Wednesday, October 13, 2010

eighth visit: Oct 3rd 2010 Roman Catholicism (Latin Mass)

11:00am sunday
St. Boniface Church of Holy Wisdom Parish
2208 East Street, Pittsbugh PA 15212
north side, spring hill city view

(included in this entry: documentation of 7th visit, Jum'ah at Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, 10-1-10)

"I had no idea it is so physical—the expenditure of energy," commented a friend, a poet at an artist residency, referring to the act of painting. It is, but my work at this time: really not so much. Instead, ask the ghost of Pollock; ask Karin Davie. Matthew Barney and his drawing restraints.

...the use of rosary beads to keep fingers busy (and to help keep one's place) while praying. I remember reading somewhere: the intention is to include a physical act to accompany and enhance the mental focus, contemplation, meditation. (from my 6th visit, Carol's voice in my ears: As young boys, Orthodox Jews are taught to rock and sway during prayer to help maintain focus.)

Even with folding padded rests, my 39-year-old knees ache by the end of service at St. Boniface Church of Holy Wisdom. How to maintain the pattern of kneeling, sitting, kneeling, standing, kneeling—faces never breaking expressions of tranquility? Worshipers of all ages surround me, demonstrating wordlessly. Do the elderly reach a point of exoneration from this and from genuflection (kneeling on one knee) at every entry and exit of the pew? How does a worshiper with injured joints take part in Muslim prayer? How did I paint during my (now accumulative) five months on crutches? ...Chuck Close and the late Grace Hartigan? I was taught that painting is always performed while standing. Having to sit and paint for the first time in my life, the art became smaller, much less satisfying (too fast, not tiring enough), but more intimate.

At High Mass my two years of Latin in junior high is no help except for a half-syllable here and there. The last name of a friend in hymn.

Two days earlier, during the bus-ride to the Islamic Center a man chooses the seat next to mine and begins to speak to me in Arabic. Later in English, he says he regularly attends a mosque and a church, as well.

Inside the mosque, the air smells of warm rice. Two hours later: delicious spices. Only the sermon in English. The woman at my right gestures me to the line, folding. Bookcases separate us from male worshipers. Men from all walks of life imaginable. The women in attendance are comparatively homogenous, in appearance at least. Infants in rockers.

At St. Boniface, I peek up to see an ocean of bowed heads, a random scattering of veils and veil-less stilled nods. Carol's words from the Orthodox service a week ago replay in my mind: "The differences in dress reveal the various levels of observance."

I sit a minute after most worshipers have left. A dear woman most likely in her 80's stops to catch my attention. She had seen me drawing. "Are you an artist?" (smile and nod) "I like your dress," she whispers. And adds with most sincere enthusiasm, "It's very unusual."

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