family reunion was Baptist, but the thing that I noticed most was the sheer diversity of Christian denominations in the area, along with the fact that most of the AM radio band and more than half of the FM band seemed to be devoted solely to religious programming – and NOT just on Sundays! (Thank God for Sirius Satellite Radio!)

Non-Catholic Christian churches could be observed on almost every block, while Catholic churches were comparatively rare.

Here’s the mix:

Apostolic Churches (4)
Lutheran Churches (6)
Assembly of God (20)

Baptist Churches (333)

Bible Churches (6)
Methodist Churches (37)
Nazarene Churches (5)
Non-Denominational (15)

Catholic Churches (21)

Orthodox Churches (3)
Christian Churches (11)
Pentecostal (13)
Church of Christ (17)
Presbyterian (13)
Church of God (32)
Reformed Churches (1)
Seventh Day Adventist (2)
Episcopal Churches (5)
Vineyard Churches (1)
Evangelical (1)
Other Churches (23)

Source: USA Church

But while the Catholic “profile” in the area appeared to be definitively low, the quality of the Catholic faith experience there turned out be pleasantly high – at least, at Saint John Berchmans Cathedral Parish!

Here’s a little of what we experienced, this past Sunday:

The church was traditional and beautiful – as were most all cathedrals of similar – 1920’s “vintage”.

We were suitably impressed by the vaulted ceilings; the detailed wood and plaster work; the abundant and exquisite stained-glass windows; the deep-breathing, antique pipe organ;, the marble columns and the genuine stone (not wood) altar; along with the traditional statuary – which was both elegant and easily recognizable.

The tabernacle could be found in the very center of the sanctuary, directly behind the main altar. There was a raised pulpit/ambo for proclaiming the Word of God and the sanctuary was fully provisioned for a quick turn around and transformation, in the rare event of a TLM (Traditional Latin Mass.)

We observed altar boys/servers (not altar girls) – and the servers were NOT wearing the usual dreaded, gaudy, overly casual – popular but seriously out of place athletic shoes. Coincidentally, this parish also produces more than the average number of new, priestly vocations.

The congregation appeared to be well rounded and diverse, spanning the ages from eight months to around eighty years – with a number of young families in attendance.

The standard Novus Ordo liturgy was celebrated reverently and totally “by the book” – with no shenanigans.

A small group of RCIA catechumens occupied reserved seating. They seemed very happy and privileged to be there,  reverently filing out at the appropriate time.

A Deacon proclaimed the Gospel and delivered a homily that was both technically excellent and distinctly on-point.

tenlepers

Afterwards, I began to wonder if the nine of ten lepers
who never returned to thank Jesus for their healing
might have suffered a relapse at some point in the future! 

The Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel was led by the priest and deacon, immediately following the official end of the liturgy.

michael_fighting_devil_4x6

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host,
by the Divine Power of God,
cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Compared to some very disappointing similar experiences in New York, Minnesota, California and Washington State, I would rate this as one of the best. A very pleasant surprise, in a part of the world where the Catholic Church remains seriously under-appreciated!

The parish website will tell you much more, as will this Wikipedia post.

I suggest you also take a few minutes to watch a very nice video presentation on the saint, the cathedral and the parish.

So much negative Catholic stuff comes across my desk every day.
It’s nice to be able to post something almost entirely positive,
for a change! 

T H A N K  Y O U,  J E S U S! 

Is it the same God?

Q: Is it the same God?

Would you say Christians worship the same God as Jews, and Muslims?
If no, why?
I think it’s all the same God, just different ways to worship.
This is not a question of who is right or wrong.

A: From the official Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The Church and non-Christians

839 “Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways.”325

The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People,326 “the first to hear the Word of God.”327 The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews “belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ”,328 “for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”329

840 And when one considers the future, God’s People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.

841 The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”330

842 The Church’s bond with non-Christian religions is in the first place the common origin and end of the human race:

All nations form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth, and also because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all against the day when the elect are gathered together in the holy city. . .331