Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
by Father Mark Pautler, for the Inland Register
(From the October 15, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)
During my years in ministry, two parishes where I was assigned celebrated their centennial years: St. Joseph in west central Spokane (1990) and Sacred Heart, south Spokane (2011). St. Joseph was my longest parish assignment (1984-85, 1987-2003) and Sacred Heart (2003-2015) the most difficult. I’m not speaking about the parish, but about those years in our diocese’s history, the most difficult years for all of us. But let’s not go there. I just want to remember the good times.
October 4 of this year was the occasion of another parish centennial – St. Francis of Assisi in Walla Walla. St. Francis was and is my parish in a different way. This was the family’s parish. St. Francis was the parish of my baptism (that I don’t remember) of first Holy Communion (it melts in your mouth) but not of confirmation – that was at St. Patrick, as was my ordination and first Mass. But St. Francis was and is my Nazareth to which I return to discover anew the meaning and mystery of faith and family.
The parish is the people and not the building in which the people of God pray. Nonetheless, we are bonded to these buildings
as a family is to its home. Each church edifice is a sacrament, a grace-giving outward sign. The present St. Francis Church was
built in 1939 when Msgr. Hugo Pautler (of happy memory) was pastor. Consider the condition of our nation’s economy at that time.
Construction of a church was no mean accomplishment, even though he skimped on the sacristy. The latest incarnation of St. Francis
is a remarkable example of adaptive architecture, if that means anything. In practical terms, the western wall was moved out several
feet, creating space for the music ministry and additional seating. The choir loft came down. That was the lofty height from which
my sister Kathleen and I were organist and choir for innumerable Requiem Masses. That also placed us at eye level with the
“purgatory” window above the altar, a most suitable reminder of why the Requiem Mass was so often celebrated. In those days, no
one was canonized at one’s funeral. The St. Francis sanctuary had, of course, been designed for the pre-Vatican II liturgy. That
was the liturgy of my youth. I became an altar server (then, we were all altar boys) in the second grade, 7:30 a.m., five days a
week with my brother, Tom. He is of the opinion that he has served his time at the altar. I loved serving Mass. I don’t remember
committing the Latin responses to memory – how’s that for a non sequitur? I do remember how I fumbled through a few of them.
Suscipiat Dominius sacrificium…. (May the Lord receive the sacrifice….) I remember the first time I stepped up to the altar
to take hold of the bulky missal and the metal stand on which it rested. It weighed a ton! And then there was that treacherous trip
(and how easily it could result in a trip!) down the steps, the genuflection, and back up the steps to place the missal on the
“Gospel side.” Server #2 did the grunt work. Server #1 was entrusted with the technical responsibility of ringing the bell at the
The highlight of the St. Francis Centennial was the food. No, it was the dignified liturgy preceding the food. I’ll bet you
assume we celebrated Mass. Wrong. I want to commend Father Matthew Nicks’s pastoral team and especially Father David Gaines for the
exceptionally well-planned and executed Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of Hours. With Bishop Daly presiding, Evening Prayer was
placed in the context of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with Benediction, and the Blessed Sacrament was placed in the context
of about 100 candles. That may be a slight exaggeration. Chanting the Psalms was a bit clunky, but with helpful accompaniment and
David’s voice to lead, it flowed naturally and beautifully. The liturgy need not always be a Mass production.
Several servers (in this case, altar boys) assisted at the liturgy. While their primary role was to fill the available space
with their candles, I hope these boys will remember that they took part in a moment of grace, bringing light and joy to our
100-year-old community of faith – the faith of my father, the faith of my mother, my faith. I presume that Benediction was a new
liturgical experience for most of the assembly. But how could they boom out the O Salutaris and Tantum Ergo? I also noticed that
the most technical responsibility of Benediction was not entrusted to the inexperienced hands of the servers. Father Kyle Ratuiste
prudently thought it best to vest Bishop Daly with the humeral veil.
(Father Pautler is Judicial Vicar and Chancellor of the Spokane Diocese.)
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