Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church
My peculiar guidelines for how I do this column have made for some big holes. For one, back in the early days, I only attended a single service in a particular place. For example, I attended the 8 a.m. weekday mass at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church in June 2007, and I never returned to the church. That church has placed many years in our Best of Northern Nevada readers’ poll, and this year, it won—again. Seems as though I’d know a lot of people in the congregation, since it’s people who read this newspaper who do the voting. But at the 9:30 a.m. Sunday service, I didn’t see a single acquaintance. Even though I didn’t know anyone, this church reminded me more of my hometown Catholic Church than any other I’ve visited. I felt like I knew the congregants.
This church, like Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Falls City, Nebr., is attached to a school, so the familiarity may have sprung from that. Even though the church “complex” is fairly large, the sanctuary is pretty simple, elegant. It’s got some beautiful stained glass, and the chancel is of marble, as is the altar and the candlesticks that flank it. But there aren’t a lot of extraneous objets d’ art in the sanctuary, although the ones that are there are worthy of a second look.
The music was led by a keyboard player with a guitar player and three singers. The congregation, too, sang along gustily, some of the better congregational singing I’ve heard in a North American Catholic church (although that young people’s choir at St. Therese the Little Flower Church is astounding). The keyboardist had quite a dramatic voice, kind of Broadway, even.
That Sunday was special because a baby, Lucy, was baptized. Her parents, Todd and Lisa, couldn’t have looked prouder, as their sweet-tempered daughter didn’t cry a note when her head got its little bath. It was pretty adorable.
But the thing that impressed me most was the sermon by associate pastor Fr. Mike Mahoney. He spoke on the gospel of the day, Luke 17: 11-19, which is the story in which Jesus healed 10 lepers, and only one, a Samaritan, came back to thank him. (Samaritans were looked down on by “regular” Jews because the practice of their faith was different.) I’ve heard this passage preached probably 50 times, and Fr. Mahoney took it in a totally different direction.
He said that in those days, lepers were outcast from whatever society they happened to live in. Lepers of different persuasions, like Jew and Samaritan, would be bound in brother and sisterhood by their social ostracization. None outside the diseased group could touch them, but Jesus did, the priest said. Fr. Mahoney then drew parallels between the lepers and the early days of the AIDS epidemic when even ministering priests were afraid to touch the sick. He told how a nurse schooled him in the correct way to comfort the sick, and that AIDS victims could be touched.
“This priest moved from the foot of the bed to the side of the bed,” and when he prayed or talked to the ill, he held their hand. “And the only words that came out of their mouths were ‘Thank you.’ … When that sick person wants to be touched, needs to be touched, do not withhold the touch.”
I can see why a lot of people would consistently vote this the “Best church” in our readers’ poll. It’s absolutely a comfortable, family-style Catholic church. And while I didn’t see any familiar faces, I felt right at home.