• Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I

A Beautiful Thanksgiving Mass at Sacré Cœur Parish, Ottawa


Thus begins the narrative of the Thanksgiving celebration of two Catholic Parishes in the Diocese of Ottawa-Cornwall. It was a beautiful evening even though the day started gloomily before turning out to be as gorgeous as a field of Sunburst honey locust trees. And like in a market, they arrived, one after the other, students from different higher institutions of the Capital. Boys and girls, ordinary like every other youth in this beautiful neighbourhood. One thing, however, was obvious: they were genuinely happy and generous with their beautiful smiles.

In one of the small rooms, a choir of youths rehearsed some songs. A quiet environment, obviously, and the solemn evening speak for themselves. In the colour of this capital city, they were singing in both French and English. You should have been Robert De Niro, not to smile in such picturesque surroundings.

In the church was a group of adorers singing heart-lifting worship songs, praising the Santissimo Sacramento. A dim light inspired their praises and prayers while the congregants fixed their eyes on Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist. I bet you could hear a dropping pin in that church.

Slowly, in ones and twos, they arrived dressed to suit the chilling evening of this brisk autumn. Each advanced, some genuflected, others bowed, each in reverence for Jesus in the Tabernacle. In the eyes of certain people, the youths are no longer religious. Still, a keen observation of these young boys and girls as they arrived that evening mass would have made them think twice before pronouncing themselves on the faith of generation Z. In the traditional sense, the gen Z might not be the most religious generation to have been, yet, their faith is strong enough to divert the course of Saint Laurence River. They even appear, sometimes, to have their eyes riveted on their mobile phones. Still, their hearts could also be in deep communion with God or an accompanied meditation directed from another continent.

A few minutes before the Eucharistic celebration, the choir solemnly and joyfully entered the church. At this point, three missionary priests, vested in the day’s colour, were smiling and nodding their heads, greeting each arriving youth. So happy they were, and who wouldn’t be when the average age of the mass attendee is below 30 years in this society where the older people seem to have a monopoly of our Church programs?

The choir was well prepared to help these young people pray well. Transiting from one language to another or mixing them, they sang in English, French and Latin. But unfortunately, the congregants were immobile, like a jinx had been thrown, prohibiting them from dancing to the piano and guitar tune. One might call it solemness, but it appeared more artificial to my liking as happiness often calls for a slow and gentle dance or something close to it.

The presiding priest gave a beautiful sermon. In the beginning, he wished the congregants a happy Thanksgiving celebration. And looking around the elegantly decorated church, he reminded them that the autumn colour represented well, here and there, in that exquisite chapel, the symbol of the beauty of life. Then, finally, he beckoned on them to keep celebrating life and giving thanks for the gift of one another.

It was such a wonderful celebration that even before the end of the Eucharist, I was already asking myself when the next Eucharist celebration between the youths of these two churches who share the same locality but not much celebration among themselves will take place again. And, of course, they could not fill the church, but I feel they felt the presence of he who seduced their hearts.

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