Reflections on Midnight Mass

Duane Gundrum
9 min readNov 17, 2021

My first realization that something was wrong came when I attended midnight mass with my sister at her local Catholic Church. My sister knew I wasn’t very religious person, so she asked me to go as a favor to her during this holiday season. It had been a long time since I’d been in a church, the last time to attend the funeral service of a friend in the Army who died, so I found myself ill at ease while waiting for the service to begin. Up until this time, I was a self-avowed agnostic who favored eastern religions and philosophies, but that didn’t mean I was beyond accepting anything, whether it was new or old.

As I sat on my seat in the pew, I looked around at the numbers of people who were gathered for this yearly ritual. It was obvious that some of these people attended church regularly while the majority of them appeared to be the type who attended once a year, on this particular holiday. While waiting for the service to begin, I found myself more and more interested in the people gathered around me.

The first person I focused on was a young woman about my age who had come alone to midnight mass. She sat all prim and proper at the far end of a pew with her hands locked together and set firmly over her lap. She was dressed in a conservative, blue business suit over a matching blue skirt that ended right above her white stockinged knees. Her knees were side by side, very tight next to one another as if to say they would never be crossed over one another as would the knees of less respectable women than herself. Her long, blond hair was professionally cut to about the length of her shoulder blades and was very straight, indicating that no curls or aberrations were a part of this woman’s life. On the top of her head was a neat, prepared hat which seemed to be adorned with fruits and flowers. On anyone else, such a hat would have appeared tacky and almost Carmen Mirandish, but on her it seemed right, almost as if it was designed specifically for her to say that “Yes, I, too, have a life.” I stared at her for a long time, at her palish skin. After awhile, I could see her as a child wearing her dress-up, only for Sundays, flowery dress, fidgeting in church while constantly being told by her mother that only through this institution would she find true happiness in life. The child listened and believed, becoming more and more devout with each sermon…

Duane Gundrum

Author of Innocent Until Proven Guilty and 15 other novels. Writer, college professor and computer game designer.

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