25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
I go to masses all the time on Sundays, and now even on Wednesdays along with the entire high school and we fill the church with three hundred students. It is always pleasing to go to church because we go to sing and pray as we worship the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, but how different masses were, 25 years ago. It would be fun to have Father Jim or Father Paul try it one of these days.
Twenty five years ago the church goers were very selective and respectful with their clothing. Ladies did not wear short pants, halters, ‘belly outs’ etc. No way Jose! The women usually wore a nice lace cloth called a “mantilla” over their heads. They came in black and white with beautiful religious designs or some lace patterns. The teenage girls either wore a mantilla or a handkerchief over their heads. They also knitted a small round cap, sort of like the one worn by bishops and the Jewish leaders and wore those also to go to church. Boys up to Standard Two (Grade 4) wore short pants. From Standard Three (Grade 5) to Six (Grade 8), they wore longs pants and shirts. The men went bare-footed, but the ladies wore shoes to go to church.
There were parts of the mass where the kneeling congregation kept their heads low and eyes closed. This happened at the elevation of the chalice with the hosts now consecrated. We were indoctrinated that we were too humble to see the presence of God in the Holy Communion. To receive the Holy Communion, there were kneelers at the front of the church in front of the altar, and people knelt there as the priest moved from person to person dispensing the 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 on the Altar and only turned to face the congregation to say: “The Lord be with you”, and also during the homily and the time for Holy Communion.
The entire mass was celebrated in a language called “Latin”. The mass started something like this: “In nomini Patri, et Fili, et Spiritu Santi, Amen.” (spelling must be wrong). The Gloria went something like this: “Gloria in excelsis dei. Et in terra pax homini bus” meaning Glory to God in the Heavens, and peace to his people on earth. I remember our primary school teacher drilling us to learn the responses in Latin and if we did not learn it, we would get a good lashing.
There were adult masses at six in the morning and a lot of men used to attend along with their wives. Then there were the children masses at 8:00 a.m. and the church would be filled with the primary school children and their teachers. All the teachers would be there to set the example and absent children were whipped on Monday. There was no organ in church, but there was a lot of enthusiastic singing for the teachers used to drill their classes with church hymns on a weekly basis during religion class. Masses of 25 years ago were not any better or worse, just a little different culture.