Sunday 12th February - Standing in the Car Park for Mass

Today I went to the 11am Mass and found myself standing outside in the car park, listening to the priest recite the Eucharistic doxology through a speaker.

When I first turned the corner on to The Scores I was surprised to find - what looked like - a group of people queuing to get into the church. I was confused. Were they not allowed inside? Had Mass started? Was it Palm Sunday already? I walked over and did what any good Brit would have done and stood behind the person in front of me (not too close to smell their aftershave, and not too far for me to look like I was just casually standing on the pavement randomly). I could vaguely make out what was being said inside over the scent of cooked breakfast wafting from one of the B&Bs. It was then (whilst thinking about bacon) that I heard a child's voice. He must have been about 10 and was reading the first reading. I was even more confused than I was earlier. It's usually the same person reading at the 11am Mass. It was then that one of the stewards said something about children getting confirmed today. That explained it. But wait, the boy still sounded a bit too young. I put the thought to one side.

We were ushered to the car park where there was a speaker attached to the west side of the church. Here it was much easier to hear what was going on inside, even if all we could see was a stone wall. Standing out there I was beginning to wonder why people were talking. Fine we weren't actually inside the church, but we were attending Mass. As far as I was concerned the same rules apply outside just as they do inside.  Thankfully they stopped before I could have a word. Saved both of us the embarrassment. During the homily the parish priest explained that the Confirmation group were to be confirmed. I had so many questions swimming around my head at that point, "Wait, where's the bishop?", "Aren't they a bit young?". But before I could attempt to answer them, an explanation was echoing out of the speaker.

Apparently, because Cardinal O'Brien can't be everywhere in the Diocese, he has given parish priests the dispensation to administer the sacrament of Confirmation. Ok, I thought. But the children still sounded like they weren't even old enough for Holy Communion. It was then that he began to explain that in Scotland, things are being reverted back to the practice of Baptism -> Confirmation -> Holy Communion. How interesting. Then came my next question. Did they really know what they were undertaking? Now don't get me wrong, I don't underestimate the maturity of all 10-year-olds, I mean, some of them are a lot more mature than people I know at university. But how much of it is them really wanting to be confirmed, and really believing their baptismal promises, and how much is it their parents telling them to do it?

It was then that the speaker turned off. All we could hear were mumbles. Years of being an altar server meant I could just about figure out what was happening. It was starting to get a bit chilly outside, but with my eyes closed I could picture the laying of the hands taking place, and the Confirmation candidates being blessed with the oil of Chrism. Then suddenly there was a *boom* and some fumbling. I guessed that the priest had just washed his hands with lemon and had put his chasuble back on. Ah, those were the days ... This is random, but a strange thing happened. Despite being outside standing on damp gravel, I kneeled for the Eucharistic Prayer. Don't ask me why. I kind of went into overdrive. It was not until after Mass that I realised I had brown patches on my knees....

In other spiritual-related news, I've decided to take part in what's called "Retreat in Daily Life". Based on St Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises, "retreatants are encouraged to bring the realities of their every day lives into the retreat experience. Prayer guides help retreatants pray and reflect on these realities and look for connections between faith, prayer and everyday life."

I've tried before to work my way through the Spiritual Exercises, but have always failed at the first hurdle. Having a prayer guide and meeting them once a week might help me stay a bit focused. It's not new news that I'm a big fan of silent meditation, but I think I'll like the challenge too. Knowing that distractions won't be too far from me will push me further to prove to myself that meditation and prayer focused upon God is possible, and possible despite the busyness of one's day.

I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime I apologise for my absence. I've not been up to anything particularly interesting or groundbreaking. Oh, I did get my exam and dissertation results back though. Did quite well. Rather pleased. If anyone's interested in reading my dissertation (The development of "silence" from Evagrius of Pontus to Thomas Merton.), just drop me an email and I'll send you a copy.


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