As I am back on Cape Cod sand after a weekend of exotic services in Istanbul, today I went to Christ the King, a large Catholic church in the neighboring town of Mashpee. This is the second Catholic church visited in this project, the first being a Latin mass in San Francisco over the holidays, but one I had highlighted as a key visit in my local peregrinations. I have visited the large, white and relatively new parish twice before: once for my eldest son’s soccer banquet and the second for the funeral of a friend’s father. It is the largest Catholic congregation in the immediate area, perhaps on the entire Cape, and the church itself is the largest local church visited so far on the Cape.
Massachusetts is a very Catholic state due to the high influx of Irish and Italian immigrants in the 19th century. I estimate half of my childhood friends were Catholic, and over time I felt I was in the minority as a non-church going, non-affiliated quasi-Christian. Those friends would talk about going to “CCD” (catechism class) and when visiting me on overnight stays, would need to make arrangements to attend Mass at a local church. Catholicism is an integral part of eastern Massachusetts culture, and I’ve always felt excluded when in the company of friends for whom the church was a fact of life. As a WASP I was part of a different tradition that was more English and austere than Latin and emotional. As the local political columnist Howie Carr once observed, Bay State WASPs worship in wooden churches, Catholics in brick. WASPs tend to have roman numerals after their names, Catholics’ end with a vowel.
In the 1960s and 70s the Catholic parish that went on to become Christ the King was in temporary quarters on Route 28 in the Portugese section of Cotuit near the intersection of Newtown Road. I remember attending Mass there with a visiting friend one summer, the services were held in a tent evidently because the congregation swelled in the summer months and needed additional seating. My memories of that first Mass were of being confused by the Sign of the Cross, the genuflection before entering the pew, and the large amount of memorized rote evidently taught in the catechism classes. I was lost and felt very left out of the internal workings of the church.