Monday, December 19, 2022

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel in Bachelor's Walk

Yesterday, I attended Mass in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in Bachelor's Walk. I've been going there more frequently recently. There is a church right across the road from where I live, but I've been increasingly reluctant to go there for various reasons. One is the aggressive nature of their hawking for donations. In fairness, this church is open considerably longer than office hours seven days a week, which is very rare, and I realize that electricity and heating cost money. But even still, it sticks in my craw. (There are stickers plastered all over the pews given QR codes for instant cash transfers, as well as a "tap and go" machine.) Anyway, that's not the only reason.

So several times recently we've gone to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Incredibly, I'd never been in this until this year, when I attended an exhibition it held on Blessed Carlo Acutis and Eucharistic miracles (based on the website that he created). It's run by the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament and there's a small statue of St. Peter Eymard behind the altar.

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel is not at all beautiful, by any standards. It's a long, low room painted a rather unappealing yellow colour. It's a bit dingy. Decoration is minimal and quite modernistic. (The crucifix behind the altar has a highly attenuated, stylized Jesus.) It's very bright. The music is mildly hippy-ish. ("Give me joy in my heart, keep me praising...")

I must admit I like all this. I prefer places of worship that are simple and humble. (Even the word "chapel" appeals to me.) I realize that many people will answer that we should give our best to God, that we should glorify Him through beauty, etc. I'm not arguing with that. But my own taste runs quite to the opposite. Beauty can point to God, that's true. Is it sometimes a distraction?

The atmosphere also appeals to me. The congregation is very diverse. As it's a city centre chapel, they don't seem to be from any particular place or demographic. There's a very random mixture of ages and ethnicities, although I do hear a lot of accents I would call "working class", if that has any meaning today. (I consider myself working class.)

Although I probably shouldn't judge people from looking at them, I always get the impression of very straightforward piety from the congregation. There isn't much chatter and there's always an intriguing air of expectation and intentness about the place. Am I imagining that? I don't know.

The preaching whenever I have been there is always very simple and pious, which also appeals to me.

I also enjoy walking out from Mass into the hustle and bustle of the city.

The Mass is the Mass is the Mass. That's what I've always believed. Whatever language or form it's celebrated in, it's still the making present of our Lord's sacrifice. That's the important thing.

But I think it's legitimate to have tastes and preferences. My own is for simplicity, plainness and humility-- and also, not to be bombarded with demands for donations.


  1. I too have come to value simplicity and directness in churches this past year. Too much online exposure to extremists!

  2. Judging by your description and that photo, I'm reminded of the Chapelle Saint-Bernard at Montparnasse station in Paris. Very Sixties, but a welcome sanctuary for travellers.

    As for your point that 'the Mass is the Mass is the Mass', I think this is something we artistic types do have to keep reminding ourselves. As Elizabeth Jennings said,

    If the air is cool, the colours right, the spoken
    Words dramatic enough, then I am pleased.
    But why must I ask a sense of style in the broken
    Bread and bring God down to my limited view?
    Pride enfolds me, pride in the gift of tongues;
    Envy too, since I long to be like these
    Who approach with empty hands, an open heart –
    The simple men lost in simplicities.

    1. That's beautifully expressed and makes me think, once again, that I have to read Elizabeth Jennings, who's been pretty much a closed book to me thus far.

      The Blessed Sacrament Chapel would not seem out of place in a train station!