By Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and the Boston City paper 3/2008
Years ago, Mom explained that you receive what is known as a plenary indulgence if you visited seven churches on Good Friday. I did find a reference to receiving an indulgence for “Devoutly take part in the adoration of the cross during the solemn liturgy of Good Friday.” And I see that many countries still practice a tradition of visiting seven churches on either Holy Thursday or Good Friday.
On several Good Fridays, I did just that, and it felt wonderful.
The first year, I spent the entire day at church. I started at Saint Mary’s in Foxboro, where Catholic hymns were playing on a cassette player. Next, I headed to Saint Mary’s in Mansfield. At each church I said the Stations of the Cross, and read a gospel or reading from the missile. At Mansfield, a speaker was describing God creating the world as if we were present watching it. I headed toward Brockton and stopped at Saint Ann’s in East Bridgewater for church number three.
From there I drove to Dorchester and Saint Margaret’s (which is now named after Mother Theresa), still a nice church but a little dark, and down Dorchester Avenue to Saint William (now closed), where I lit a candle for Nana (her funeral was held there) and said the beautiful “Way of the Cross,” which grants a plenary indulgence (and I receive one for going to seven churches). As the afternoon progressed, my next stop was Sacred Heart in Quincy, and then the last church, LaSallette Church, where I lit a candle.
I’ve made this mini-pilgrimage on several Good Fridays since, often choosing different churches I’ve never visited. I also altered my routine — rather than say specific prayers I’d read a random passage from the bible, and spent time in quiet contemplation.
For me, it wasn’t so much about an indulgence but I felt a strong connection to my faith and my God all day long. The church is so quiet on Good Friday, and that blessed silence gives you a chance for prayerful reflection.
I also like the practice because it gives you the opportunity to visits churches you’ve either never seen, or visited years ago. Each church has its own personality and style, and each feels like a “Holy” place.
And to be very honest, because I try not to be a hypocrite, writing this piece got me thinking, this being Holy Week and all, that I really need to get back into the practice of going to church regularly as I used to. It’s been far too long.
I’ve had faith issues for a few years — to be brutally honest, a crisis of faith I’m still working through.
And then, a few weeks ago, by chance (or perhaps not) I bumped into a man I admire as a true pillar of the church and a great guy, and I talked to him about this — and he suggested that a good start is just to talk to God. Just keep talking.
It’s good advice and I started talking again. It can be slow going but I am trying.
See, for me, visiting the churches isn’t about indulgences or Catholic bonus points — it’s about a spiritual connection. Being in the church amplifies it for me. You can pray anywhere, but being in a church — any church — focuses you. And deep down we need the connection to our creator.
This year I’ll be sure to attend at least one church on Good Friday.
Y’know, maybe the best way to straighten our (sometimes very shaky) faith is to spend more time talking to the Big Guy in his own house.
After all, isn’t the message of Easter about renewal and redemption … and faith?
Think about it. I know I will.