So far during our time in Astoria, we have attended Mass at two churches: Most Precious Blood (MPB) and St. Joseph's (St. Joe's). Both are relatively local and we are in the process of deciding on which Church to attend full-time.
I guess it's a little difficult to compare two Catholic churches completely, since each congregation tends to form its own traditions, and what would fly in one parish might be scandalous in another. For example, one of the oddities about Mass in Queens is what I like to call the "Queens Wave." It sounds like something that goes down at Citifield, doesn't it?
Apparently during the whole swine/pig/Mexican flu scare, people started avoiding contact with one another. Not that this is really that much of a problem for a lot of New Yorkers, but it makes the Sign of Peace at Mass a little awkward. For anyone who doesn't know, the Sign of Peace or "Kiss of Peace" is when each parishioner greets their neighbor by extending their hand and saying "Peace be with you" or something similar. Generally, it's polite to turn to people behind you, in front of you and next to you and shake their hand.
In Queens, however, the swine flu apparently made handshakes disappear, to be replaced by a polite "royal wave" across the pews. Not too terrible for me, since I've never been touchy-feely, but awkward for visiting Catholics who don't have a clue what just happened. At MPB, it's definitely the Queens Wave. At St. Joe's, some people do the Wave, but a lot of people still shake hands. No matter how you feel about your fellow parishioners out in "the real world," it seems a little odd to refuse a handshake or wave at someone who is literally a foot away from you. It almost feels rude or even lazy. Can you imagine Jesus Himself refusing to shake hands and just waving at the faithful?
Anyway, it seems like St. Joe's is a bit more vibrant community, or at least makes itself appear that way. Lots of activities, a website, bus trips, youth and adult social groups, and even a carnival. Not that MPB doesn't have a church community or activities. But generally, we got the impression that there were more "things to do" at or with St. Joe's.
We'll probably have to go to Mass at MPB a few more times. So far it's been fairly standard, but there have been instances where we found the church decorum to be a little odd. It felt at times that MPB was leaning more toward the traditional, God-fearing Catholic Church of 50 years ago. A lot of the "message" from the pulpit sounds like it came right out of Rome, hot off the presses. Sometimes that type of traditional experience is great, but sometimes, it feels like you're stuck in 1959 and the focus is on church structure and order, not adapting to the congregation itself.
Anyway, we'll see what happens. Maybe we'll check out the carnival at St. Joe's and see what type of folks go to the church on a regular basis. It guess it all depends on where we feel most comfortable. For a lot of people, having a religious community is no longer an essential part of their life experience. But finding the right church for us might be another step in making Astoria home.