Anyone who knows me, our home or my work can sense a Catholic ( upper and lower case) influence . But although raised Roman Catholic I have not attended mass in well over twenty years, aside from a few weddings.
I have been an on again- off again Episcopalian , but sometimes finding the churches a bit pretentious – who is more High Church than thou sort of silliness . Eastern faiths delight but mystify in an unhelpful way. So it has been the faith of my youth that has been how I identify when I identify as anything aside from a humanist . But with the Church’s mean spiritedness I have hesitated to attend ; until this new saint of a Pope.
And an unlikely evangelist at the front door of St John the Evangelist Catholic Church here in town on 13th.
Last week my sister Kat and I were wandering about and we stumbled upon this lovely ,yet unremarkable for a city so rich in churches, Gothic Revival church. What made it remarkable was the little woman greeting visitors at the front door . So sweet and so welcoming . I believe she is Phillipina and aptly named, for Philadelphia anyway , Liberty. She invited us to mass but we declined but I promised her I would attend soon.
I made good on my promise and the church was as joyous as Liberty. The placard on the front door asserts that it is an inclusive place and from looking about from my pew I would agree with that. The church offers two masses in Mandarin, has a strong Asian American presence as well as an African American presence ( hence the music being so much better ). Young folks , old folks , babies and homeless people, all crammed in. The church is run by Capuchin Friars and it was delightful to hear the priest railing against capitalism and praising the Holy Father’s position on the environment . With his simple linen vestments the priest was a delightful opposition to High Church puffery; let the pretty architecture attend to that need.
It seemed fitting the church would be dedicated to John the Blessed, the Evangelist. I turn to him in my own work and I guess other gay artists have in the past as well. Most famously Leonardo, who painted him with such physical beauty that nincompoops have insisted it is the Magdalene and not John. So silly, this inability to imagine same sex bonding, chaste or not.
The other day I snapped this detail at the Academy of Benjamin West’ massive depiction of the Ecce Homo presented before Pilate. As you can see he is quite a looker.
Will I return to the Church when I return to LA? probably not. To be shallow, most are mid century monstrosities and the pretty ones offer mostly masses in Spanish. But for now , for the next six weeks , I will attend. Let me know if you want me to light a candle for you.