A life-long Catholic who attended church weekly up till the age of 18 (college = no regular church for me!) I started going to church in Florida about a year ago, as part of our Catholic marriage preparation requirement. The Catholics are all about marriage, but they do throw in some obstacles. Not that going to church is an obstacle- I'm talking about the Pre-cana, the FOCCUS, etc. etc. But anyway, I discovered there was in fact a Catholic congregation in the adjacent town of Celebration, which was perfect for fulfilling this requirement. One problem: there was no actual church in town. Where the heck did they meet?! Answer: The high school cafeteria. No joke. It was interesting, but actually worked pretty well. I tried to find pictures online but there were none posted on the website. Anyway, the parish has been raising money for quite some time so they could build a new church. Coincidentally, the new church was completed in mid December, which allowed Christmas to be celebrated in a church, not a high school.
In my opinion, the coolest thing about a new church is that there is also a Rite of Dedication performed. Isn't that great? The Catholic church has sacraments and Rites of Dedication and all sorts of fun things. And how often do you have a brand new church built? Not very. So I attended the dedication a couple weeks ago and it was absolutely beautiful. The Bishop of Orlando was there (and said Mass, in fact), and many priests in the Diocese of Orlando were also present. There were lots of fancy robes and of course, the Bishop's miter (aka awesome hat). The Mass started out like any other, with the Introductory Rites and the Liturgy of the Word, but after the Homily the fun began. First of all, there was a string quartet, which is always a good sign. And then we actually dedicated the church. This involved the Litany of the Saints in which you ask almost every Saint that ever existed to "Pray for us" and let me tell you, there are LOTS of saints and therefore much praying going on. I admit that I did not know all the names recited were saints, but I did recognize a few omissions, namely Margaret. (TRIVIA: Why do I know Margaret was a saint? Because my sister chose it for her confirmation name) But for me, the coolest part was the Anointing, Incensation, and Lighting of the Altar and Church. The Bishop rubbed Holy oil on the altar, but other priests anointed other surfaces, like candles and statues and other items in church. All the while, beautiful music was being created. The incensation was similar, in which all surfaces of the church had incense swept over them. Unfortunately, those sitting in the pews were also incensed, which caused a lot of coughing and carrying on among the congregation. I'm certain my mother would have had to leave.
I must confess, when we started Mass at 5 PM on Saturday, I wondered why the heck it was so dark. No candles or lights or anything, which is atypical for sure. Not until we got to "Lighting of the Altar and Church" did it register in my poor little brain. Despite sitting quite close to the front, being near sighted hampered my vision for much of the dedication portion, and kept me questioning the extreme darkness. Luckily, once we got to the "Let there be Light" part, I was home free. It was actually quite dramatic and lovely. All the candles were lit in an otherwise dark church, and then the altar lights came on and people brought out beautiful floral arrangements. It was almost like we were saying "OK, it's not just a building anymore. It's a house of worship" which was a neat moment.
Here is the view from the outside, on a typically sunny Florida day