Sunday, 12 January 2020

Catholic Mass

is not something I often experience.
The last time I went it was for a funeral. The time before that was also a funeral.
Yesterday it was a celebration of a different sort. Our very good friend P... was celebrating her "diamond jubilee" as a nun.
I have known nuns for most of my life. It is not because I am a Catholic. I am not and never have been. 
My paternal family was Presbyterian. My maternal family Christian Scientist. We children were exposed to both. We enjoyed Sunday School at the former and loathed it at the latter.  
It was my paternal family, in particular my paternal grandfather who introduced us to the Catholics, nuns and orphanages. He was a remarkably tolerant man for someone born towards the end of the Victorian era. His mother, my great-grandmother, was perhaps even more remarkable but I never knew her. Grandpa was the one who knew the local priests and had rare contact with the nuns. 
As children we found the nuns alarming. They wore long black habits and wimples and always went out in twos. Even the Catholic children seemed wary of them and they certainly obeyed them.
Yesterday was different, so different. There wasn't a habit or wimple in sight. P... was wearing white trousers and a t-shirt with a pretty floral over-shirt. The over-shirt was a present from her house mate - for the occasion. Other nuns there were wearing trousers too. The only thing to set them apart were the small crosses pinned like brooches to their clothing.
And the Mass? Yes, there was some ritual but the nuns took an active part - something once unheard of. The priest's homily was fully focussed on the contribution of women to church and family life. At the end of it, in a completely relaxed manner, he called for a round of applause for P... and told the gathered congregation to adjourn for morning tea with the words, "Let's party."
I talked to him about the differences later. We agreed that the present situation is much to be preferred.
But perhaps the real indication of how much things had changed was something else. 
In order to get the Senior Cat there we had to get an "access cab", one which could take a wheelchair. Standing and walking the distances required would have been too far for him. Middle Cat of course knows two access cab drivers. One of them is Sikh and Middle Cat had asked him to help us yesterday. He didn't have any other jobs on during the morning and was arranging to pick us up again. Would it be all right to wait in the grounds if he was early?
One of the nuns overheard him and promptly said,
    "Of course - and if you are you would be very welcome to join with us."
He arrived just as we were leaving the morning tea area at the appointed time but he thanked them again and was told, "Next time."
The gap is narrowing - and so it should be.

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