One of the little pleasures of travel is getting the opportunity to attend Mass in various locations. We're all one Church and one bread and one body in Christ, but there are always little differences based on local culture and tradition. Over the years I've been able to witness these differences firsthand in places geographically and culturally worlds away from my home parish in Minnesota. Places like Mexico, Manila, and perhaps most exotically, Miami.
A couple of weeks ago, I was once again able to experience Mass far from home when I visited the Greenbelt Chapel in Manila. Greenbelt is a shopping, entertainment, recreation area in Makati, which is the principal business district of Manila. There are stores, restaurants, and bars that surround a tropical park. The open air Chapel is situated in the heart of the Greenbelt park. It's hard to make a local comparison with the Greenbelt Chapel, but imagine if you will a church in the center of the Mall of America and you have some idea of its unique location.
The weather that day was typical for Manila, hot and humid. And since the Chapel is open to the elements, it was the same inside. Yet hardly anyone was wearing shorts. Part of this is cultural--Americans seem far fonder of short pants than most of the world. Part of it may also have been that people attending this early morning weekday Mass were dressed for work. But I think at least some of this was because of the reverence and respect that those attending felt toward Mass.
When I arrived, there were already a number of people of hand praying a novena before Mass began. They had a screen projecting the words so it was easy to follow along and join in.
The pews were circular and somewhat like bleachers. Yet they were comfortable as were the well-padded kneelers.
The homily was direct and straight forward as the priest used the Gospel reading to send an unmistakably clear message about the need for us to set priorities in our lives. One thing that you don't often see in church is a cat sauntering down the main aisle in mid-homily, but judging by the lack of reaction from the others in attendance it was not unusual sight at the Chapel.
The communion distribution was well-orchestrated and efficient. One disappointment for me was the music. It was far too contemporary for my taste, but at least most Filipinos can carry a tune so it sounded good.
There were also the little differences:
- The Our Father was a slightly different version.
- There was no shaking of hands to offer peace to each other. More like a nodding of peace, which may be an option that we should adopt here.
- Instead of standing after the Amen, we stood after the Memorial Acclamation.
- After the concluding blessing, we knelt for a round of the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.
Again, small differences. Especially when compared to the faith that we shared together.