The Sunday morning mass is over. The pews have emptied out. Light streams in through coloured glass windows, echoing a bright and sprightly Bombay morning outside as parishioners file quietly to the front of the church to receive Holy Communion from a priest in white robes before turning back from the altar and making for the exit.
On the way out they stop by the Baptismal font and dip their hands in holy water before taking the steps out to the front where they catch up with neighbours and friends in happy banter, waving out to faces familiar from attending Sunday Mass together over the years, revelling in the comfort of fellowship enabled by shared faith, and humanity.
The Priest has followed them to the front-yard and soon becomes busy returning greetings from his parishioners as they stop by to talk to him. There’re smiles all around. In the shade of the towering Gothic church dedicated to Our Lady Of Glory, in the gaze of Jesus, his arms extended, I can feel the warmth about me, floating on voices rising from the Sunday crowd. Soon the grounds will empty and the caretaker will close the doors behind him.
However, a few stay back for a quiet moment with Mother Mary carrying infant Jesus, closing their eyes to say a prayer, make a petition, offer thanks for favours done, or wish for good health for self and loved ones before reaching out with their hands to the Mother, pausing to let the moment linger in a private communication with the almighty benefactor.
A few prayer books rest on pews where some parishioners left them behind. There’s barely a whisper around me. The caretaker looks at me from across the pews. He is old. Wrinkles have just as surely mellowed his face as soulful hymns. Both hard times and good times mellow people, even if differently, one out of compulsion, and the other out of choice.
He’s waiting for me to finish up so he can close the doors. He is patient.
I pick up a prayer book and turn the pages, pausing at Novena Prayers. And, voices that were ringing out only minutes before as the Mass wound down now rise again, in silence, before joining up with solemn voices from memory, from another place and another time long, long, ago.
The weight of time can make memories seem like they belong to another lifetime, even to another person.
My eyes trail each word as they resonate in my ears, voices that silence shapes into faces from memory.
Gracious Father, we thank you for having given us a tender loving Mother to watch over our Parish, to protect and intercede for us. Your son, Jesus has said, “Whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done to you by my Father in heaven.”
And so, now as one family through the intercession of Our Lady of Glory and by her precious son, Jesus, we ask you to build our Parish into units of close fellowship, alive and vibrant in faith, where the needs of everyone are taken care of.
Here, I pause for a non-existent chorus to take over, for words muttered under a thousand breaths. Words that shape into personal petitions hurrying to finish before the voice from the front of the church sounds again:
Our Lady of Glory,
And pauses for a rejoinder from the parishioners.
Pray for us.
Before the chorus sounds off thrice with,
I make way back along the wall, skirting the empty pews. The caretaker smiles at me before leaning against the door and walking it across.
Mass Timings at Our Lady Of Glory Church
Weekdays: 7:00 am, and 7:00 pm.
Sundays: 6:00 am, 7:00 am (Konkani), and 9:30 am.