Friday, April 18, 2014

A Grand Day to Be Catholic: Holy Thursday at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Lafayette, Louisiana

The elitist media like to portray the American Catholic Church as a faltering institution, disheartened by the sexual abuse scandal and suffering from dwindling membership.  I wish the journalists who describe our Church that way would visit Lafayette, Louisiana.

I stood outside the doors of St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Lafayette Thursday morning as priests poured out its doors after the Holy Thursday  Chrism Mass for the priests of Lafayette Diocese.  There must have been more than one hundred priests, all dressed in white vestments, looking like a flock of white doves swirling around the ancient palm trees in front of the cathedral.

St. John the Evangelist Cathedral
Lafayette, Louisiana
And a more multicultural group would be hard to imagine. Of course there were elderly grey-haired fathers that might fit the elitist media's stereotype of a typical Catholic priest.  But there were others who were obviously from India, where our Church has obtained so many priests in recent years. I saw two young Asian priests leave the cathedral together, probably Vietnamese.  South Louisiana has been blessed by the Vietnamese diaspora that settled in our region after the Vietnam War.  Almost all of these good people are Catholic and they have produced more than their fair share of vocations.

And there were several African American priests and priests who appeared to be Creole--men of mixed African American and Native American heritage.  These priests come from the African American and Creole Catholic communities that were nurtured and strengthened by Saint Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament during the 1920s and 1930s, when St. Katharine established dozens of Catholic schools for the African American and Creole population of South Louisiana.

Watching the fathers leave the cathedral with me were several Catholic school children, the boys wearing white shirts and ties and the girls wearing their distinctive plaid skirts.  I heard them call out their greetings to individual priests as they spotted their own local pastor walk by.

Although it was Holy Thursday--the most somber of days, the weather was gloriously sunny. Even the tombs in the cemetery surrounding the Cathedral seemed to exude the cheerful holiness of Cajun Catholicism.  It was a grand day to be Catholic and to commemorate Holy Thursday with these good people.

As the white-garbed priests flowed around me, I thanked God that my guardian angel had led me out of the barren wastelands of Protestantism and the dismal swamps of postmodern American culture and guided me to the the lovely Catholic Church--my true mother.

The psalmist assured me I would know God's goodness in the land of the living, and indeed the psalmist was right.


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