Nobody in the world can deny that out of all the churches out there, Catholics probably do atmosphere the best. St. Peter's Basilica, Notre Dame Cathedral, etc.
St. Joseph's has a very beautiful and traditional exterior:
The design is somewhere between Spanish Neo-Gothic and Spanish Neo-Romanesque. I managed to snap a pic of both a plaque on the building and of course, the church sign out in front:
But, like many Catholic churches, the inside is where the real beauty shines. Take a look at this side altar piece of St. Joseph:
And of course, check out the splendor of the high altar:
Of course, it wouldn't be a true masterpiece of a church without some stained glass windows, and St. Joseph's has plenty.
If you're wanting a church with stunning atmosphere, St. Joseph's is a good one to check out.
As I've come to expect from my years as a Catholic, Catholics can be a bit stand offish towards people who aren't regular members of the parish. Nobody came and introduced themselves to us really. The ladies at the bookstore were friendly as was the priest.
I think a lot this has to do with how Catholics are when they enter a church. Typically, they don't enter and socialize before hand, they go to the chapel and start praying. This I think lends itself to the culture of not really engaging others who come in when entering a church. This, however, does change when you become part of the parish.
The Mass is the same as ever. The priest, deacon, and those helping with the Mass processing down the aisle towards the altar; readings from scriptures; prayers back and forth between the congregation and the priest; lots of formal ceremony; chalices and hosts being raised over the altar. No incense though. I love incense. I wish they were used more often in Mass.
The choir was beautiful. They sang acapella from the balcony in the back of the church and their voices echoed throughout the church. Beautiful acoustics in these old churches. The hymns were traditional and gorgeous. I love traditional melodies, though I have to admit, guitar masses do hold a dear place in my heart.
The homily (sermon) was given this week by the deacon. He was from Texas as his accent and opening lines gave away. His message was a simple one, that we often expect greatness or divinity to be in some dazzling show or amazing feat. But that it's often in the filth, the grime, the weakest among us that we see greatness truly manifest itself. I actually really loved this message. At the end, he said we would never see God until we learned to see him in those we despise and the lowliest among us.
Overall, it was a message about non-judgment and of seeing beauty where we don't normally want to. Both messages I can get behind.
This service reminded me of exactly what I miss about the Catholic Church and why I even joined it in the first place. It was such a moving service. I honestly haven't been to a church service that lovely in a very long time. It was very moving and stirred up a lot of complicated emotions inside me. I felt myself torn wishing I could still be part of this church which spans 2 millennia and in many ways still makes me feel connected to parts of myself nothing else seems to, and my rational mind saying, "You know you could never swallow this and you would never truly be happy here. It would be just like last time."
And so it must be. I will remain a cultural Catholic and a fervent non-believer who could never call themselves Catholic again. It's a complicated duality inside myself. I wish I could explain it better.