The clergy and parishioners of St. Paulís Parish would like to welcome you. This church is about 128 years old, which makes it not the oldest church in Hancock, but weíve been here a good long while. This little pamphlet hopes to offer some brief explanation of what youíll see and how we worship.
At the center of things is a very large crucifix, which is simply a cross with the image of Jesus crucified on it. Of course, Catholics know that Jesus is not still dead on the cross. This church is radiant this week with signs of his risen life. But the image of Jesus crucified reminds us of what human sin has done, and when we look upon the crucified Christ we never have to wonder if we are loved.
On our crucifix there are also images of Mary, the mother of Jesus and St. John the beloved apostle. The Scriptures tell us that while the others ran away, these two stayed faithful at the foot of the cross. Beneath the feet of Jesus is a skull. He was crucified at "Golgotha" which means, "the place of the skull." The ancient traditions tell us that the cross was planted over Adamís grave. Jesus is the "new Adam," that is - his obedience and surrender to the Fatherís Will shows us what Adam should have done. The blood of Christ flows down to the skull, perhaps washing where our sins are buried. Lastly, the ancient fathers tell us that at Calvary, Jesus climbed up on the cross to look over the whole world. And on that day, he saw each of us and all of us.... with love.
At the center of the sanctuary is an altar table. It is a symbol of Christís presence among us. The Mass takes place here. We say that at Mass, Calvaryís sacrifice is re-enacted. We know that Calvaryís sacrifice was once for all. But the love of Calvary did not stop with Christís death. It continues eternally and is made real, apparent for us in the Eucharist or Holy Communion which is Christís gift of Himself broken and poured out and veiled under the appearance of bread and wine.
Catholics believe in what we call "The Real Presence." That when Jesus said of the Bread, "This is my Body," and of the wine, "This is my Blood," he meant it. We take him for His Word. He calls Himself "the truth." In John - Chapter 6 - This teaching caused many to leave him. St. Thomas Aquinas writes in one of his famous hymns on the Eucharist: "What our senses fail to fathom, let us grasp through faithís consent."
The Eucharist was meant to be eaten. "You are what you eat" so the saying goes. We want to be Christ so we eat Christ. The Eucharist that is left over after Mass is reserved in the tabernacle at the top of the steps. It is kept there for the sick when they need it and for the faithful to adore Christís unique presence. The red light burns continually. We are reminded perhaps of the Burning Bush, the lamps in the templeís Holy of Holies and the Pillar of Fire by night - all of which indicated Godís unique, creative and saving presence. To the left of the altar is the pulpit. The Word of God is broken open here every day. The open Scriptures form the first table from which our minds and souls feed.
One notices that there are images around the church. Catholics donít worship images. They are however, wonderful places of contact and communion much as any painting or photograph of a loved one. While the old Testament forbids images, it was because of the Hebrewís inclination to make gods of just about everything. In the Incarnation, God, in Christ becomes picturable or an object of our senses.
To the right is an image of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. The Church calls her the Mother of God which is really more a statement of who Jesus is than anything else. Catholics donít worship Mary, but we honor her. We honor our biological mothers or foster mothers or adoptive mothers. Mary mothers us in the spiritual life, that is, we ask her to bring Christ to birth within ourselves. Mary is the first disciple because she is the first to say "yes" to Christ. And she is the first to be fruitful in Christ. She adds a wonderful feminine aspect to Christianity. And as at Cana in Johnís Gospel, we hear her message to the waiters, "Do what he tells you to do."
On the far left of church is an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In the Heart of Jesus we see the Heart of God. Also in the Sanctuary is a huge and tall candle. It is beautifully decorated and will burn for the 50 days of Easter. It is a strong symbol of the Risen Christ who says to us, "I am the Light of the world." "I am the way, the truth and the life." We pray that Christ will light up the darkest places of our minds and illumine our life path.
Around the outer walls of church are the 14 Stations of the Cross. "God so loved the world...." We notice the 3 falls of Jesus. They are dramatic reminders of our tendency to stumble along the way. By Godís grace, we get up again and again to persevere in love and in truth.
We are pleased for you to join us at worship and while the Catholic Church does not practice an open Communion table - we hope first to establish a real oneness of faith that can be expressed eventually with our receiving each otherís communion. If we are not receiving Holy Communion, we can at least make a spiritual communion.