Wednesday, July 25, 2007


The Ultimate Nonsense Reducer!

Check out this cool write-up by Michael Overall for Tulsa World!

One priest wore an orange wig with a red clown nose and performed magic tricks during the homily. In another video, people brought their pets to church for a K-9 Mass, where dogs surrounded the altar while the priest consecrated the Sacred Host.

Don't throw pearls before swine, the Bible tells us. But it doesn't say anything about Labrador retrievers. (I would prefer to bring a vicious pitbull, but only for the sake of teaching a lesson about inviting pets to the altar.)

Thank God, I've never seen this kind of silliness in my own church, but only on YouTube, where traditionalist Catholics have put together a "Hall of Shame" for liturgical abuse. (I haven't seen the pet one yet, but I did see the Barney blessing, the teen preaching, and the clowns acting out the Gospel and homily.)

Another video shows several parishioners leaving in disgust as a nun -- at least, allegedly a nun -- dances down the aisle in a leopard-print leotard. (I've had a vision of something like that once. I think they call it a nightmare!)

I wouldn't have walked out of that service. I would've run. (Me too!) God doesn't send down hellfire and brimstone often, but when it comes, it comes fast.

Ecumenical foolishness: Buffoonery, of course, is not a uniquely Catholic sin. I was backstage once at a non-denominational "worship center."

The word "church," you know, sounds too churchy. We have convention centers and sports centers and shopping centers, so why not "worship centers?" (And why not? Many Catholic parishes have "worship spaces". Before coming to Holy Ghost, I got a job description from a church in the Chattanooga (Tennessee) area that was hiring. My wife has relatives out that way. Nice looking church, but once I saw the words "worship space" in the pastor's cover letter, I opted not to pursue the position any further.)

The stage hands wore headsets to get cues from a director in the sound booth.

"Spot lights on three . . . two . . . one. Now the smoke machine!"

It was like Jesus on Broadway. Or more like Jesus in Branson, Mo. "America's Got Talent," and so does the congregation. (Maybe they were auditions for the next American Idol, which I usually refer to around here as American Idiot. Or maybe it was American Idol taking auditions at the infamous St. Joan of Arc. They write those off as "gym Masses".)

Did the disciples give a standing ovation after the Sermon on the Mount? Did St. Paul use dry ice when he preached to the Corinthians?

But I was never more tempted to leave a church service than in Waco, Texas, where I lived after college. New in town, I went to the parish nearest my apartment, and I didn't notice the sign out front was in Spanish.

Mass is an interactive ritual -- the priest speaks; you respond.

It helps to know the language.

I could've slipped discreetly out the door.

But the mysterious beauty of the service -- a modern Mass, but celebrated with old-fashioned solemnity -- kept me in the pew. (The sign may have been in Spanish, but any chance this Mass might have been in Latin? Or was this an extremely reverent Spanish Mass, thus fortifying something I once said about English getting the $&!+ end of the stick?)

This must have been something like going to church before the reforms of Vatican II, when you could understand what was happening even if you couldn't understand the words.

The fragile wisp of incense. Sunlight filtered through stained-glass. A hushed reverence as the priest lifts the bread over his head. The silence broken by a crystal-clear bell to announce that Christ himself has come to us.

I didn't need to hear it in English. I knew to get on my knees. (HAD to be Latin!)

Back to the future: This month, Pope Benedict XVI issued a papal decision that will make the old Latin Mass more widely available around the world. The pope doesn't want to drag the church back to the 1950s -- Latin will remain an exception, and the vernacular will remain the rule. (The only small part of this whole article I disagree with. Latin was never an exception, except due to liberals' misconceptions and those misinformed by thereof.)

Instead, I think, the pope wants to use the old liturgy as a kind of fertilizer, sprinkling a little Latin through the church to nourish a sense of wonder.

Or rather, he wants it to be a kind of poison, a weed-killer, to uproot the childishness that has been disgracing too many parishes in recent years. (I truthfully think the Extraordinary Form of the Mass could very likely serve both purposes - the fertilizer and the weed killer.)

Clowns behind the pulpit. Nuns in leotards. Worshipers bringing Fido with them. (And let's not forget Barney blessing the people!) And some critics are worried that Latin will distract people?

Benedict just wants to give every Catholic what I'm already blessed to have in Tulsa -- a church where grown-ups worship like adults. (You're extremely blessed to have a Bishop like Bp. Slattery. His articles on liturgy from Spring 2006 are excellent! I've blogged on him here, here, and here.)

RSCT to the Summorum Pontificum blog.


1 comment:

Dad29 said...

Agree totally with your analysis that the Joh. Rite will be both fertilizer AND weedkiller.

One suspects you wrote B-16 with that idea, which is why he issued the MP, no?