Some memorable masses (memorable for the right reasons).
Malaga- Iglesia Santo Cristo de la Salud (10 years ago)
Aged and frail priest on two sticks, sat perched on a bench for the entire Mass. Beautiful, dignified vernacular, lunchtime Novus Ordo Mass. Can’t understand Spanish, but it didn’t matter. The congregation all over the place, standing, kneeling and sitting seemingly at random (as happens a lot in Spain), but there was something special in the level of concentration both of the priest and us his rag-bag congregation of smart dressed business people, dusty tourists and toothless old ladies in black.
Santo Cristo de la Salud
Manchester- Holy Name (15 years ago)
Tridentine Mass, never have I been so far from the sanctuary but so fully absorbed in the consecration that I was left breathless. The church was packed with young people, shabby people, joyful people from all over the world. It was my first Mass where a deacon and sub-deacon were used. I felt holy fear approaching the altar rails for communion.
Salford- (15 years ago)
When I was unemployed, I’d often attend daily Mass at the one of the local churches (4 and a convent all in easy walking distance), especially if there was a funeral on, it meant we may be able to muster a choir together, singing the deceased’s requested hymns with a gusto the congregation could not muster. This particular Requiem Mass, there was no congregation, just the undertaker and 5 of us in the choir loft. How small the Church Militant seemed, but how great the Church felt that day.
Oxford- St Aloysius (1 year ago)
After a difficult, sickness-filled and hard lent, and an exhausting Triduum, Easter Sunday, solemn sung Novus Ordo Mass in Latin left me in tears. It really felt like the first day of a new life. Tangible joy in disciplined reverence. I’d always struggled with “feeling” the resurrection, and this was an answer to my prayers. Thank you, Oratory Fathers your self-discipline and reverence are infectious.
What do they all have in common? It was not the ability to understand the words. It was not the charisma (or otherwise) of the priests. It was not the direction in which the priest was facing. It wasn’t how well I’d prepared myself for Mass. It was not the friendliness or the self-discipline of the congregations. It was a sense of closeness to the ineffable, beautiful, boundless love and mercy of God. There’s no one magic formula for that. It is an unmerited gift from God.