As a modern twenty-something year old, I have always considered religion to be very old fashioned. I was not raised to believe in God or follow a particular religion. I respect Christian values as I live in a Christian country but God and the Church has never meant anything to me. I grew up in Bradford and have come to know that there is a large Muslim community and Mosques are very popular in the district, but I thought Christianity was dying out. I am always surprised when someone refers to themselves as Christian or Catholic. It is rare that someone does.
My eighty-two-year-old Grandma was raised Catholic in Spain and to this day still believes in God and the lord Jesus Christ, but for her generation this seems normal. I have always doubted that there are many people my age willing to give up their Sunday mornings to Church rather than a hangover.
Although a believer, my Grandma’s relationship with the Church itself was put to one side to accommodate life; work, marriage, children etc. It did not help having a stubborn Italian husband who kept his religious beliefs private. Since his death a few years ago, Grandma has had an urge to go to Sunday mass, but with moving to a new area and adjusting to widowhood she has been reluctant to make the leap and go herself. I have taken it upon myself to be her new Church buddy. It won’t be every week, but there is no harm in sitting with her whilst she does her thing. I did question the danger of walking in to a Church whilst pregnant and unmarried… fearing a bolt of lightning would strike me down as I walked through the doors, but she assured me, ‘Catholics don’t ask questions’. That was good enough for me.
My expectations of a Sunday morning mass were that there would be maybe a dozen elderly folk falling asleep in the pews, only turning up after decades of routine, however I was very surprised. There were people there from every generation, even a few of Asian origin. People took things very seriously; saying a quick prayer before taking their seats, hymn books at the ready, greeting each other as though they saw each other every week. Some people were knelt in prayer until the service began and there were approximately a hundred people there. I could not believe it.
What I did not realise when I agreed to accompany my Grandma was how long mass took and all the standing, sitting, standing, sitting that took place. During my fourth round of the ‘stand and sit’ Olympics I had a sudden burst of a pregnancy hot flush and so was instructed to sit out the rest of the morning, with a few understanding smiles from the older women next to me.
Near the end of the service a few men came around with collection bags to pass around. Luckily my Grandma had prepared me before we set off with some change. Another thing I discovered about Church, it costs money. If I’m honest though, at this stage of the service, I really needed to laugh. The first thing that came to mind when I saw these men was the episode of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ where the family are guilted by Frank and Marie to attend Church together but Frank got out of it by taking charge of the collection bags. I wondered if these men were doing the same thing…
The last thing on the agenda was the communion. This is where I thought I could catch out those who were there for genuine religious reasons and those who were there to, like me, hide in the pews. Well, I think I was the only one not to stand up to take the holy bread and wine. Aside from the fact that wine is banned in my current situation, I would be mocking the religion if I joined the queue of men, women, elderly and young to receive a blessing. But again, I was amazed by how many people took part.
The whole ceremony was not a chore to people who had been dragged out of their Sunday pits to please their families, they actually wanted to be there. Until now my experiences of a Catholic Church have always been to do with weddings, funerals and christenings with a slight feeling of dread at how long it would take and a shared feeling of resentment with other family members. Even though I have not been converted I do look forward to going back. It is a very peaceful atmosphere, if not a little (unintentionally) humorous at times.