Holy Name of Jesus, Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Holy Name of Jesus, Providence, Rhode Island, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Holy Name of Jesus
Location: Providence, Rhode Island, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 12 April 2009, 11:00am

The building

An Italian Romanesque building situated on a sizeable campus with a rectory and school. Renovations are currently under way. A very thorough description of the church's interior can be found on their website.

The church

Holy Name is home to three distinct communities: the Latin Tridentine devotees, the old parishioners of European stock, and a very large Liberian Catholic population. They sponsor a food pantry, youth group, men's group and a gospel choir. On Sundays they celebrate a novus ordo mass, mass in the extraordinary rite (Tridentine, 1962 Missal), and an African community mass. Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, followed by benediction, is held each Wednesday.

The neighborhood

Providence is the capital of Rhode Island and one of the first cities established in the United States. Paradoxically, the population of greater Providence exceeds that of Rhode Island itself, as a portion of the metropolitan area extends into Massachusetts. Providence was founded in 1636 by the noted colonial theologian Roger Williams, exiled from Puritan Massachusetts for his advocacy of religious tolerance, separation of church and state, and fair dealings with Native Americans. At one time a major manufacturing center, the city saw its fortunes decline during the Great Depression. Today, the service industry, particularly education, health care and finance, makes up a large portion of the city's economy. Even so, poverty remains an entrenched problem, as it does in most post-industrial New England cities. The church is located in a depressed, crime-ridden area – a little bit rough, one might say.

The cast

The Revd Joseph D. Santos, parish administrator, was the celebrant.

What was the name of the service?

Tridentine High Mass.

How full was the building?

Three-quarters full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

An older woman giving out hymnals wished us good morning and asked if we needed the readings.

Was your pew comfortable?

More comfortable than not. We were there for more than two hours and got a little sore near the end from all the kneeling.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Quiet and reverential.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

The choir chanted the Vidi aquam: "Vidi aquam egredientem de templo, a latere dextro, alleluia" ("I saw water coming forth from the temple, on the right side, alleluia").

What books did the congregation use during the service?

A hymn book and a sheet with the day's readings.

What musical instruments were played?


Did anything distract you?

A man on the other end of the pew mumbled in what I think was Latin throughout the service, beginning to end. Initially I thought he was following the mass, but he wasn't – he was talking to himself!

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Very reverential. One young man singing in the choir had a voice that was earth-shattering.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

6 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

8 – Father Santos included some extra devotional prayers before beginning the homily. I'm always a fan of that.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

He spoke of how every Sunday is a celebration of the Lord's resurrection.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The entrance procession, the choir, abundant incense – all were very beautiful.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

I wanted to sing along in the Vidi aquam but we had been given only the English words, not the Latin. And the mumbling guy at the end of the pew was very distracting.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

It was Easter Sunday so I was headed out with family. The priest did wish everyone a happy Easter individually on the way out, though.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Not applicable.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

8 – It is just too far away. If it were close, though, I would be very happy to be a regular.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?


What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The young man with the earth-shattering voice.

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