A lot of random and unassociated thoughts occurred to me during our time at St. Joseph's. Here they are:
1) When I'm in a Roman Catholic Mass, I often think: this is the way worship should be! Much of "the way it should be" has to do with the fact that the worshipping community has been trained to use bodily gestures during their time in worship, especially crossing themselves at the font, genuflecting at the pew, using upraised arm gestures during the prayers, holding hands with neighbors during the Lord's Prayer, bowing their heads in the middle of the Nicene Creed in honor of the Incarnation and the Virgin Mary, and the ipsissima verbi.
2) Furthermore, many of the ritual actions of Mass would be well worth incorporating into Lutheran worship, including the ringing of the bells during communion, bowing to and kissing the Bible before and after the reading of the Gospel.
3) The diversity of the community, many ethnic groups, social classes, etc. all gathered for worship, it's a robust aspect of life in many Roman Catholic parishes I have visited. In this particular case, the place was also packed with lots of small children and young families!
4) There wasn't a bulletin, so most of the time we had trouble keeping up with the liturgy. It seemed like many regular worshippers didn't have any intention of actively "participating" in worship, like singing hymns, etc. and those who did knew the service so well they didn't need a bulletin, they just found their way around in hymnals and missives. In this respect, I prefer the robust singing of many Lutheran congregations.
5) I'm definitely liturgical, no doubt about it, and love the overall sensibility of the Mass. The only thing missing was a good sermon. The priest at St. Joseph's is a remarkably good communicator, and did a couple of times during the service interject informal messages and comments that were faithful and helpful. But his sermon was replaced by an audio recording of the bishop making an appeal for financial support for the mission of the diocese. I wish there would have been a good, law/gospel sermon. But that's the Lutheran/Protestant in me coming out.
6) This is the third time in the last few years I have visited a Roman Catholic parish, and they are batting 100%. Each time the sermon was a financial appeal. On the one hand, this was somewhat frustrating. On the other hand, I really respect them for their forthright and honest approach to fund-raising. It takes a lot of money, and faithful giving from members, to build a vibrant ministry. The way they spoke about the appeal was very clear and faithful, not patronizing or guilt inducing. If you're going to make a widespread diocesan financial appeal, I think this was a good approach.
7) I was a bad dad. I failed to prepare the kids for the fact that they might not receive communion, and I failed to find out whether in fact they could. I know officially they probably can't (I'm really not that familiar with current RC communion practices, but I'm guessing communion in an RC context is for Roman Catholics, and those already of the age of first communion, which my children are younger than). Anyway, I still could have checked.
8) This was the only part of the day that made me sad. Why is it that the one thing that is supposed to unite us (the Eucharist) that is most divided in our churches? Seriously, why? Jesus Christ practiced open table commensality, but most churches do not. Even my own denomination tends to still exclude small children until the "age of reason." Why?
9) I very much appreciated the care and respect the priest paid to the sacramental elements. I'd like to do a small study with a priest some time to improve our practices in the Lutheran context around handling and disposing of the elements.