While John and I were in the Bahamas, I got my first chance to attend a Bahemian Mass. I had contacted the Diocese of Nassau before leaving and found out the closest church to my hotel was the Cathedral. How lucky was that?
I decided to attend the early Mass on Sunday (8 AM).
I woke up at about 6:45 to get ready. I was told to hop on the jitney (their local bus system) by 7:15 so I get to the Cathedral on time. I dutifully walked to the bus stop by myself. Normally I'd be a bit nervous to do this in a foreign country all by myself (John was still sleeping), but given the laid back, super friendly nature of Bahemians, I wasn't concerned for my personal safety.
In fact, I was pretty confident that locals would go out of their way to help me out given the high importance of tourism. They don't want bad publicity via rumors of tourist muggings, so they are generally super, super nice to foreigners.
When the jitney came around, I found myself alone on the bus with the driver. I sat directly behind him so I could hear him call out my stop. Silly me, though, he took it upon himself to become my personal taxi-driver!
When I climbed onto the bus by myself, he exclaimed, "By yourself? Where is your partner?"
I laughed and said, "He's still in bed sleeping. I'm going to Mass at St. Francis Cathedral. Are you going there?"
He said, "Yes, baby (all women, to men, are "baby" in the Bahamas). I go by there just fine. Your partner didn't want to come with you?"
I laughed again and said, "Nope. He's not Catholic."
He said, "What is he?"
I said, "He's agnostic, I think. He doesn't really believe in or care about God."
The driver seemed slightly perplexed, but let the comment roll over him. He said, "Well, did you get breakfast yet?"
I said, "No. I'll eat when I get back."
He said, "Are you sure? I can drive to McDonald's or something."
I shook my head and said, "No, it's really okay. Just to the church."
He then chuckled, "Oh yeah. You Catholics don't eat before you pray, right?"
I laughed again and confirmed he was right.
To my surprise, he told me he'd just drop me off at the entrance of the Cathedral. That was about two blocks from his route. Not super far, but it was still out of his way and could have cost him passengers.
He told me not to worry about it because it was early yet on a Sunday. He thought he was lucky to get me let alone other passengers along the route.
What a nice guy!
So he did drop me off directly in front of the Cathedral wall with directions on how to get back to the real bus stop when Mass was over.
Upon exiting the bus, I walked through the archway and immediately saw a statue of Elizabeth Ann Seton.
I wondered why they chose her. The little placard explained that her order, the Sisters of Charity, founded the very first school in the Bahamas and are still active on the island to this day. How wonderful is that?
Anyway, since I was still very early, I snapped a few more shots of the outside grounds. Forgive the blur - coming off the air conditioned bus and into the humidity of Nassau fogged my lens up something fierce!
Once I snapped these, I decided it would be best to get my bearings inside. I couldn't wait to see their artwork!
I entered the Cathedral and, to me, it looked very different from the pictures posted on their website. I was expecting a Protestant looking church, but it was, in fact, very Catholic. Upon entering the Cathedral, I was greeted with the Baptismal font, ambry and the entrance bell (one of the prettiest I've seen!).
I was immediately greeted by an enthusiastic usher who handed me a voting slip for parish council. Ha ha! I thanked him and asked if it would be okay to snap a few more photos before the rest of the congregation began showing up. He gave me the go-ahead, and off I went. I figured it'd be less intrusive to get my photos over with sooner rather than later when more people were trying to focus on prayer.
The first thing that struck me was the tabernacle. It was missing from the sanctuary. In its normal place behind the altar were three chairs (I assume for the bishop, priest and deacon). Every now and again I see a church up here do that, but never with the tabernacle completely gone from the sanctuary.
When I found the tabernacle, I almost couldn't believe I'd missed it!
Without a doubt, their tabernacle is the largest one I've ever seen in person. It was off to the right of the sanctuary, and I wonder if its size was the reason for its placement. This massive, golden tabernacle... it was beautiful, but wow. It was HUGE. The picture below doesn't do it justice. I took the photo from the middle aisle without the zoom. It's just... WHEW. The sheer size blew me away.
From there, a statue of the Blessed Mother caught my eye. She and the Child Jesus were carved from wood and hand painted. St. Joseph was hanging out on the other side of the church also carrying Baby Jesus.
Then, of course, I snapped a few photos of the Stations as well as the stained glass.
Next, as I was getting into the pew, I noticed the beautiful carvings that seemed to alternate between these two patterns:
Finally, here's a shot of the main altar. As you can see, there was a massive floral spray in front of it. Behind were the Nassau crest and symbols of the 4 Gospels. You can see the back of the Bishop's chair poking up.
Stay tuned for Part II where I tackle the surprising differences in liturgy that legitimately knocked me of my feet - TWICE!
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