• Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I

Catholic, A Church With Many Colours


One of the beauties of the Vatican II Council is this opportunity for the Catholic Church to take different colours while remaining universally one. And with all this diversity, language, culture, or geographical location has never been a problem in Catholic celebrations. We all sit down (almost) in the same moments, stand up in the same periods, kneel (where it’s still in the local church practice) and follow the same order in celebration independent of where we find ourselves.

Still, in each local or particular church, we observe some individual signatures that make them unique. In some churches, for example, you might think you’re in a Buddhist environment; in some other ones, you could imagine a Pentecostal assembly, while in others, elements of indigenous spirituality make much difference. And with all that, any Catholic will participate fully in their celebrations despite not understanding a single word. The joy increases when one finds oneself in a familiar environment.

I experienced that last time I participated in a Eucharistic celebration with a Nigerian Igbo Catholic community in Ottawa. It was a beautiful fall Sunday. The Church was packed to its brims, with members wearing their colourful and favourite Nigerian sewn fabrics. Anyone interested in behavioural psychology will be amused to see how each individual or family expresses themselves through the colours of their dress or even their way of behaving in this sacred space where everyone loses their guard.

Whenever I return from this Eucharistic celebration, I wonder why anyone won’t feel God’s touch in a sacred space where humanity meets with divinity in its true nature. Only the joy we express in such a celebration is enough to feel the touch of the divine. I don’t understand, for example, how anyone can spend dull moments in the Eucharist only to become happy once out of the mass. Last time I checked, the liturgy was still a community celebration, and whoever says celebration and thinks of sorrow loses me immediately.

Unfortunately, our Eucharistic celebrations are usually dull at best and sorrowful at worst. I understand that many missionaries contributed to that misconception of the Eucharistic, but it’s time communities reinvent their liturgy to mean a joyful celebration of Christ’s resurrection. As the French say, “un saint triste est un triste saint” A sad saint is a saint sad (a saint who is sad). A dull Eucharistic celebration is everything except a liturgical celebration. Those not used to such celebrations should visit a Nigerian Catholic community anywhere around them to feel the beauty of a joyful Catholic Liturgy.

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