Thought for the week

A Serious House on Serious Earth

Recently I attended Sunday Mass in a country church built soon after Catholic Emancipation. Magnificent stained-glass windows functioned as a delightful backdrop to the altar. Lit up by the late spring sunshine, the colours of gold, crimson and royal blue rested gently on the limestone. A small church, it was representative of many such buildings of mid-19th century Ireland.

Empowered by a newfound freedom, Catholics at the time were determined to be as good if not better than their ‘separated brethren.’  Of course, after Vatican II the churches became unsuitable for good liturgy. Yet, for the most part, these churches became a feature in the life of the parishioners through the ages: there they took their children for baptism; there they were married and, finally, there Mass, with the priest in black vestments, was offered for their souls.

In the church on that Sunday morning, one felt that the congregation (about 70 or 80) wanted to be there – nothing was contrived; up at the holy end, the African priest seemed a humble man who was satisfied simply to be a mediator between God and God’s people.

Yes, as Philip Larkin put it – a serious house on serious earth it is: and the thought struck me: this may be the form the Irish Church will take from now on. No fulminating from pulpits, no judgement or condemnation, but instead; a Sunday gathering with their African priest and the love of God in their hearts.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises that he will be with his people always; well, it seems from that snapshot in Enniskerry Church that the faithful remnant will not desert Him either. 

Addendum: the cup cakes and coffee in the parish centre afterwards were a delight.  

Fr William