Church: Part 2


Old St. Pat’s also reminds me of another church I got to visit more recently than Minara Miwili. Last year, I went to Dublin and saw possibly the oldest St. Pat’s that there is. I landed in Dublin in the early morning on March 17th, and I started by looking up the parade route. Gotta start somewhere, and flights tire me out, so standing still sounded great. St. Patrick’s Cathedral was toward the end of the route. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit to mass right before the parade began. I might miss it. When I walked up to enter, I noticed most other tourists weren’t going past the gate even though it was open. Two ushers stood by the door, and one stopped me. He told me that the church was not open, I could go in, but if I went in I should stay for mass. So he made my decision for me, and I committed to staying. The timing ended up being perfect, and mass ended not long before the parade got to the intersection by Christchurch where I had found short people to stand behind.

Just like Old St. Pat’s here in Chicago, it was the words of the priest that stuck with me most at (Oldest) St. Pat’s in Dublin. The elderly man, whose name was also Patrick, told the parishioners that his saintly namesake stood for piety and humility. He also stood for a life of overcoming huge challenges, like slavery, hunger, and isolation. The priest opposed what St. Patrick’s Day had become today. He urged us all to go out and serve the community, to overcome physical and spiritual challenges, to unite communities, and to humbly abstain from the drunkenness we were sure to find out on the street.

Then, we all filed out solemnly, and joined the drunkenness on the street.


Church: Part 1


Lately, I have been going to mass at Old St. Pat’s, just west of the Loop in Chicago. The priest tonight talked about “reclaiming humanity,” and it reminded me of another place much warmer than here. One of the most human moments I have ever witnessed happened at a historic church in Zanzibar called Minara Miwili or St. Joseph’s Cathedral. It happened because of a tragedy.

Two years ago in February, when I was living in Zanzibar a priest was shot and killed. His name was Father Evaristo Mushi. The international news media shared the story of his death under headlines about “religious tension,” “brave Catholics,” and “extremists,” without any knowledge of who the shooters were. A small handful of American newspapers shared the story of his life, since he had lived in places like Pittsburgh and St. Petersburg. I attended his funeral mass with a close friend, and I admit that I was nervous. When we arrived, there was a crowd lined up the whole way down the narrow, ancient street. My nerves disappeared when we saw what everyone was wearing. I regret not having a camera at the time, but no one cared about cameras that day. The only people who did bring cameras were journalists who snapped away when the politicians arrived, quickly shook hands next to the casket, and shuffled away from the place immediately. It is incredible to me that no one bothered to photograph the much more meaningful attendees, who were the hundreds of women in matching kanga.