I was talking to a fellow who works as a missioner with the Maryknolls in Tanzania. He’s still learning Swahili, and wasn’t sure whether the liturgy itself is much different from what he’s used to in the states; but one unmissable difference comes during the offertory.
Along with the bread and wine, parishioners will often bring up gifts of live chickens and goats for the church. These wander about the church grounds and are eventually slaughtered and eaten by the priests.
The frivolous thought popped into my head that I should have asked him about the architecture of the churches, because no matter what your liturgical leanings, you have to admit: If there are going to goats involved, it would be nice to have an altar rail installed.
I grew up in a church that had an altar rail. My family was relatively new to Catholicism, and our first experience of parish life was at a church so enlightened, it threatened to float away on the gaseous fumes of sheer liturgical reform.
We reached a breaking point when literal clowns made an appearance in the nave, and, after a little church hopping, we discovered a rather stodgy Polish parish nearby, where very little had changed since 1920 or so.
As I understood it, the bishop would stick his head in every once in a while, decide that a fight with a Polish pastor was a fight he did not want to have, and sagely hurry on back to the cathedral.
Altar rails were not, as many believe, abolished with Vatican II, but they did become less common. But this church still had and used one. We got used to it very quickly… Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.