January 23rd 2016, Children’s Mass

by Brendan Strong

The children’s mass
Is what we used to call
the midnight mass
(being on a Saturday,
except it’s at six thirty,
when you might be bathing them
or cooking for them or
more general activities of parenting).

It is communion year, and
She wants to do her communion
(I asked, yes, being myself godless)
I haven’t had the heart to tell her
These are all fictions to me: preferring
To let her explore them and find what
Scraps of Truth may lie within. Still
I say “don’t forget to bless” in the vestibule.

The Priest arrives on altar with
Minimal fuss. Invites the children
Up to sing a hymn they learned in school,
Then looks bored-impatient as they proceed
And quickly ushers them away once freed
Of their seven/eight years-old feeble
Voices. He has to (or has been made to)
Invite them up twice more before it’s over.

All the prayers have changed
I discover. The young look on
With disdain at my ignorance, and the
Aged, I think, appreciate my adherence
To older ways (I recall how my granddad
Only ever said mass in Latin). While the words
Have changed, everything else seems the same
Staring vacantly, appreciating the architectural majesty.

Like riding a bike, it comes back to you – the mass.
Until the calisthenics of transubstantiation.
But watching the others, I see they’re
Watching the others, to see when to
Stand, sit, kneel – that bit where everyone
Differs and the bells ring like a game show buzzer
That maybe says “Now!” or “You’re right” or the other.
She looks for what she should do, I can’t confess I don’t know.

We shuffle out at the very end – after
The priest had invited the children to do
Another hymn and impatiently insisted
They be patient and wait – says the last prayer
And asks them to sing their last hymn.
And constancy in the Catholic church
Is found in the car parks: the miracle
Of getting out in one piece, after working up
All the sins one needs for next week.