February 26, 2012

Moments Of Quiet With Our Lady Of Glory

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,

Hail Mary.

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.


Connie said...

Well chosen words and wonderful pictures, Anil. You write so well, it makes me feel as if I am right there in the church too. :)

Riot Kitty said...

That first picture seems so 3-D, how did you do that?

Anil P said...

Daisy: Thank you :-)

Riot Kitty: The statue of Jesus was just about the right distance from the church facade to give the effect the moment I went up close.

Anuradha Shankar said...

lovely one, Anil!! its been years since I went to any church... and u made me remember some similar wonderful moments in our chapel in school..

am said...

Is that a crow resting on Jesus' right hand in the first photo?

That is a beautiful sculpture of Jesus. I was trying to find for you a photo of a similar Jesus carved in redwood that is in the chapel of the Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, Oregon. Although I am not a religious person, I am moved by the art and the sacred places of all spiritual and religious traditions.

Anil P said...

Anuradha: Thank you.

Am: Yes, that's a crow rest on Jesus' right hand. It's a beautiful sculpture. It might be marble though I cannot be sure.

There's a similar one in Brazil too, I believe.

There's much good that religion engendered that might not be there if it wasn't for faith and devotion.

Red said...

Anilji: where in Mumbai is this church ?

Anil P said...

Red: Byculla.

Pleaseji no ji. Have never been much of a formal person :-)

Red said...

Anil: Ok hai ji, no ji's from here on ji

Anil P said...

Red: :-) :-)

An Iengar Chick said...

Anil: :) :) :)

Anil P said...

Red: :-)

Rashi said...

thats my school church :D
havent visited it since ages ur post just refreshed all my memories

Anil P said...

Rashi: I can imagine the rush of memories the familiar landmark must invoke.

Haddock said...

After reading this post I just sat for two minutes staring at the photographs, memories flooding back.
Not that I have not been there in the recent past. How can I not?
The church where I was baptized, the church where I used to go every Sunday for mass. The church where I was an altar boy. In those days the mass was held in Latin (and not English) so we as altar boys had to learn the prayers in Latin. The picture of the pulpit brought back memories where the priest used to stand and give his sermon while we as altar boys used to sit on the steps of the pulpit.
The number of times we had played “sakli” around that statue of Jesus. (a game I don’t see anymore) And ofcourse we had played football in that church compound during our PT period. Yes I am from ANZA, the school attached to the church.
When ever I pass by Byculla, I make it a point to visit the church , and the adjacent Renault Restaurant where we used to have samosas (with nice thick sauce) for 10 paise each. The movie theatre "Palace" still stands which used to show english pictures every Sunday morning.
The flyover in front of the church was not there, and in its place were the tram lines where trams used to ply from Dadar TT to Museum. A ticket from Byculla to Museum was 10 paise, but that was when I was in V std. (trams went off Bombay roads in 1964)
This is one of the places of worship where a temple and a mosque are in close proximity of each other (they are just opposite the church)
Unfortunately there are very few Catholics in Byculla now and that is the reason why you say that prayer leaflet " we ask you to build our Parish into units of close fellowship"
There used to be seven Masses on Sundays compared to the 3 now.