Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Practicing our Faith

Since experiencing a deep conversion, just prior the the birth of our oldest daughter (and sometimes to the annoyance of those we love) we have made attending Mass on Sunday a priority.  The priests we have friended along the way all hold special places in our hearts and prayers.

Our "home" parishes have been of a wide variety.  And when we are on vacation we have been at Mass in an array of spaces and places.  Since learning we were coming to Chingola we wondered what it would be like in Zambia.  The parish we consider "our home" is Saints Peter and Paul.

It is natural for local changes, reflecting the culture, to influence the practical application of liturgy in any Mass.  One of the reasons, as I understand it, for the tightening of the Mass rubrics, and establishing a normalized Mass (GIRM) was because some local changes had gone too far.  People who really do not have the proper authority were introducing "unique" features that detracted from the purpose of Mass.

I hope I have not bored you.  Now to the gist of why I started this post.  The Masses here have been interesting.  The "flavor" of the Mass definitely depends on which priest is presider.  Our favored priest is the rector at the Don Bosco School, a Salesian, and from Poland.

Some of the differences:
Penitential rite, all kneeling.
Gloria, all standing.  Usually the old version, not the new.
Offertory -- everyone processes forward to place their offering into a basket held by altar servers.
The Great Amen isn't.  It is a normal Amen.
Before the concluding Euchatistic prayer  all stand and sing a song of Thanksgiving.
Eucharistic concluding prayer .. we kneel.
Sometimes there is a second collection where we again process forward to deposit our gift.
Announcements (there are no bulletins) we sit.
Closing prayer and dismissal .. we kneel.
Closing song .. we stand and leave.

On major feast days there is only one English Mass, and one Bemba Mass.  That means we are squeezed in, and overflow from the building.  The offering procession is long, and includes bringing various food items forward, plus the bread/wine.  These take no less than 2 1/2 hours to execute.

There it is.  We are tempted, and sometimes fall for the temptation, to complain.  But, we remind ourselves that we have a Mass to attend, while it hard for us to understand, we remember that our Peruvian friends must have a  more difficult time.

Music is sometimes traditional, but usually it is accompanied by an electric keyboard complete with a strong disco type beat.  The singing is nasally, and quite harsh on the ears.  The acoustics are dreadful, which doesn't help when trying to understand what is being said.  The church is poorly constructed, benches are hard, flies always buzzing around, ventilation is open windows.  Most Zambians are not concerned about cleanliness (I've learned to breath shallowly in order not to notice, most of the time.)

I can go on and complain some more ... and I know it gets old.  But!!  Like I said, the Mass is the Mass.  It has a value far and above my petty observations.  There are a lot of things that feel "off."  But, we moved here, have no say in how things are done, and it will continue long after we leave.

Our best Sundays are those that make us the most uncomfortable, even though it doesn't feel that way.  It is truly a sacrifice to have to sit through poorly executed reading, homilies, heavily accented English, shrill singing, strong odors, stares from people, etc.  That is when we have to just accept, and be humbled.

When you come to visit, which I hope you can, we'll bring you along.  It is an experience you won't soon forget.

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