Good Friday, 2008.
We are often led to believe that churches nowadays are empty. Oh, one may guess that the more lively, aggressive churches attract members but the Catholic churches plagued by scandals and an outdated papacy must have empty pews. Right?
Well the Catholic church I went to on Good Friday was packed to the rafters – no sitting room and people standing at the back. As there is nothing unusual about this parish, I have no reason to believe that any of the other parishes in the area were lacking worshippers either.
Why would people spend two hours in church on a spring day-off from work? Were there just old people there or those who had nothing better to do with their time? No. There were old people and young people, families with small babies, those with young children and those with teenagers. There were old and young and those in between. There were just as many men as women. There were those who were dressed in jeans and hoodies, and those that were dressed in “dressier” outfits. There were teachers, business men and women, truck drivers, students, stay-at-home moms, electricians and university professors. There were those who were born in Italy, Ireland, Germany, the Philippines and Korea and those who were born in Canada.
One might say that these are the Christmas/Easter crowd –those that go to Mass only at these times. But this was Good Friday not Easter Sunday. The ‘twice a year crowd’ would normally go on Easter Sunday.
In a former age (years ago when I was kid, for example) one could say people went to church because it was good for business, they had to keep up appearances or they wanted to look good. But today it is not particularly fashionable to go to church, it is not necessary and one doesn’t gain much socially from going. Furthermore, why go on Easter if you don’t go the rest of the year?
But there they were – people going up to venerate the cross, people kneeling and praying – traditions and prayers that have been used since the first centuries of Christianity. Not all of these people are stupid or deluded or out-of-date. Maybe, just maybe there is something to Christianity after all.
Whatever. I have come to the conclusion, though, that the people who spread the rumour that churches are empty are people that never really go themselves. Perhaps it is one of those “urban legends” one hears about!