My childhood church, is that of St. Matthew in West Derby Liverpool. The building is listed as Grade II, and the interior architecture has the appearance of a downsized basilica.
Its bell tower is tall, and points to the heavens like the finger of a saint; it has long been a local landmark. As times changed, the bells in the tall tower that had rang out to declare the celebration of Mass, fell silent. Muted by a growing number who preferred to not be so reminded.
I remember how men would doff their caps in reverence for the Lord as they passed by. A large Iron iron cross embedded in the road for such purposes, reminded them to do so.
The place was always full on Sundays, at all four masses, and there was always a priest on hand if needed. The Choir loft held the organ that had the most imposing sound which rung the rafters along with the congregation. (No faint-hearted crooners here!)
Along with Sunday Mass my parents (and grandparents) would encourage us to attend parish retreats. I remember well the Passionist preacher, whose tale of eternity used the image of a sparrow brushing its wings against a great rock, yet never wearing it down. When it was standing room only, mum and dad would happily alternate juggling the two youngest of their six children in their arms.
The Wednesday Novena
My youth and childhood was punctuated with the Wednesday Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. This devotion in our family had spanned three generations at the church of St. Matthew.
The words of the prayer told of Mary's relationship to her son, and our own call to personal holiness. As I gazed at the Icon of Our Lady tenderly holding her son, we began the opening prayer, it began like this:
"Dear Mother of Perpetual Help, throughout your life you were open to Gods Holy Spirit: faithful in prayer, wiling in obedience, and generous in love. Pray for us that we may be open to God's word, and filled with the Holy Spirit....."
The Marian tryptich which formed the reredos was splendid with its twisted candy - cane pillars. Two beautiful angels flanked the image of Our Lady, and the marble altar sparkled with the presence of Lit candles. The priest would prepare the altar with incense in readiness for the " big event" ; Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The ornate monstrance made the the presence of Christ enthroned all the more awesome to a small child from a small house with few comforts.
When the service was over, we walked the mile and a half home. We carried with us more than the smell of incense which seemed to cling to our clothes and hair. We had felt loved, and thereby strengthened on our return to the outside world.
Meaning of the Icon of
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