How Joan Came Home

How Joan Came Home

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Story of a Soul

by Roseanne T. Sullivan

What brings people back to church, after many years – in some cases an entire lifetime – of estrangement? This story of a California woman’s ‘reversion' may shed some light on the mystery that so many priests encounter.

In 2006, Joan Raphael was a thoroughly modern woman.  A nurse who had led a widely-traveled, adventurous life, Joan had been away from the Catholic Church for over 40 years. While she’d grown up with the Latin Mass, there hadn’t been any traumatic break; she’d simply been raised by relatives who didn’t practice their faith.

One Sunday back in 1969, however, Joan decided she wanted to go to Mass. She didn’t even make it through the church door, however; the radical changes that greeted her were so appalling.

“It was gutted!” she recalls. The sound of guitar music and singing shocked her. “They’d brought the 60s into the church!”

Repelled, she’d turned on her heel and never returned.  Many years later, however, she’d had a spiritual experience walking along the boardwalk in California.

IMG_20130414_181240_2

Repelled, she’d turned on her heel and never returned.  Many years later, however, she’d had a spiritual experience walking along the boardwalk in California.

“It was a spectacular day…..sky and sea azure — perfect like an artist's idealized rendition of the seaside.” She realized in all of her being that day that she was surrounded by God’s love. She was filled with “a great gratitude to God for all He has given me, with no way to express it.”

That feeling of gratitude ‘with no satisfactory way to express it' stayed with Joan for many years, until she learned that the Mass that she once known and loved was back.

The Oratory of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, in Santa Clara, California, is run by the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest.

The Oratory of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, in Santa Clara, California, is run by the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest.

In 2006, Joan’s interest was piqued by news of a Traditional Latin Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace in Santa Clara, CA. But when she arrived, she was told that the Bishop had just moved the Mass to the Oratory of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, also in Santa Clara.

“What’s the address?” she’d asked, all the while wondering what an Oratory actually was.  (Editor’s Note: An oratory is a place of prayer other than a parish that is set aside by ecclesiastical authority for prayer and celebration of the Mass.)

In anticipation of the Motu Proprio of 2007, Bishop Patrick McGrath of the Diocese of San Jose had accepted the offer of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, which is dedicated to the traditional Latin Liturgy of 1962 for the Mass and the other sacraments, to provide a priest canon to serve as rector to the oratory. Because the Oratory would be permitted to offer traditional Latin Masses on Sundays, weekdays, feast days, and holydays, with all the sacraments available in the traditional rite, this new arrangement was to be a big improvement.  (Previously, Masses were only allowed by the bishop once a month on First Saturday evenings.)

Joan attended her first Mass in decades on January 1, 2007. By chance, it was the first day that the Diocese recognized the chapel as an oratory.

“I sat in the last pew and was in tears during most of the Mass,” she remembers. “My soul recognized that the Mass is the highest form of worship on earth, full of beauty, reverence and full attention on God.”

IMG_4904

“I sat in the last pew and was in tears during most of the Mass,” she remembers.

She remembered that as a child, she’d been awed by the beautiful statues in Catholic churches, the incense, and the solemnity. The choir music uplifted her, and the powerful sound of the organ resonated in her body and her soul. The grandeur of the surroundings made her feel diminutive, and she knew that was the right way for her to feel in God’s house. No one spoke above a whisper.  “It was clear that God was worshiped in that beautiful place.”

Soon after her experience of the TLM, Joan went to Confession for the first time in decades.

“The priest was overjoyed,” she recalls. He told her the saints in heaven were rejoicing too.  “I cried like a child. It was a wonderful experience–to unburden my soul of my sins and to feel accepted back into the real Church. I attended all the Masses offered during the next week and the next. It was a glorious time.”

IMG_5052

Soon after her experience of the TLM, Joan went to Confession for the first time in decades.“The priest was overjoyed,” she recalls. He told her the saints in heaven were rejoicing too. 

More than six years later, Joan hasn’t left yet. Some friends at the parish joke that she is at the Oratory so often for Masses, devotions, social activities, rehearsing and singing with the choir, buying and arranging the altar flowers, and helping out in many other ways, that she practically lives there.

But that is okay with Joan. At the Tridentine Mass she feels God's presence, just as she did on that glorious day on the beach. But at this Mass she could feel Him even more intensely present, while He was “accepting the sacrifice of His Son.”

Here at last Joan could worship God as He deserved.

IMG_0083

Friends joke that Joan is at the Oratory so often for Masses, devotions, social activities, rehearsing and singing with the choir, buying and arranging the altar flowers, and helping out in many other ways, that she practically lives there.

Comments

comments

No Comments

Post A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.