I was fully prepared to hate the new Cathedral. After all, I often find myself disagreeing with Cardinal Mahoney on other issues, so I expected the Cathedral would be stark, ultramodern and full of, well, balloons and clowns! (I kinda had enough of that growing up -- nothing personal, Mom and Dad!)
Well, this morning I attended the 7:00 a.m. Mass, and my personal verdict - not bad! not bad at all!
First issue: I know some people don't like the fact that the Tabernacle is in a little chapel off to the side. But you know what? I think this is one of those rare cases where it is reasonable to do so, because there are tourists wandering all around the main part of the Cathedral, making noise and clicking cameras. So having a quiet little Adoration Chapel off to the side actually seems quite proper to me.
Second, it would be nice if the Cardinal would install Holy Water fonts. There is a big baptismal font in the back of the Church and a lot of people were just dipping their hands in that. That's okay for weekdays but what about on Sundays? A lot of people are going to enter the Church from the front and won't be able to get to the back to do that. Plus, tourists (undoubtedly Protestants) are throwing coins into it, which Iím sure helps the revenue flow but probably isnít the most respectful use for holy water Iíve ever seen (though I have seen people pour it into their coffee, so perhaps Iím nitpicking).
Third: contrary to what some ultratraditionalists have charged on the Internet, there ARE kneelers in the pews. I donít know why anyone would make such an easily disprovable accusation, but they have. So - donít worry, you can kneel in ultrapadded comfort!
Before the Mass I wandered around the building, to see the things that HAVE been installed. There are several little niches in the walls around the outside of the sanctuary which are empty now but will obviously be filled with statues or icons or something later on.
Downstairs is the Mausoleum, and I was so pleased to find a small chapel dedicated to L.A.'s patron saint, St. Vibiana (a 3rd century martyr sometimes called "Bibiana). Her remains have been hidden away at a local Catholic cemetery ever since the old Cathedral was closed, so it was nice to see our old friend in a place of honor!
The Mass itself was just wonderful. No balloons or clowns at all (other than a few politicans, nyuk nyuk!). At about five minutes before the Mass began, an older gentleman began to play the organ and that was just lovely. Then Cardinal Mahony himself came in and sat unobtrusively off to the side of the altar while another priest said the Mass. There was music and chanting throughout the Mass, which was overall very tasteful and reverent.
They do need to work out the logistics of getting everyone to Communion. Some of the ushers were directing the people in the back into two lines, while the ones in the front were trying to merge them into ONE line, and we ended up with THREE lines! Yes, it got a little crowded down there by the altar, not to mention the fact that there were almost as many eucharistic ministers as communicants! But I'm sure they will work this out eventually. I've got faith!
Here is something I *really* liked about the Cathedral: Even though there were a lot of people, there was NOT a lot of noise. The acoustics are very good, and the usual pre-Mass chatterboxes seemed to have stayed away! This would be a very nice place to go during the day just to sit and meditate. And outside the Church itself there is a sort of courtyard area, very big, with reflecting pools, fountains, and a lovely replica of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
And something *else* I like about the Cathedral - lots of votive candles that you can light! REAL ones - not those awful push-button electric things that too many churches have installed! Yes, real candles and real matches! They're a little steep - $2.00 to light one tiny little votive candle - but hey, they've gotta PAY for this Cathedral, right?
After the Mass, we were invited to visit the gift shop and the cafe - which were already open, at 7:30 a.m.! I skipped the gift shop for now but did stop and get a cup of coffee at the cafe. Now, this was one of those things I hadn't liked when I first heard of it - having a restaurant in a place of worship. But this morning I was glad it was there - it was a cool, rainy morning and being able to grab a quick hot cup of coffee before catching my bus to work was a very nice way to end my first visit to the Cathedral.
Bottom line? There are certainly a lot of "rough edges" to be smoothed over, but this Cathedral has been built to last 500 years - so to those who still have complaints, I say, be patient, and remember, a lot can happen in 500 years. So what if there are no Holy Water fonts now? Perhaps they'll be put in later by one of Cardinal Mahoney's successors - to conform with the requirements of Vatican III!
Live from the scene, Christine Lehman, aka Theist Gal :-)