I was spending the night at a friend’s house last weekend and had to go to Sunday morning mass with them at a Catholic church at 7:45 in the morning. I decided it wouldn’t be so bad, in fact I thought it would be kind of neat because I would be able to witness a cultural thing that I haven’t really witnessed before and learn something from it. Well let me tell you, I learned some things alright, but at the cost of practically embarrassing myself along the way because I wasn’t familiar with the church’s rituals and traditions.
First of all, interestingly enough, the mass was taking place in a gym that day. Secondly, there was an awful lot of standing up and sitting down throughout the service. There was chanting, most of the words I didn’t know, but I had somehow managed to follow along with most of the words. I didn’t believe in the idea of just sitting there and being silent. I felt it would’ve been most disrespectful if I didn’t at least go through the motions. Odd looks from other people came to mind. Thankfully, it got better when we started chanting the Lord’s Prayer, because that was something I knew by heart. Things were starting to look up a little bit in the ‘playing along’ game.
Then Communion started. The church does a ritual to bless the Communion so that the bread and wine would turn into the actual flesh and blood of Jesus. Now, whether it belongs to Jesus or not, I’m not a big fan of the idea of eating someone’s flesh or drinking someone’s blood. As each blessing was bestowed individually on the bread and wine, there was a musical chime of which I wasn’t sure where the source was. I looked around trying to find someone who was responsible for the chimes but couldn’t see anybody. My friend’s family explained to me that if I didn’t want to take Communion there, all I had to do when I was next in line was to cross my arms together and the Father would bless me, and that would be the end of it. Well, I didn’t know the exact timing I was supposed to do that.
While in line for Communion, I was either looking down at the floor or looking to the left and right of me instead of observing the front of the line where I would get an idea of what to expect. Once I walked up to the Father, who was holding the bread, I didn’t know that that was the time to cross my arms. He stared at me intently and asked me if I receive the body of Christ. I responded with ‘yes’. He gave me a slightly odd look and asked the question again. I responded again with ‘yes’. I later found out that I was supposed to respond with ‘amen’. The Father rather reluctantly gave me the wafer and started moving on towards the single goblet of wine. The Father tapped me on the shoulder and told me that I was supposed to eat the wafer right now. I immediately ate it then and apologized and went on to explain that this was my first time. The Father at the time was more interested in continuing to pass out the bread.
Moving onto the goblet, I took it and sipped. I walked back to my seat with my throat on fire and 90% of my interest in trying wine expelled. Mass didn’t last much longer after that, and I was more concerned about the burning sensation in my throat, and I don’t think it was the fire of the Holy Spirit to be honest.
Still despite all this, I have to give the church points for how generously giving they are, as I noticed that the ‘free will offering’ jar had a lot of money in it, and the Father is a pretty nice guy as I got to speak with him briefly after the service. Fortunately, he was very understanding of my lack of knowledge in how Communion went.
I think I really like my home church.