A few weeks ago, a couple of Franciscan priests rented space at the Citadel Mall, upstairs between Dillard's and Mervyn's. There, they conduct masses daily at noon, Monday through Saturday. It's been so popular that the crowds are often standing room only.
Is a mall conducive to communion with the divine? Malls sell things, period. Holding mass in a mall makes it like a consumable product.
What's the oddest place you've seen a church? Churches in strip mall storefronts are really odd. The strangest I've ever seen, though, was the attic of a mill in Amsterdam that was started when the Nazis overran the Dutch in World War II.
Is there a connection between commerce and prayer? The two are fundamental opposites and should be kept separate. It's a scam to combine them, like medieval priests selling indulgences or televangelists making people think they can donate their way to heaven.
Where's the weirdest place you've ever prayed? On a barstool.
Was your prayer answered? Yeah.
Is mass in the mall really that odd? What's the etiquette? Can you bring in your corn dog or Cracker Jacks or Orange Julius? What's the proper attire?
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Is mass at the mall a good idea? It's a horrible idea. It puts religion on a convenience store level. Spirituality should involve a moving away from commerce, not a one-stop combination.
Have you ever had a spiritual experience at a mall? The mall's not a place for spiritual uplift. This is symptomatic of the consumer mentality that pervades everything these days, from patriotism to religion. Everything is packaged, advertised and pushed. And people line up to buy. The idea of mass in the mall is a lot more disgusting than it is heart-warming.
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How does mass at the mall strike you? It's no worse than cowboy church in the drive-in. You won't see me there, but it doesn't exactly bother me, either.
Do you see a connection between commerce and spirituality? There shouldn't be a connection, but holding mass in the mall certainly suggests one.
What's the strangest place for a church you've ever seen? I have a friend who was trespassing on a military reservation in the mountains and stumbled on a concrete bunker that had a bunch of Satanist stuff in it. That was very freaky.
What's the most unusual place you've had a spiritual experience? Sitting in the middle of a river. It was kind of a Siddhartha thing -- vowing to sit there until the river talked back.
What did the river say? Long-range stuff. Rivers don't worry about your little problems.
-- Bob Campbell