Activity: Mozart’s Requiem at St Patrick’s Church, All Souls Mass
Difficulty Rating: Shhhhhhhhh… don’t tell them I was faking it.
It’s very clear what Halloween is in America but less clear what it’s the “een” of. There seems to be some religious undertone to the day, even if it’s just the “oh god…” feeling drunken revelers get waking up in the bath wedged between an overweight batman and a tray of jelly shots. It appears that some religious orders take the first of November as an opportunity to pay (I want to say “tribute” but it doesn’t go that far) attention to the dead. I took it as an opportunity to snoop into another church to spy on a belief system totally different from my own, while listening to one of my favourite pieces of music.
This was the first time I’d attended a Catholic Mass in English. The other time I did it was in French, but it was equally incomprehensible on both occasions. The mass was three quarters Latin and four quarters old men trotting back and forth muttering quietly to themselves. There was much standing and kneeling and too much gold and brocaded fabric for me to believe they were really, reeeeally humble. I mean, if you’re covered in rich embroidery and a giant hat it’s hard not to swagger. Plus their godhouse looked like this:
I know that cults work in mysterious ways, but I found it really strange how entirely certain this mass was about what happens after death. The one non-sung English bit was a little sermon about what you had to do to help your dead friends and relatives. Apparently, if you don’t collect the full set of spiritual merit badges your pals can mutter and trot to reduce the amount of time you suffer the fiery punishment of hell. I sat listening to the preacher pleasantly discuss his certainty that any dead friend who hadn’t attended church was now writhing in agony, while listing the donations the live ones could make to end their suffering. All I could think was “how are you so sure?” Without empirical evidence or even basic human intuition, they somehow calculated the exact set of words and rituals to avoid burning? I know faith is faith, but these moves were so specific! It was like they were playing chess with only the white pieces but figuring that they must’ve won the game. No “maybe”, no “probably”, no “we think”, just 100% assurance. Now drink this wine.
Dogma aside, the music was incredible. If there’s one thing churches are good for it’s a great singalong. The choir echoed majestically through the golden pillars, filling the huge space with warm, ethereal beauty. Knowing Mozart, a composer for the people, I found it hard to imagine he was really humble about his Requiem either. It received rapturous applause and, dare I say, drew attention away significantly from the trotting and muttering. His ghost was probably fist-pumping from heaven – or possibly hell, if the old men got a puzzle piece wrong. Or neither if they got the whole puzzle wrong. But what do I know about such things?
Here’s a picture of the inside of the church. That solid gold lump in the middle is a lump of solid gold.