It’s time to bell the cat – revisiting human traditions

My dear friend, the late Fr Larry Pereira always said that religion is like a river; at its source it is pure, and then as it comes down into the plains, people throw their rubbish in it.  I get it when people rightly express their frustrations at human religious traditions, especially those linked to sacramental celebrations; traditions not advocated in any form by the Catholic faith.

What ails the Christian community, or for that matter any other religious community, is not the faith as expressed in the scriptures, but the ‘rubbish of human traditions’ that are thrown in the name of God and faith. One such tradition is the distribution of ‘snack boxes’ distributed after funeral, month’s mind and anniversary masses.

Growing up, I was routinely hauled to ‘seventh day’, ‘month’s mind’ and ‘first death anniversary’ masses. Mercifully, the seventh day mass has been ‘laid to rest’. Let’s look at the evidence in the ‘General Introduction to the Roman Missal’ 336/37 which states, ‘The funeral Mass has first place among the Masses for the dead. On the occasions of news of a death, final burial, or the first anniversary, Mass for the dead may be celebrated.’ So how did the seventh day mass and month’s mind mass come about?

I have a hunch. Back in the day, and I really need you to stretch your mind to a period beyond even your birth, funerals were a race against time. Hot tropical climates, like India, cause the corpse to rapidly deteriorate. Funeral masses and burials were conducted within the day. In a world that lacked even the telephone, the tolling of the Church bell became the sole means of communication. Perched at the highest point of the village, the bell became to a village what satellite communication is to us. It was the ‘Whatsapp’ of the day.

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