25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE   BY ANGEL NUÑEZ

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I
was overjoyed to see a full church at the Sunday mass last Sunday. It's a breakthrough and an accomplishment for Principal Roxani Kay and her staff. Not only that, there was participation in the reading of Gospels, Psalms and Prayers of the Faithful. In due time we hope to see alter boys, and even the choir participating. Also new parents were noticeable present.

This certainly reminded us of masses 25 years ago when our teachers made that effort and commitment to take the school children to church. One big difference was that if we did not go, we got a lashing (5 cuts) the next day, and believe me, that was a very effective incentive. Today, someone said that if they did not go to church/mass, they would not get their full points in their religion courses. That's excellent too as it means religion is being taught once more.

Twenty five years ago, people were very particular and respectful even in their dressing. Ladies did not wear short pants, nor halters, not belly outs to go to church. Young girls did not wear any type of transparent clothing either. "No way, Jose!" The adult women usually wore a nice lace cloth called a "mantilla" over their heads so that only part of the face was visible. They came in black or white with beautiful religious designs or usually some lace patterns. The teenagers wore a white handkerchief or a "mantilla," depending on their mood. The younger girls wore a type of knitted round cap over their head. Boys up to Standard Two wore short pants. From Standard Three to Six they wore long pants and shirts. The men went bare-footed, but the ladies wore shoes to go to church.

There were parts of the mass where all the congregation knelt. Today we either stand or sit and never kneel down. Why is this so? It is because there is no place to kneel? There were also parts of the mass where the whole congregation kept their heads low and eyes closed- This happened at the elevation of the chalice and the hosts. We were indoctrinated that we were too humble to see the presence of God in the wine and the hosts. Also for communion we knelt along the front in a circular line and the priest moved from person to person dispensing the Holy Eucharist.

Most of the mass was celebrated with the priest giving his back to the congregation. He faced the tabernacle which was at the back wall, and only turned to face the congregation to say, "The Lord be With YOU." Besides, the mass was celebrated in Latin for the most part. Even the altar boys had to be versed in answering our priest in Latin. I remember our primary school teachers drilling us with the treat of whipping to learn our responses.

There was the adult mass at 6 a.m. every other Sunday and then the 8 o'clock children's mass. That second mass was full to capacity even though the primary school enrollment was only about 150. If anyone missed mass, it meant a good whipping Monday morning. Playing in church also meant a whipping. There was no organ, but the children's mass was sung beautifully as the children practiced in school every week most times in 2 or 3 voices.

You might say that forcing children to mass is not democratic or not good. But YOU will also agree, I am sure, that taking them to mass does teach them the need to bring God into their lives and eventually it becomes a pleasant habitual practice. Children have to be shown the way by parents as well as teachers.

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