region to whom I talked this week are in the main enthusiastic at the splendid response of their people to the first widespread celebration of Evening Mass in modern times last Ascension Thursday.
Not only in the heart of the capital, but in its industrial belts and "dormitory suburbs" as well, the general opinion expressed to me this week was: "The experiment seems to be fully justified, judging by the surprisingly large number of those who came."
Local factory workers predominated in the huge congregation which packed the Church of St. Joseph, Wembley. The 6 a.m. Mass normally said on holydays had been cancelled, but the overall attendance—and the proportion of communicants —was far greater than usual. So, for that matter, was the amount taken in collections.
The delight felt by the priests at Wembley was shared by the priests of Our Lady of Willesden, St. Mary's and Si, Michael's, Commercial Road, and Our Lady of Lourdes, Wanstead.
"The turn-out here was most satisfactory," said Canon Fitzgerald, of Commercial Road. "The fact that we cut out our early 6 o'clock Mass made not the slighest difference. More people were present in the evening.
"I think some may have been attracted by the novelty, but others came because of the greater convenience, and others again because there was now no excuse at all for missing Mass."
Despite "competition," so to speak, from neighbouring parishes, about 1,700 parishioners thronged the Church of Our Lady of Willesden, many having to stand in the aisles and outside.
Here also there were many workers in the swollen congregation, and a reasonable percentage went to Holy Communion.
"There can be no doubt that in this parish Evening Mass supplies a very definite need, and the people have been quick to realise it," one of the priests told me.
London's central and West End churches reported the same satisfactory results. At St. James's, Spanish Place, nearly every seat was taken, and there was no drop in attendance though the Evening Mass was in addition to the full quota of ordinary holyday Masses.
At Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane, where Evening Mass was arranged at the exceptionally early hour of 5.30, Fr. Joseph O'Hear said: "It went very well indeed, The time seemed to suit the business people as they left their offices.
"A good number received Holy Communion, and I'm fairly confident that simply seeing them approach the altar rails will induce others to do the same in future."
Fr, R. C. Fuller. parish priest of Our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street, one of the capital's oldest and most historic churches. was as pleased as his brother priests.
"Evening Mass was a 100 per cent, success." he said. "There was great difficulty in getting all the people into the church, or more precisely, difficulty in persuading them to go up into the gallery where there was room for all."
The "Lawyers' Church" of St. Anselm and St. Cecilia, Lincoln's Inn Fields, was also crowded, Local people as well as business workers found that 6 o'clock is an excellent time for Evening Mass. Fr, Percival Howell admitted he had good reason to be gratified.
South of the Thames, in the Clapham district, the big Redemptonst Church of Our Lady of Victories was packed to the doors. Commented Fr. John Lindsay, the parish priest: "It is awfully hard to judge the spiritual fruitfulness of Evening Mass. Some say it should be done on the basis of increased Communions. I don't yet know.
"This isn't strictly a working-class parish, though there are people on night duty and shift systems, and many have to travel early up to town for business. I think we'll be better able to judge the true meaning of the people's response as time goes on.
"But one thing is certain. Evening Mass will teach everyone that it's the Holy Sacrifice which is the really important thing in our lives."
Parsons Green, a residential parish on the north bank of the river near Putney, was yet another place with fine results to report,
The experiment proved so successful that Canon Bishop, the parish priest, hopes to have it regularly on Holydays of Obligation at least.
In some churches of the Salford Diocese where there was both morning and evening Mass, the total attendance was double that of other Holydays of Obligation.
Some parish priests deferred the introduction of Evening Mass until the eve of the Coronation, when there will be two in the same week—the other being on the feast of Corpus Christi. They take the view that that week will produce a clearer test as to the response of the people to the new facilities.
At St. John's Cathedral, Salford. over 800 people attended evening Mass; at the Holy Name, Manchester, there were 1,200; at St. Patrick's, Manchester, 1,000; at St. Mary's, Mulberry Street, where 1,100 attended midday.Mass a further 400 went in the evening.
Country parishes, however, are just as happy in their first experience of Evening Mass as town parishes. And what goes for the three dioceses of Westminster, Brentwood a n d Southwark no doubt goes for the other dioceses which launched this new spiritual experiment last Thursday.
The view of Fr. John Stephenson, parish priest of St, Augustine's, Tunbridge Wells, was typical : "The church has seldom been more full. I am delighted at what happened. Evening Mass seems to suit mothers and housewives, workers in the district, and those who have to leave early and go far to their places of business on holydays.
"Some have told me how grateful they are for the concession. And there's not the least doubt that it's a great spiritual boon to many."
The Benedictine "Peoples' Mass" was introduced to the parish of Our Lady Help of Christians, Westcliffon Sea