Croatian Catholics and Zagrebacki Odrezak (Veal Cordon Bleu)

If I could take away one thing from this experience, it would be the reminder that Depression is nothing to be ashamed of.  Except for a few toddling monkeys roaming around, Catholic Croatian Holy Trinity Parish had a milieu of sombre fatigue.  A heaviness seemed to weigh on the priest’s heart, mind and body.  Nearly everyone wore black. The sanctuary’s focal point was a life-sized crucifix complete with a dying, outstretched Christ.  It appeared that sorrow resided here.

This was most exemplified in the permanently placed bronze panels around the sanctuary depicting the Fourteen Stations of the Cross.  These illustrated Jesus’ journey from his death sentence to his burial.

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The morning, lead by the priest and a few nuns, was about ritual.  Afterwards Marion, my companion who grew up in a High Anglican Church, said that she could have recited most of the service from memory.  The prescribed Lectionary texts were read, creeds and pre-written prayers were methodically recounted.  The Eucharist wafers were served.  The sermon was about three minutes long.  Not many people stayed to talk to each other after the half hour long service was completed.

It begged the question in our little group of three: Why do people come?

Since this encounter, I’ve done some research on Croatian history in an attempt to understand the spiritual climate of this congregation.  Things seemed to have settled down now for the country but Croatia has had a tumultuous last 75 years.  Perhaps these rituals in this space are a way for Croatians to work out their pain together.

Something beautiful about old traditions like Catholicism is that there’s nothing they haven’t dealt with before within the human condition.  “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the sun: …A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4)  Perhaps we had stumbled upon this community’s time to mourn.

After the service, we walked around.  There were statues of saints in the back of the sanctuary.  They reminded my other companion, Pearl, of Hindu statues of gods.

We sensed that we did not belong there.  The thing is though, that’s okay.  Being neither Catholic nor Croatian, we were not meant to belong there.  The building was not built for us.  The service was not held for us.  We were intruding upon another culture’s sense of the sacred and there was much that we didn’t understand.

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Unfortunately, we did not find any Croatian Catholics to have lunch with us.  However, the bulletin was full of advertisements for Croatian owned businesses including this restaurant: Croatia Restaurant, which we thought would be an appropriate place to discuss our observations.  Here we are with my order of Zagrebacki Odrezak (Veal Cordon Bleu).

 

 

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Spaghetti and Meatballs with Independent Fundamentalist Baptists

Calvary Road

Calvary Road Baptist Church‘s sign said something like, “King James Bible-Believing Independent Fundamentalist Baptists” when I first noticed them years ago while visiting my husband’s parents in Wasaga Beach.  I endeavoured to better understand a group that would purposely paint themselves in this way.

The pastor knew I was coming.  I e-mailed him to ask about the church’s current address and if he knew anyone who would be willing to have lunch with me.  I mentioned I was visiting the area and that I was not a Christian.  He wrote back, but didn’t mention lunch.

I was nervous driving to the community centre the church met in but when I arrived,  I was warmly welcomed by the pastor, his wife and a woman who invited me to sit with her.

I sat down and looked around.  The last time I was in this community centre, I was at a Stag ‘n Doe playing flip cup.  I decided to keep that anecdote to myself in this particular crowd.

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My attire that morning.  I was hoping that dress pants and light makeup were conservative enough.

I was, perhaps, under-dressed.  Most women wore skirts and most men were in full suits with ties.  Ages varied and everyone was Caucasian, but that is pretty typical of rural Ontario.

What was most apparent was the passion this congregation felt for proselyting.  That was so much the case that it would be unfair to write a post about them without at least giving you a link to a briefing of what that message is: The Gospel.   Members were challenged to hand out twenty tracts each that week.  The sermon was on Micah 6:8  with the Gospel story woven in.  The saving power of Jesus was the general theme of the hymns sung and John 3:16 was prominently featured on the bulletin. An alter call was given at the end of service in case anyone of the 15-20 of us hadn’t accepted Christ as our personal Saviour.  I’m suspicious that most of this was done for my benefit.

Personally, I am not offended by (boundary-respecting)  evangelism.  It is, at its unadulterated core, an expression of love.  And I definitely felt a sense of of love pulsing from the pulpit and the congregation that day.

After the service, several kind people chatted with me and the pastor invited me over to his family’s house for lunch to talk more.

The pastor’s wife was warm, hospitable and open.  Her home was beautifully decorated.  Centrepiece candles were casually lit and chargers were placed under each plate.  Lunch was spaghetti and meatballs, salad and dinner rolls.  Dessert was homemade peanut butter sticky buns and banana bread.  It was a lovely setting for a discussion on worldviews.

To summarize the discourse around the table, the reason they are committed to the KJV is because it is a literal translation of the ancient Greek and Hebrew words penned by the original authors of the Bible, words which they believe were dictated by God.  The pastor is also considers the atrocities committed throughout Church history separate from his own church’s theological ancestry.  As an independent church, he more identifies his congregation with the pre-Constantine Church and other peaceful historical Christian groups such as the Waldensians and the Anabaptists.

A personal highlight occurred when I pointed out that conservative Christians often have a bad reputation.  The pastor’s wife explained, “I think people think we are judging them when we make decisions different from them in the way we choose to live our lives.  We aren’t judging them.  We are only living the way that we feel it is best for us to live.”  Everything about how they treated me made me feel like that was true.

What also struck me was how well-read and thought-out the pastor’s beliefs were.  And in his passion at lunch, he shared the gospel story with me another 5-6 different ways, attempting to get me to see the beauty of it.

The family was kind and gracious in their acceptance of me sitting there eating their food, questioning their beliefs.  I am glad this family and congregation exists in the world.

I couldn’t help but feel a little sad for not looking at the world the way they do, but I suppose that might be a re-occurring sensation in this project.  I remain touched and inspired by their hospitality and openness and I am grateful for this encounter.