Worshipping in Sin City Travels with Internet-challenged Former Altar Boy
I was in Las Vegas last weekend and attended Mass at the Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer. It might surprise you to learn (as I was, the first time I went there), that so many Catholics – primarily visitors -- actually attend Mass on Sunday that the cathedral on the north end of the “Strip” couldn’t handle the crowds. So, the diocese built this huge shrine – 2,200 seating capacity – at the south end (near the Mandalay Bay and Tropicana, if you know Vegas). It’s a “shrine” because it’s not a parish. (Aside: if it’s not a parish, does that mean locals who attend services at the shrine cannot be baptized, confirmed, or married there? Good – maybe they’ll understand how Catholics attending the indult Masses around the country feel about not being able to receive ALL the sacraments in the Tridentine Rite.)
The shrine has a vigil Mass at 4 p.m. on Saturday, and three Masses on Sunday. I was at the 10 a.m. service and it was about 90% full.
Inside, the ceiling slopes up from the low back to very high above the altar. The front outside can be seen in the photo. Upon entering and looking down the long center aisle, the first thing any Catholic would notice is the lack of a crucifix over the altar. No, don’t picture it with a cross minus the corpus. There is nothing but this huge, probably 30 feet wide and 40 feet high pastel tile mosaic that, I guess, is supposed to look like clouds. Of course, the General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM) requires a crucifix near the altar. Along the front walls that slope out from the altar are several large niches with huge statuary scenes. The one nearest the altar on the right - but distinctively separate from the altar - is Christ on the cross and three people (likely the Blessed Virgin, St. John, and St. Mary Magdalene) standing below.
Front and center below the tile mosaic and behind the plain, simple altar is the “presider’s
” chair. (Who’s important here?) Slightly off to the left, but, thank God, in full view of the congregation and not stuck in some broom closet, is the tabernacle for the reserved Blessed Sacrament with a white (?) sanctuary light burning above it. (What? Red was too traditional?)
Before Mass, the rector (remember, it’s not a parish, so there is no pastor), Father Bianchi (I wonder if he’s related to the holster manufacturer?) stood at the front of the church below the sanctuary, and told everyone about the shrine and current happenings. For example, he told us about the building fund. For a school? Of course not. Aren’t you paying attention? This isn’t a parish. They’re expanding the gift shop! This is Las Vegas. Even the church has to have a tourist trap. Father then reminded everyone about us being part of the universal Church and being as most everyone was a visitor, we should introduce ourselves to our neighbor and say where we were from. That hand-shaking nonsense interrupting the Eucharist Prayer of the New Mass drives me nuts, but before Mass, and given the location, this seemed quite natural. As it turned out, the couple in front of me where from Ohio and the guy next to me was from Budapest, Hungary.
Understand, I am a caveman Catholic, as in “old school.” I was raised, at home and school, with the belief that “Rome has spoken, it is done.” So, while I prefer the traditional Latin Mass, I fully accept the New Mass and can enjoy it when it is done properly and reverently. However, anything contrary to the GIRM or that smacks of personal innovation by the celebrant, will distract me and probably piss me off.
Having been there twice before, I know Fr. Bianchi gives a good homily. Unfortunately, we had a visiting priest from a local hospice. His homily lasted about ten minutes. Well, my mind was off on something else – probably that missing crucifix in the sanctuary – and the homily was over before I really got into it. (Aside: as bad as the Vatican II modernists want to Protestantize the Catholic Church, a whole lot of our priests could take some preaching lessons from the Prots. Or, better yet, go listen to some Bishop Sheen tapes.)
I know how many modernist churches are into standing throughout the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In Mahoney’s kingdom, I think it’s the law. Not here (thank God.) Everyone stayed kneeling until after the Great Amen.
I’ll give this to Holy Redeemer. They have a good organist (no guitars, bongos, etc.) and their music is always pretty traditional. And it’s one place where Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist makes sense, given the nearly 2,000 people. They had seven (one man and six women) in addition to the celebrant and Fr. Bianchi.
If you’re even in Las Vegas, Holy Redeemer can be the place for your Sunday obligation. Ask for their handy little map and Mass schedule when you check in at your hotel.