Sing to the LORD a new song, sing His praise from the end of the earth! You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it. You islands, and those who dwell on them. Isaiah 42:10
|Blue skies, bluer seas: the beautiful Caribbean|
It's a tricky thing to write about Jesus and cruising. I found this out before my first cruise, when I asked online about the availability of Mass on the cruise. "Who's thinking of church when you're on a cruise?" was one answer I received. Another practically screamed out the subtext, "Ooohhh, aren't YOU something special? Being all pious while the rest of us are drinking and partying!"I chalk these up both to bad manners and my awkwardness in communicating the importance of Jesus in my life. If I wore a habit like the Daughters of St. Paul, it wouldn't seem unnatural to be preoccupied with Christ. But Pauline laity? Not so much. Yet the Founder envisioned Cooperators as "persons who have the sense of Christ … who have zeal and think of the good of souls; who see in the Pauline Family an initiative to give Jesus Christ to the world "
I also suspect that a thirst for living water -- a hunger for Christ -- simmers beneath all manifestations of modern indifference. Experience bears this out. I have found a pent-up hunger for God among guests and crew alike while cruising.
Last year, for example, we met a priest whose parishioners had gifted him with a cruise for his 25th jubilee year of ordination. He volunteered to celebrate Sunday Mass on board the ship, and was offered the use of the 35-40 person capacity ship's chapel. No public announcement was made; news spread by word of mouth.
|Impromptu Mass Aboard the Norwegian Pearl|
|St Alphonsus Liguori, Domenica|
We arrived at St Alphonsus, a lively parish with many young families and singles. The congregation, lead by an excellent choir, sang with vigor. What a treat to hear spirited singing from ordinary Catholics at an ordinary Sunday Mass!
|A family affair at St. Alphonsus: Jumaare & J'Myiah Bonnare,|
Keiziah Dowton & Kerry-Ann Richards, with permission.
Finding Jesus in Caribbean ports of call is an endless adventure. Our preferred cruise line, Carnival, loads us up with information on buying duty-free luxuries and liquors, but typically cannot answer queries about where to find churches in port. So Bill and I research the dioceses located along our itinerary before we get on board. Many churches are located within walking distance of the docking pier. For others we find transportation by taxi, bus, even Pedi cycle. Churches can be in any neighborhood. A priest in Jamaica once advised us to go left and not right as we departed, if we wanted to explore the neighborhood safely -- valuable advice for innocents abroad.
Not so valuable was a piece of advice given by a U.S. pastor to parishioners who asked him about fulfilling their Sunday Mass obligation while cruising:
"Our parish priest told us 5 years ago that masses in the islands would be very different than what we are used to at home. He said to just go and enjoy our vacation. We could go when we got back. He also gave us the readings for the mass we would be missing just so we could read them and know what mass would have been about ."
Setting aside the question whether this was sound pastoral advice, meant to be shared publicly, I think he was focusing on externals and missed the point. We find exactly the opposite -- nothing brings home the reality that the Church is ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC  – like worship in a foreign port.In every church we enter we find two photographs hanging: a picture of the local bishop and one of Pope Francis. With the successors of the Apostles looking down at us, we know without doubt: we are an APOSTOLIC Church.
We have attended Mass in Creole, Spanish, English and Papiamentu. The language may vary but the action of the liturgy does not vary. We gather, we ask forgiveness, we hear the Word, we offer gifts, we eat the sacred meal, and we depart refreshed and revitalized. We do this in every land and language. We are a CATHOLIC or UNIVERSAL Church.
No matter the time, Mass is the eternal sacrifice of Calvary made present on earth. The Church is ONE.
No matter the place, Mass is heaven on earth. The Church is HOLY.
 The author and her husband are spending golden retirement years cruising the waters of the Caribbean. This is the first in a series that examines living out the Pauline charism in such pleasant circumstances.
 Blessed James Alberione, San Paolo (SP), Bollettino interno della Società S. Paolo , Maggio 1957
 Holland America Cruise Line does have a Catholic priest on board all sailings, placed by the Church’s Apostleship of the Seas (AOS) which ministers to maritime workers and travelers. Ships’ crews can go for months without access to Mass, making the AOS a valuable ministry.
 Trip Advisor Forum, tripadvisor.com, User scrappinannie, Apr 01, 2014,.
 The four supernatural marks of the Catholic Church.
 The language spoken in the Dutch Antilles.
Rae Stabosz has been a member of the Association of Pauline Cooperators since 2003. She and Bill Stabosz, her husband of 46 years, have six sons, three daughters, nine grandsons and seven granddaughters; they eagerly await the birth of grand #17. Rae retired in 2007 from the University of Delaware, where she was a technology and media specialist for 27 years. She is co-founder and past president of The Society of Catholic Scholars of Delaware and proprietor, since 2004, of the Pious Ladies Bookmobile.