Not in MY name

I must admit to a choleric condition; no it does not mean I have cholera it just means I am super annoyed. I am embittered and exasperated at nonsensical social customs that masquerade as religious requirements in the Catholic Church, especially in my end of the woods of Mumbai.

There is an unending list of these customs which are inextricably linked to Catholic religious practices, none of which bring an ounce of faith to the life of the believer, and yet are practiced far more religiously than the mystery it is meant to celebrate.

Notice how most sacramental celebrations are linked to some social tradition. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy many of them which have now become part of our ‘catholic social tradition’ but when these become larger than life and overshadow the sacrament itself, then I take umbrage.

In the Catholic social circuit, sacraments call for a celebration; be it Baptism, Eucharist (Fist Holy Communion), Confirmation, Marriage or Holy Orders. Ironically, the one sacrament that should be truly celebrated, has no celebration at all. No one throws a party on being forgiven of all their sins and being made holy in God’s eyes, and if we truly need to celebrate anything, it should be this sacrament. I hope I have not inadvertently triggered off some party planner who sees this as unchartered territory with great financial opportunity.

So let me state my case with one such example and here I want to address the ‘social customs’ surrounding death in a Catholic household. I grew up with the tradition of attending mass not only on the day a friend or loved one was buried but also seven days later (called the seventh day mass) and the month’s mind mass.

Interestingly, the Missal has no provisions for such ‘special masses’. What the Roman Missal does provide for, is a mass to be celebrated on the anniversary of the death of a person; rightly, this is the anniversary of the day that the Lord called our brother or sister to Himself. The feast day of the saints too are celebrated on the day of their death not of their birth (John the Baptist and Mary being an exception). So how then did these seventh day (mercifully now discontinued) and month’s mind masses come about?

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