Churches worth driving to

Name of Church: St. Thomas Aquinas Church
Address: 751 Waverley Street, Palo Alto, CA 94041
Phone number: (650) 494-2496
Mass times: Sundays, 7:30 a.m., 8:45 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon. Monday – Friday, 7:15 a.m. & 12:15 p.m. Saturday, 12:15 p.m.
Confessions: Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Names of priests: Fr. Matthew Stanley, pastor. Fr. Randy Valenton, parochial vicar. Fr. Peter Seimas, parochial vicar.
Special groups/activities: St. Vincent de Paul Society, Knights of Columbus, Stanford Hospital Ministry
Music: St. Thomas is the home church of the renowned St. Ann Choir, which originally began at the St. Ann Chapel at Stanford University in 1963. They sing at the Sunday noon Mass and on holy days. They sing Gregorian chant, and medieval and Renaissance polyphony and polyphonic Masses of the Renaissance for holy days and other feast days.
School: Yes, the parish is affiliated with St. Elizabeth Seton School.
Fellow parishioners: English-speaking community.
Parking: Park on the street; you should be able to find spaces on the weekend.
Acoustics: OK.
Additional observations: Palo Alto is a wealthier community south of San Francisco, and is known for Stanford University and its many technology companies. St. Thomas is a historic church in the Diocese of San Jose. It is one of three churches that make up St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. It was built in 1902, and is the oldest church in Palo Alto. It is a registered historic landmark. Its impressive features include its distinctive carpenter gothic architecture, ornate wood ceiling crossbeams and stained glass windows. It has its own monthly newsletter,Steeple Talk, which can be viewed on the parish website. Movie buffs might remember it as the place where Harold and Maude met in the 1971 Hal Ashby film Harold and Maude.


Posted Friday, March 02, 2012 7:38 AM By Charles in CenCA
Indeed, the St. Ann choir/schola is an inspiration to the younger generations of chant enthusiasts be they lay or clergy. The director, Prof. Mahrt, is also president of the Church Music Association of America (CMAA) which is now a growing, thriving movement that is leading the way through many yearly seminars over the entire country, and many new educational resources from Mahrt’s own new book, to wonderful new hymnals and missals that stand in stark contrast to the “mainstream” publishers. The parishioners of St. Thomas and Palo Alto are well aware of the grace of this choir’s patrimony for four decades, and especially of how Prof. Mahrt has steadily guided with a soft voice and even softer demeanor the sacred musical worship there. He’s told many a very amusing anecdote about when he was asked by a former pastor about adding music in English to the Mass back in the day, and his very unique response. It would be worth a trip to Palo Alto to ask Prof. Mahrt to share that story and his quip. God bless St. Ann Choir and a man who is a veritable treasure to the whole RCC.

Posted Friday, March 02, 2012 9:33 AM By Laura
@Charles in CenCa: Oh, come on! Share Prof. Mahrt’s response. How many of us have the opportunity to just drop in? It sounds like it would be quite edifying.

Posted Friday, March 02, 2012 9:40 AM By FrMichael
Be careful which Mass you attend. While Dr. Mahrt is a treasure to the Catholic Church, the parish is decidedly mixed: both conservative and very liberal elements apparently thrive there. The 8:45 Mass is a litany of liturgical abuses that I remember long ago from my seminarian days at St. Patrick’s Seminary when I accidently stumbled upon it one Sunday. The same group is apparently still in charge of it (search for Thomas Merton Center for Catholic Spiritual Development).

Posted Friday, March 02, 2012 11:36 AM By MacDonald
Years ago I attended the Gregorian Chant Mass there and it was beautiful. However, I was surprised to learn from the pastor at the time (forget his name) that many of the choir members were not even Catholic, but just liked the music; same for those who attended the Mass! I hope they have evangelized a bit, so the Mass is not only beautiful, but also a way of bringing more people to Jesus through conversion and baptism.

Posted Friday, March 02, 2012 4:32 PM By Jay S.
“Confessions: Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.” please tell me that there are other times available and encouraged!

Posted Monday, March 05, 2012 5:46 PM By MacDonald
With such a short time slot for confessions, perhaps Palo Alto has been designated a “sin-free zone.”

Posted Tuesday, March 06, 2012 2:39 AM By Dottie
Many Bishops and Priests no longer preach the need for Confession from the Pulpit or in the Church bulletin. They no longer teach that it is a requirement to go to Confession at least once a year and that it is still a precept of the Church – and therefore a mortal sin not to adhere to it. CCC: ” 2042 ….. The second precept ( “You SHALL confess your sins at least once a year” ) ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.”