For my adventure blog post I decided to attend a Catholic mass at Brompton Oratory in South Kensington. Although I haven’t been to a church service in over five years I still found the service to be distinctly different from the Catholic church I used to attend back home in California. Here I will discuss the similarities and differences between services at Brompton Oratory and those at St. Catherine’s in Morgan Hill.
One similarity was that there were multiple church services throughout the day, including one on Saturday and one on Thursday. For my trip however, I decided to attend the Sunday 8:00 mass. Another similarity would be that the priest was garbed in a white robe with green fabric around his shoulders. Another similarity was the use of holy water to bless oneself while entering the church. Also, communion was held almost exactly mid-way through the service. However, this is where the similarities between the two services end.
The first difference I noticed upon entering mass was how distinctly dark, and somewhat gloomy the church was. While it did create somewhat of a sublime and epic feeling to the church, I would have to say that I prefer mass back home where there is a lot of use of natural light, and mass is slightly more upbeat.
The next difference became apparent too me within the first fifteen minutes of the service. There is no singing! The entire service consisted of prayers and hymns followed by the priest speaking for a little while, then the cycle would repeat itself. I found that without singing, the service was much more boring and it didn’t seem to promote any happiness for any of the people attending the service. I will admit however that I did not know any of the hymns other than the Lords prayer so I kept quite for almost the entire time. Still, when I started reciting “Our father who art in heaven…” it did fill me with a strange sense of community within the vastness of the grand church.
Another difference between the two services was that, back home, everyone is seated facing the main altar and there are no areas to the sides for eperate worship. This was not the case at the Brompton Oratory. Many people would stand off in these separate altars and do things such as light a candle, pray, or make confessions.
Another difference between the services was the amount of time spent kneeling. Back home there is usually only one part of the service where you can fold down a kneeling pad and you pray for around five minutes or so. At Brompton however, the kneeling pads do not fold up and down and nearly half of the entire service was spent in this kneeling position, which I found to be quite irksome and uncomfortable.
A slight difference between the two services would be the people who were mentioned in the prayers. Back home, the people who are mentioned are usually just local sick people or families of church members who have past away. At Brompton on the other hand, much of the prayer was devoted to the Queen and Pope Benedict. Another strange difference was that when these prayers were being made, the priest chose to face the altar instead of speaking out over the audience.
Various other differences could be found as well. Back home, everyone does communion where as here, only about half the people approached the alter for communion. Also, they were forced to kneel in front of the altar to receive the body and blood of Christ, whereas back home the priest simply hands it to you and blesses you. I did not approach the altar for communion because I did not want to do anything wrong that would interrupt the ceremony, even though I have had my first communion.
I would have to say that the largest difference between mass back home and mass at Brompton would be the option to hear the service in Latin. The mass that was to follow mine was to be given in Latin, and I am guessing that that service attracts a much older crowd, even though I only saw two or three kids at the service I attended.
There were many differences between the two Catholic Church services, and although I did love the Brompton Oratories epic interior, I much prefer the more friendly mass back home at St. Catherine’s.