A field report from Julia Duin (h/t to David Mills!) tells us what a lot of us know — and what we wish wasn’t true.
Last year, I did an interesting experiment during Lent where I decided to show up at a Catholic church every day to take part in something called the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. This is not at all a Protestant practice nor something I grew up with, but I wanted to keep vigil, as it were, and Catholic churches were the only places that were consistently open during daylight hours for prayer. This, I decided, would be a discipline where my main sacrifice during Lent would not be food or chocolates but time.
[If you want to understand a little of what adoration is, click on this website from St. Julia’s near Boston. Notice their “Café Julia.” It’s one of the only Catholic Churches in the country with MY name mentioned.]
Anyway, it takes time to schlep to a church every day for at least 15 minutes. The vast majority of my stops were in churches in the Archdiocese of Seattle, although I did spend a week in Oregon searching out churches there.
Her discoveries were not exactly heartening:
… It took no small amount of work to try to find an open parish each day. The first week of each month had more adorations than others …
Rarely did I ever see any pamphlets in any church explaining adoration and what it meant and what that thing the Host was in (a monstrance?) and what it signified.
Others advertised adoration on their web sites but weren’t open.
The overwhelming impression I got – while searching about – was of locked, inaccessible churches. Seattle is fifth in the country in terms of homeless population, so I can see why the downtown churches restrict their open hours; they’d be packed with homeless otherwise.
One real pet peeve: No parish, except for St. Josephs, Issaquah, had adoration on Saturdays. I could not figure out why. That’s a day most of us have off and can drop by. Mondays were also deserts; no church seemed to be open that day.
Again, I am not Catholic, so my observations are from without the camp. Still, the center of any parish is the people who pray for it, and I could pretty well judge the health of a church by the space it devoted to adoration. As a non-Catholic, I hope that Catholics can up their game on this adoration idea. There’s more to it than even they know.
I wonder if some churches were closed due to the pandemic. My parish is an urban one, with the usual challenges that entails, and we only kept the vestibule — or narthex — open for most of the time during 2020 and 2021.
But what she found in her journey should give all Catholics pause.
Oh, and FWIW, Julia Duin has an impressive resume. This is from her website:
Julia Duin is a Seattle-based journalist who has worked as a full-time reporter or editor for everything from the Houston Chronicle to the Washington Times. She’s also written extensively for the Washington Post Sunday Magazine for which she came out with a nearly 6,000-word profile on President Trump’s advisor Paula White in November 2017. In 2019, she published a profile of Delilah Rene, the most famous woman in American radio, for the Seattle Times.
Julia is a graduate of Lewis & Clark College in Portland, where she got her BA in English. She then earned two master’s degrees: One in religion from Trinity School for Ministry (an Episcopal seminary) and one in journalism from the University of Memphis. Julia writes about lots of topics, but she specializes in covering interesting women in the world of religion, such as Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, former Bahraini Ambassador Houda Nonoo and the womenchurch movement in the Roman Catholic Church. She also landed an extensive profile of the elusive Alice Rogoff, former publisher for the Alaska Dispatch, for the Washington Post.
She’s a three-time Wilbur Award winner (from the Religion Communicators Council) for her magazine and newspaper features, most recently in 2018. Also in 2018, she was one of five recipients (out of about 720 entrants) of the Iceland Writer’s Retreat Alumni Award. She’s published six books, the latest being In the House of the Serpent Handler: A Story of Faith and Fleeting Fame in the Age of Social Media, a nonfiction work about 20-something Appalachian Pentecostal serpent handlers who use Facebook to publicize their exploits. During the 2014-2015 academic year, she occupied the Snedden Chair as a visiting journalism professor at the University of Alaska/Fairbanks. She currently provides content for professional web pages, helps people write their own books, blogs for getreligion.org, does travel writing for the Seattle Times and is coming out with a book about Mongolia this year. She has a 15-year-old daughter, Veeka, who she adores. Julia also likes anything to do with Kurds, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, ballet, sushi, gymnastics, Iceland, Kazakhstan and the Silk Road, movies by Hayao Miyazaki, covenant Christian communities, the Arctic, New Mexico and Alaska, cats, Mongolia, playing the harp and works by Philip Glass.