Going To Mass In Panjim

First things first: 

I haven’t been to church since Linus died.  Linus was an old retarded man I took care of for a while.  One day he died.  I went to his funeral, where Bill, one of his developmentally disabled roommates, gave the most heartbreaking speech I’ve ever heard delivered at a funeral.  Until Bill, I had kept my shit together, but once Bill started talking, I lost it.  Everyone did.  Bill brought the house down.

So that was a year and a half ago, and before that, I can’t remember the last time I’d gone to church.  Years.  Years and years.

But I’m in Goa, and I’m in Panjim, it’s capital, and Goa was the crown jewel in the Portugese empire for a hot minute, and the state still carries a heavy Roman Catholic burden–and so… And so.  And so, my hotel man, Edgar, is a practicing Roman Catholic and I lied to him to get on his good side and told him that I was, too, that I was religious, that I was a follower of the Lord.  It worked, my lie:  he took to me immediately upon hearing it.  Became my unofficial tour guide, pointed me in the direction of interesting things to see in the city while I recovered from a head cold, the like. 

But then yesterday, walking around the grounds of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception church, I suddenly decided that I would go to mass.

So I asked Edgar.  “Edgar,” I said, “does the church do a Sunday service in English?”

He said that it did.

I asked him when.

“8:15 in the morning,” he told me.  Then, “It is a very beautiful church, with comfortable benches and fans on the roof, and beautiful statues.”  He went on, “And the priest is young.  His sermons are very good.”

I didn’t really need to be sold.  I had already decided to go.

I had Edgar set me a wake-up call, arose before it, showered, shaved, put on my collared shirt, my nicer pants, and walked to the church.  It really is pretty, by the way.  All white, set upon a hill, twisting stairwells guiding you to the entrance, and the Virgin Mary in stone, thrusting toward the heavens.

I made my way inside.

Mass was mass.  I forgot some of the call and response aspects, but pretended that I knew them.  I said “Peace be with you” and the Our Father. 

Then I took communion, which I hadn’t intended to do.  Then I went back to my pew, knelt down, and prayed, which I definitely hadn’t intended to do.  Then the service was over, I went outside, took a deep breath, and lit a cigarette.

I didn’t pray, when I was praying, to God.  I prayed to no one in particular.  Maybe the proper term for what I did was “wish” as I lack the requisite faith to truly pray.  But it felt like prayer.  I prayed that good things would happen for people I love.  I prayed that I might discover something about myself. 

And that’s about it.  That’s about all I prayed for.

When I left, I couldn’t help but feel dishonest.  But I couldn’t help but feel honest, too.  I was all alone, I decided.  And I didn’t need any excuses.


8 responses to “Going To Mass In Panjim

  1. Cathryn Keefe O'Hare


  2. Vanessa Morrell

    your mom is probably awesome.

  3. 1) I’m impressed you didn’t implode after taking communion in a state of sin. I think that’s what’s supposed to happen.

    2) The phrase is “intellectually disabled.” “Retard” and any derivations thereof are no longer couth. Therefore, you, sir, are uncouth.

  4. No, the term is developmentally disabled, not intellectually disabled. You are wrong. I, however, can call them retarded because I actually worked with them, sympathized with them, and loved them. Game, set, match.

  5. Well Tom See now that you went to church God will look down and say that wasn’t to bad now was it! And even if you weren’t praying and wishing you were still praying cause its almost the same thing i’m happy for you my friend!

  6. Hello Tom–This your first blog entryI have read. Now I have to figure out how to get into the rest.

    The Coffeys make it a practice to visit churches in every place we go.

    Dan, who never goes to any masses except funerals, loves to visit churches. Although ,as you know,I’m a praciticing Quaker who goes to meeting in a school lobby, I too love to visit churches.

    Even though most practicing Catholics or traditional Christians would feel hard pressed to call me a Christian or even a theist, I think I am, but with a very different definitation. Anyway although mass isn’t my chosen way of worship, I find some connection in it. The metaphors have meaning for me and the fact that you can go into a Catholic church the world over and get the same ritual holds some power. I remember going to Christmas Eve midnight mass in a little corrugated iron church on the Kenyan coast when I was in the peace corps. I still remember singing O Holy Night in Swahili. I never quite got up the nerve to take communion, so I haven’t checked to see if the church would explode if I did.


  7. Pingback: A Year In Review | Blogbytom

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