Last Sunday I went to Mass in Topsail as I almost always do. It is a quiet time in church and there are worse things in the world you can get up to. I like it and I actually get something from it. That is a complicated notion and it has something to do with the search for peace that drives us all. The thing that has struck me at Mass for some years now, though, is the age of the parishioners. It is an old crowd in the pews at Topsail – not exclusively old but certainly skewing in that direction. That isn’t surprising for a number of reasons. It is a reality of the 21st century.
While the crowd in the pews has changed the Mass itself hasn’t and there is comfort in that. There is a homey feeling to it. It is also nice to be in a group of people where I am not the oldest person. That is a bit of a change. As you march along the path that is “life” you notice that the people you started the march with have begun to fade away. There are fewer of them. Some have lost faith. Many have just died. Yet there is still a familiarity to it all that is a deep comfort.
I have attended Mass in various places around the world. I went in England and France and once I attended Mass in Iceland where I never understood a word the priest was saying. However, I could easily follow along because it was the same Mass. The prayers and the order were all the same as when I was a child. It is true because the Mass I attended through youth and into adulthood was in Latin so hearing it in a language that was not English was not new.
Despite the unmistakable ring of familiarity in it so very much has changed over the years. I had a friend who died a couple of months ago and as many of you will know the tradition for Catholic funerals was to send “a Mass card” to the family of the departed. That card, which you can buy at any parish office, says a priest will offer a Mass up for the repose of the soul of the departed person. Here is the problem. The parish church in my neighbourhood, which was St. Patrick’s, is no longer in the mass card business. It is closed up and has been sold. Similarly, the church where my sons were baptized, which was Holy Family down on what used to be called The Horse Cove Line, is also closed with the doors locked. The next stop to buy a Mass card would have been Corpus Christi Church on Waterford Bridge Road but I couldn’t go there either. Same thing. Locked up and sold.
The sale of churches and church properties were to raise money to be paid to victims who had suffered abuse at the hands of some very evil men who operated within the church. I have no problem with that at all. It is punishment earned. What I find curious is that we still go to Mass. At least a lot of us. We sit there and pray and wonder about the things that have happened and how it is all so different than the world we knew years ago. Two things can be true at the same time. However, I still like to go to mass.
You can contact Jim Furlong at [email protected]