Church: Saint Barbara Parish, Old Mission, 2201 Laguna Street
Service Attended: Sunday, noon
Priest: Father John Vaughn
Denomination: Roman Catholic (Franciscan)
Congregation Size: About 1,000
Special Offerings: Elementary religious education, youth ministry, outreach ministries, Sunday social hour, rosary for peace after 7:30 a.m. Sat. mass, Taize prayer and song on scheduled Wed. evenings
Contact: sbmission.org, 682-4151
The Saint Barbara Parish is led by a commitment to “welcome all people to worship and celebrate God’s all-inclusive love with us.” This mission statement was reflected by the diversity of the congregation – in race, age, attire (some wore jeans, while others donned dresses and shawls), and even apparently religious commitment. Several attendees were not active participants in mass, choosing to forgo the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and the taking of communion, for instance, and seemed to be there simply to enjoy the awesome space and gorgeous music.
With hundreds of candles burning, incense drifting skyward from giant thuribles, life-size depictions of angels, saints, and Bible stores-many of which were imported from Mexico and South America when the church was founded in 1786-the service in the nearly 200-year old building was indeed a moving spectacle from both a religious and historical standpoint. Father John Vaughn’s homily lauded this sense of connection with the past, as he told the story of traveling through Southern Utah with a diary of Franciscans who had traveled the same road in 1776. He described the awe he experienced upon viewing the same desert mirage these Franciscans had described in the diary 230 years ago.
As the focus of Sunday’s liturgy was “The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ,” the readings described the priest Melchizedeck bringing out bread and wine and blessing of Adam (Genesis 14:18-20), Paul describing the institution of the Eucharist, or the reenactment of the Last Supper, (Corinthians 11:23-26), and Jesus feeding a crowd with five loaves and two fish (Luke 9:11b-17). Father John emphasized the role of the Eucharist in reminding the faithful of the Lord’s real presence. “It’s not just something symbolic,” he said, adding that when one eats the body, one is truly granted eternal life. “What a big difference it makes in life to believe this,” he said. “There is not anything in this life that could happen to destroy that gift.”
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the service was the musical excellence, led by cantor Adam Phillips. Although many congregants added their voices to the hymns and psalms, the choir and organ movingly carried the singing, evoking a jubilance it was impossible not to share in “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” and “Hosanna.”