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For the religious site visit, I visited the Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in Claremont, California. I am Episcopalian, only being baptized when I was young but other than that I am not that religious. I was nervous about observing and participating in the religious experience of another religion. As we learned in class, Catholicism shares some beliefs with Christians, but Catholic beliefs include the Bible is the inspired, and error-free word of God. God’s Ten Commandments provide a moral compass for Catholics. This is essential for Catholics to live by. From learning about Catholicism in class, I was intrigued to learn more about the religion.
On arrival at the church, I was hesitant to enter and experience what the church had to offer. The unfamiliar and new environment around me was still causing me to feel nervous and skeptical. The nervousness was quickly lifted from the moment I walked in. I was greeted by an older woman with a smile on her face at the door 30 minutes before Mass was set to begin. She was so sweet and welcoming that I talked with her and gained profound knowledge of the religion. I asked her if it would be a problem if I sat in the back during Mass and if I could take several notes on the practice and rituals of the church. She complied and allowed me the opportunity to take notes. She made me feel at home and put my mind at ease. My first impression was that this was going to be a very interesting observation, and I could tell that these people were enthusiastic about their religion, therefore making it more intriguing for me as an observer.
The second observation I had was that I could not believe the beauty, charm, history, and cleanliness of the church. The detail and architecture were exceptional and beyond gorgeous. I was convinced that much attention was geared toward maintaining the beauty and the quality of the church. They had twelve Stations of the Cross, candles, stained-glass windows, and a portrayal of Jesus Christ on the cross. Your eyes gravitated to the front and center of the church at the altar where Jesus Christ was. When I walked into the church, I could not take my eyes off the stained glass windows. As you could imagine, the stained glass windows were very intricate and detailed oriented. Catholics, like Christians, believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins as we discussed in class.
The Priest was dressed in very detailed and immaculate attire. He was wearing an intricate white robe designed with gold detailing, which made him stand out from the congregation. As they walked upon the altar, the sign of the cross was made and the words “In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit” and “The Lord be with you” were said. The congregation was asked by the Priest to take a few minutes to ask for forgiveness for their sins. Then, scriptures were read by the Priest. He had a soothing voice that made a listener feel calm. Songs were sung throughout the sermon by the congregation making the presence of God known throughout the Mass.
Furthermore, I continued to examine the church and the people that were in it. During my observation, I found that Mass is very vital for Catholics; the reason being is that it allows worshipers to partake in the Holy Communion. People attend Mass to maintain their lives according to the teachings of God. If for some reason Mass is skipped without a good reason such as illness, problems with finding transportation, or caring for the sick are considered a grave wrong. If a Catholic skips Mass knowing that it is wrong, they have committed a mortal sin. The sin must be confessed to a priest for absolution and removal of the sin. In the church, there was a confession room, where the sinner would confess his or her sins to the Priest.
One of the things I thought about as I left the service was the amount of time spent on prayer. While trying to take notes and observe everything as possible, I became immersed in prayer. During the hour-long service I would say half of the hour was spent in prayer. This Catholic service was very admirable and will forever be ingrained in my memory. My mind was open to another religion, and I was skeptical before the observation, but now have a whole new perspective. If you are a future observer, try not to read a book by its cover. People have different beliefs and religions they follow, and we must be accepting and open to all.
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