The only sound is the twang of a violin string being tuned. Otherwise it is a hushed silence and the silence even more muted by the ancient heavy tapestries adorning the wooden clad walls. Filtered subdued Scottish light makes it way through the ornate stained glass windows showing heraldic badges of Scottish Kings and Queens associated with Falkland Palace . I look up at the inlaid wooden ceiling making up the Royal coat or arms. I am at mass at the Chapel Royal which dates back to 1540. The place exudes mystery and intrigue.
But I am here for a different reason this morning – a personal one – I need to say goodbye somehow to my mom, herself a devout catholic. I am a fallen one who has not been inside a church to worship for many years. I feel a little hypocritical as I question the beliefs that I was indoctrinated with, but then why do I feel I can get close to mom by coming to a Sunday mass. The never ending conundrum? I know she is with dad, with my Nigel, who I talk to. Ironically the sermon today was about eternal life. “Whoever Eats My Flesh and Drinks My Blood Has Eternal Life – John 6:51-59”
As the small congregation filter into the chapel, all masked and sitting 2 meters apart, I feel a tap on my shoulder. There is a roster and they need my name and contact details – I am a stranger to this little village. I can walk into any Tesco’s and mingle with people going about their daily grocery shopping, but cannot sit quietly in a church without being tracked and traced. The only time I got close enough anyone is when I was tapped on my shoulder. The world has gone crazy.
The lay minister is setting up a small camera – they film the mass for those not able to attend. I know that mom attended mass given by the pope during lockdown and wonder if she ever logged onto this particular location.
The service starts and I automatically by rote know the words and procedures and find myself reciting the well worn prayers. I am grateful for the mask, as I find myself stopping mid sentence and my questioning non believing mind kicks in to what I am actually saying. But then why am I here if I don’t believe in something that is being said. Mom was the epitome of a good person and believed without any doubt and I am here today for her. Not to question. I think today is the first time in all the thousands of times I have attended a catholic mass that I actually listened to every single word being said.
My mom would have loved the service – not too much pomp and ceremony – simple and succinct. Her beliefs got her through life, through many a hardship and she never came up wanting. Mom who told me that she often went to mass on a Wednesday to pray for me, her “fallen” daughter. I did not fall Mom, I only stopped and questioned. But the indoctrination is there and still lingers in the back of my mind when I find myself automatically silently sending up a prayer asking for help.
I did not come out of this historic little chapel feeling lighter of spirit. I just know that it would have made mom happy knowing that she got me to go back to church at least for one more time.