Sunday, April 23, 2017

Catholic mass in Sweden

I concelebrated Divine Sunday mass today at St. Eugenia Church, run by the Jesuit community, in the center of Stockholm. Eleven Jesuits serve Sweden, and there are about 100,000 Catholics in the country. The English language community is diverse, much like that of the expat community in Amman. I would imagine it is a challenge to balance the various constituencies of the parish.

After mass, a woman ran up to me to thank me for speaking with a Boston accent. She is from Braintree. She said she felt right at home.

Another woman said, "Thanks for smiling. You smiled a lot. We don't see that here at mass. Besides, your words were powerful for me."

A man in Spanish spoke up and said, "Pray for my country of Venezuela. We are having a difficult time." I was happy to reply a little bit in Spanish.

Mass was fascinating because it was all the smells and bells of a high solemn mass. Church spaces are quite noticeable for their expansive ceilings. Two very blonde American-Swedish girls were the thurifers for the incense while two Indians were the light bearers and an African teen was the main acolyte and cross bearer. They performed their ministries with great precision.

Musicians go all out for the services. Six or seven verses are rather standard; we even had ten verses of one song at this morning's mass. Organ is the instrument of choice and it makes sense in these Baroque buildings.

After mass I met with a dozen university students were are dedicated to their faith. We talked about prayer techniques, Ignatian discernment, and why there is unnecessary suffering in the world. One and a half hours passed in a heartbeat and it was time to end, but we concluded with prayer and kept talking. The students, who are international visitors to Sweden, are fired by their faith. It is exciting to be with people who share such passion.

We stayed talking too long that I did not make it to the Photographic Museum, which is top-rated as an attraction. I guess I'll have to return.

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