Saturday, 12 May 2012

A Holy Communion

Thanks for the invitation to a First Holy Communion Mass, held on this Saturday morning in May. This is the month - as the priest will later tell us during the service - dedicated to our Blessed Lady (and may we pray that she will watch over us all).
Outside St. Anthony's, Govan Rd, families gather on the pavement. Ladies are in their finery; dresses and coats in whites, creams and pinks. Gents, looking uncomfortable in collars and ties, quietly nod one to another. An African couple approach from Govan Cross. The lady, in robes of burnished gold and a head-turning head-dress, glides along like a ship in full sail.
Cigarettes are extinguished, nipped or stamped on the ground, and the congregation ascends to the charming chapel where me and Wee Raberta snag a seat at the aisle, affording us an excellent view.
Row upon row fills up and families are hailing one another - but in a more subdued manner than they were outside. Pointing and smiling, "Haw, there's Mary n her man. Mary, how's you?" in stage whispers, till the congregation suddenly settles at the holy procession's advance up the side aisle and down the centre to the altar.
All ages are here, from the elderly, well practised in Chapel attendance and all its rituals. to the little children, completely uninitiated and unfamiliar.
"How's he wearin' a dress?" squawks one, as the first of the altar boys marches past in white cassock and perra trenners.
The First Communion Celebrants sit in the front pews, about a dozen boys, kitted out in kilts and three girls in bridal dress. Their primary school teacher, wearing a respectably fashionable outfit of Catherine's of Partick style, keeps her beady eye on them from the pew behind.
The cantor, in full fine voice, sings the entrance hymn and leads us through the mass; Liturgy of the Word, Responsorial Psalm, Gospel Acclamation, Offertory and Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Now children approach the altar for presentation of gifts including bread and wine for the Eucharist, a small gift for Father Dowling and a sample of the work they have completed as part of their preparation to receive the sacraments.
The priest prepares to offer the sacrament and stands on the steps of the altar. A photographer is stationed in position to record each child receiving communion, which doesn't stop the mas and das standing to snap plenty of pics on their phones.
A signal is given for all who would receive communion to arise and approach the altar. A couple, far in on our row, stand and shuffle past us to the aisle. She has raised eyebrows and pursed lips; a disapproving look on her pious face at those of us who remain seated.
The high domed ceiling of azure blue has a few cracked and peeling paint patches. The statues don't seem as large as they seemed when first I visited this Chapel. There's a benevolent spirit of joy here today.
An altar boy holds a weighty tome before the priest who intones a fervent prayer for the faithful, for these little ones who have reached the end of their journey into the holy Catholic church. Baptism begins it. Confirmation confirms it. Holy Eucharist completes it.
The priestly party depart and the little celebrants follow. The congregation makes its way to the beautiful open door of St. Anthony's, Govan, stopping to dip fingertips in fonts of holy water and descend into the world, renewed by the Communion and its hymn, "Take me Lord, use my life in the way you wish to do; Fill me Lord, touch my heart till it always thinks of you".

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