Sunday, 19 May 2013

A Trinidadian Catholic view from the Pew

Somehow I must have missed this article when it was published in the Catholic News. I can so relate to it. Actually, besides the church I belong to (Cathedral / Sacred Heart) there are three other churches that I attend mass at : Our Lady mother of Mercy (River Estate Diego Martin) Saint Finbar's (West Moorings Diego Martin), St Anthony's  (Petit Valley).

Having said this I wish to challenge the goodly author that she should meet the Altar servers and Choir at the Cathedral. Ours rock too.  It is a great article. Have a read:

Port of Spain Archdiocese weekly newspaper for Saturday, 27 April 2013 - 
View from the Pew Written by Christine Mahon
For some time now I have been meaning to have my observations about Church documented somewhere, so here goes.

I would like to confess that since marrying and leaving my family home in St Ann’s, I moved around for many years among all the many Catholic churches searching for a suitable place of worship:
  • the coolest building, 
  • the shortest homily, 
  • the nearest church, 
  • the uplifting service, 
  • the convenient time, 
  • the one with the good preacher 
– or I just basically “shuffled the deck” and picked a “card” so parishioners could not label me “the lady with those three disruptive children” – actually two well-behaved and one juvenile delinquent.

I, however, was somehow always drawn back to St Anthony’s Church, Petit Valley where I felt most at home. Coincidentally, this church actually qualified quite nicely as my parish since I lived just five minutes away. For some years after settling in St Anthony’s, I continued to “shuffle the pack” depending on the priest assigned to a particular Mass. Admit it, we all have our preferences. Until finally, with my children grown up and finding myself most often than not going to Mass alone, with nobody to complain or whine, I stuck primarily with the 9.15 a.m. Sunday service.

While what I share are entirely my feelings on the subject, some things cannot be denied. Firstly, the quality, harmony and commitment of the choir and their wonderful delivery of music and choice of hymns, which I dare challenge anyone to deny, is entirely uplifting. Secondly, the discipline of the altar servers is rare, particularly in this day and age. I have been to Mass over the last 30 years in several countries and churches and watched the somewhat decline in this area of the service. I can safely say that the demeanour, respect and obvious knowledge shown by the altar boys and girls assigned to St Anthony’s are to be admired. I have no idea if training is done parish by parish or by a school for acolytes, whatever the case I feel very proud of our youngsters and believe others would do well to be guided accordingly.

The introduction of the children’s Sunday school at this 9.15 a.m. Mass is also very moving. The kids are led off at the beginning of Mass and return to re-join the congregation at the Presentation of Gifts, displaying with pride and joy their artful depictions of the lesson of the day. The children always look happy and satisfied to have been a part of the proceedings and I extend kudos to the “aunties” who take on this mission every week.

At the risk of sounding like the granny that I am, I recall when I was a child that preparation for attending Mass meant being well-dressed, at least watered if not fed, and bathroom exercises completed. Apart from provisions for a baby, it boggles my mind the amount of snacks, drinks, toys, trips to the washroom, etc that have to take place to pacify children during the Mass. I beg to suggest that this would be a good place to start a lesson in discipline. Words (preferably whispered) like, “You will have to wait”, “Quiet, honey, yes, Mass is nearly over” and my favourite, “No”. Some of us do not relish being face to face with a corn curl smeared little face, never mind how adorable, as we kneel warily forward to pray. Yes, it is sometimes torturous taking children to Mass but they do settle eventually. If you are waiting for the “age of reason”, well….. I am still waiting. How else can children learn an expected behaviour without practice? Tip number one, sit as near to the altar as possible. As scary as this seems, the amount of action from this vantage point will do more to keep young children entertained than the boring backs of adults. If you feel your child’s behaviour is being too disruptive during Mass, feel free to step outside for a few minutes.

As for the adults, I have only one request to those who jabber before or at the most inappropriate times during the Mass with total disregard for the sanctity of the place or moment, especially those who make zero attempts to talk softly.

“PLEASE……Keep it down – people are actually trying to pray.”

I brought my toddler grandson to Mass for the first time some Sundays ago – itself, a semi-torturous affair. I will continue to bring him if necessary and persevere in my part to keep him accustomed to church and the benefits it will bring to his life.

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