One of the joys of belonging to an ultramontane Catholic family is the multiple opportunities to attend religious services at times when sensible citizens are wondering whether there's 'time for one more' or gazing lovingly at a kebab. My mother managed to attend 3 Masses this time: a 9 p.m. ersatz midnight Mass, an actual midnight Mass, and a morning one, presumably in case she'd sleepwalked her way into mortal sin overnight.
For the sake of family harmony, I accompanied her to the proper Midnight Mass, secure in the knowledge that a web-equipped mobile device named after a fruit would enhance the experience considerably. Twitter and a variety of news sources provided an enhanced reality which far outweighed the entertainment on offer in meatspace.
Or so I thought… Having previously only attended Mass in remote rural locations, I wasn't prepared for the festive spirit of urban Catholics. I knew something was afoot when a gentleman who'd started his celebrations early shouted 'I want a word with you, Father', during the sermon. To be fair, I've often wanted to say the same thing, particularly when the subjects have been contraception, Israel/Palestine and a variety of other hot-button issues. The heckler was escorted out by a pillar of the community: but that wasn't the only excitement of the evening. The next addition to the liturgy was a pair of young ladies resplendent in 'Sexy Santa' dresses and hairpieces bearing Christmas illuminations. They giggled their way through most of the sermon (clearly drink had been taken, because the jokes were sorely undercooked) before they too were gently encouraged to sling their irreverent hooks. Rather a shame…
Finally, I spotted a chap whose condition was swinging rapidly between stupefied and somnolent. Sure enough, within a few minutes he'd dozed off, snored loudly, before doing a classic sideways pratfall from the pew to the bench. Up got the gentleman ushers once more, visibly weary with their new careers in ecclesiastical security.
Still, it's not always the congregation. Peace, love and harmony were noticeably absent from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem:
Goodwill to all men!