Morning Mass at Holy Family

This morning I attended Mass at Holy Family Catholic Parish in Inverness, considered by some to be the foremost “evangelical Catholic” congregation in the country.[1] Located just minutes from Willow Creek Community Church, the sanctuary of Holy Family is complete with jumbo screens, guitars, a face mic’d pastor preaching, and an amazing piece of contemporary artwork called the Cross of New Life hanging over the altar (pictured to the right). 

I returned home from the service with several observations. Here are a few.

1. There was a great deal of biblical content. Readings from Scripture, music, prayers, affirmations of the creed—the overall liturgy had a degree of God-centeredness that you don’t find, quite frankly, in many “evangelical Protestant” churches. Sure there were some points when I was forced to sit in silence on account of doctrinal disagreement, but, at least during the first half of the service, before the Mass, these moments were minimal.

2. Catholic and Protestant cultures can be quite different. Here is one example: The facilities manager of the parish gave a superb testimony of how he observes the face of Jesus in the church’s faithful parishioners. While holding up his large key ring as a sure way for people to identify him, he announced that he possessed every key to the building but two: the safe key and the key to the pastor’s liquor cabinet, to which the priest immediately stood, walked over to the man, took keys from his pocket, put them in the man’s hand, smiled, and returned to his seat. It was really quite funny. The congregation naturally erupted in laughter. After the applause subsided, I tried to picture this scenario happening at College Church. Despite my vivid imagination, I couldn’t see it. My point is simply to suggest that our respective communities, as Catholics and (American) Protestants, operate according to different norms.  

3. While there is much about the Catholic tradition that I appreciate (as described above in point one), I can’t muster any appreciation for the Mass. The more I study Catholic theology and observe the Mass celebrated I can do nothing but look on with incredulity. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the logic behind it. It’s just that I see the Mass more as a product of scholastic philosophy than anything derived from Scripture. This statement will undoubtedly illicit a wave of arguments from the Catholic readers of Chris-tocentric, which I probably deserve. I say this not out of disrespect; I’m simply sharing my perspective. 

4. The primary take away for me, quite frankly, is confirmation of what I’ve been saying for the last year of book touring with Holy Ground… that you’ll know if a congregation is “evangelical”[2] by its emphasis on Scripture and on personal relationship with Jesus. This was entirely true of Holy Family. Accordingly, this parish and others like it are realizing the Vatican II vision, which is still in the process of being fulfilled. In the words of Cardinal Franz Konig:[3]

The crucial process of reception, that all-important part of any church council… can take several generations. [In the case of Vatican II] It continues today.

It’s remarkable to see the aggiornamento of Pope John XXIII taking root right here in nearby Inverness, IL.


1. For clarity sake, I didn’t participate in the Mass, as in receiving the host; I simply observed it.

2. The term “Evangelical” is not altogether applicable when used of Catholics since the doctrines of faith alone and Scripture alone are missing from Catholic teaching; nevertheless, in a sociological sense at least, the terminology is common parlance.

3. From The Tablet, Christmas 2002, quoted in Living Vatican II: The 21st Council for the 21st Century by Gerald O’Collins SJ (a terrific book that I purchased in the Holy Family bookstore this morning).

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