Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Saint Charles: Vivid Memory of Cardinal Cushing

Today is the feast day of Saint Charles Borromeo.

I grew up and went to Catholic school at Saint Charles Borromeo Parish in Woburn, Massachusetts.

I was reminiscing about my early Catholic years recently. I asked myself the question: What is my most vivid memory of growing up at Saint Charles?

My answer would have to be the Mass celebrated in the early 1960's by Richard Cardinal Cushing, who was the archbishop of Boston. Our pastor had had the church completely renovated very, very shortly after the Second Vatican Council. A new altar was installed and the entire interior was painted and brightened up considerably. I remember as a little kid going to Mass there before the renovation and being sort of frightened by the darkness of the place.

Well, on the day that the new church was blessed and re-dedicated, my Mom brought me to the Mass at which Cardinal Cushing was the celebrant.

I couldn't have been more than five or six years old. We were sitting in about the second row in front of the elevated ambo. When the Cardinal mounted the ambo platform, I remember quite clearly how huge he seemed to me. His presence was simply enormous. He had a very strong and gruff voice and I remember snuggling next to my mother for some kind of protection, especially when he slammed his fist on the ambo to make his point. Here, clearly, was an impassioned man of the Church.

Funny how these early memories stay with you. I am grateful for our pastor's vision to renovate this church so seemingly instantly after the Council. He believed in service to the people. However, I think that commitment went a little overboard. Here was the Mass schedule throughout the 60's, through the 70's, and into the early 80's:
Saturday: 4:00, 5:00, 7:00
Sunday: 6:00, 7:00, 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00 12:00 in English, 12:00 in Spanish, 5:00, 6:15, and 7:30

For us Galipeau kids, we just simply thought that Sunday Mass was no longer than 35 minutes anywhere. At Saint Charles, the parking lot needed to be cleared out pretty quickly for the next Mass. There was rarely any silence at Mass; it was like a stream of consciousness liturgy. When I entered the seminary in 1976, I was astounded that daily Mass could take nearly an hour, with extended silence scattered throughout. At first, I was a fidgety guy in the pews, but then realized that this was the way Mass was supposed to be celebrated.

Do you have a vivid memory to share of growing up in your childhood parish?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

1 comment:

Liam said...

An aside: the AM part of that Mass schedule is clearly informed by two great hinges:

1. The Tridentine prohibition on celebration of the Mass starting after noon until 6AM of the next day, midnight Mass on Christmas excepted (at which communion of that faithful was long banned) - which was only lifted by Pius XII in the 1950s and then not generally implemented until years after.

2. The logistics of a suburban car-based parish in the Baby Boom when a higher % of people felt the full force of preceptual obligation to attend Mass on Sundays.

The hourly Masses from 6 to noon were widespread.