During Holy Week, I had the honor of attending a small mission church in Las Vegas. It was a very tiny building, in the Spanish style. The small piece of land adjacent to it was surrounded by an 8 foot high wrought iron fence. The land was probably no more than ten feet by twenty feet in size, covered with patio stones, filled with extra chairs in one corner, Bags of food in another and, in a third corner, a small statue of Our Lady of Guadelupe and a single kneeler.
The Saturday before, having recovered from our cross-country flight, I wanted to seek out a place for Confession. After all, it was the day before Palm Sunday and my work schedule rarely gave me time for that one hour on Saturdays that is available around me, or even the half an hour on weekdays, since I work late. So, taking advantage of the day off, I googled Catholic churches in Las Vegas. We don't know our way around that city, so I wanted it near to downtown. There were several churches available, but only one with a taditional Latin Mass, which is what I prefer when I can get it.
The tiny church had three doors, only one of which was unlocked, leading into a very crowded room, half storage, half book shelves. There was Father, dressed in a cassock, tending to two children about 9 and 12. He was babysitting!
"Are there Confessions today? I asked. I was perplexed.
"Yes," he said immediately. "Follow me!" Then he turned to the children and told them to stay put. He took me through another set of doors into a chapel with seating capacity of maybe 80. The door to the confessional seemed like a regular door into another room, which surely it was. For, beyond the screen, next to the chair he was sitting on, were shelves of books. His confessional doubled as his study!
We thanked Father for the confession and left, debating on dinner concerns. He followed us out a moment later. And we began to converse. He told us about the parish, almost thirty years old. Judging from how old he looks, I would assume he is not the first pastor. He told us that since it was St. Joseph's day, there would be a special Mass in an hour followed by dinner for anyone. And he invited us to join him. which we did.
The Mass was lovely. Two things surprised me: the altar servers are in their late 50s-60s, and there was no collection. During the dinner, Italian, of course, my husband went to ask one of the altar servers why there was no collection. They hadn't thought of it! So we gave a donation. The older mans eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. I suppose they rarely see more than a five dollar bill.
The next morning was Palm Sunday. The old rubrics were in place and I learned something about the old ways: you are supposed to kiss the palm as Father hands it to you. I made the mistake of sitting towards the front. I didn't notice the first two receiving the palms and only noticed the others when I got back to my seat. Next Palm Sunday at a Latin Mass, I will know.
I was impressed by the beauty of the vestments and the wall paintings, although, being Holy Week, all the statues and framed art work was covered in purple, so I did not get to see them. I can only imagine how lovely the little chapel must have looked on Easter. I am sure there would be many pots of flowers around.
The priest there is no stodgy old fellow. He comfortably stood at the podium, elbow on his notes, which he rarely glimpsed at during the homily, touching on only a point or two per Mass. And it was all orthodox Catholic.
Where do they get enough money to continue? There are forty families and three Masses every Sunday, all Latin. Two with a homily in English and one in Spanish. They recently bought two buildings which they are converting to the only, it seems, non-adult-type bookstore in the city. These buildings are smaller than the church; one seems barely bigger than the courtyard!
Please pray for this little church trying to do a big job in a spiritually polluted town.