Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Overdue and under duress

I am writing this using the beta of Windows Live Writer, so bear with me if it comes out looking funny.  But it is much overdue.

Here in North Idaho, we have an annual Catholic men's retreat.  Usually very inspiring, spiritually uplifting and even when the retreat master is less than wonderful, three Masses and confession more that makes it worthwhile.  And then there is the evening festivities involving great Catholic male conversation and usually libations.

Sad to say, this year was different.  I actually came home spiritually depressed.  In a much worse mood than I when I left.  It really bothered me to be struggling spiritually after what many describe as a weekend to recharge the spiritual batteries.  I felt like I had gone away and someone had left the the lights on.  My battery was drained.  So what was the problem?

Well, first off; I didn't have the usual suspects there with me.   Plenty of men I knew and I had good conversations with many, but none of the core group was there.  None of my fellow Maccabeen warriors. But as I said, there was plenty of men, 83 I think, there and how can one not enjoy spiritual conversations with fellow Catholic men?

The first talk on Friday was inspiring and got me fired up.  So even though the retreat master wasn't great as the weekend went on, it wasn't an issue of a poor topic, poor presentation or general malaise on my part.

The problem was much deeper than all this.  I was the victim of a bigger scam.  Many on St. Blog's have been offended with their priest dressing up as a clown for Mass.  I (tongue in cheek here) witnessed a clown dressed up as a priest. 

Anyone familiar with this site know about issues I take with poor liturgy.  The Mass does not belong to any one person, even the priest and therefore should not be treated as private property.  No inventing stuff, no changing the script to suit personal tastes or omitting certain prayers.  There are options that are offered.  But inventing your own Mass is forbidden. 

Anyway, this priest could give a great homily.  He believes in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  And in many ways he would pass as a rock solid priest.  But as I try to lighten up on the liturgical policing role, for my own good I can overlook many things.  But what completely ruined the weekend for me was doing what he knew was wrong, commenting on it during Mass and acting like it was a joke.  If Catholics truly believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist, would we really treat the Mass (where Jesus comes TO us, in OUR place, in OUR time) as a stand-up comedy routine?

Anymore Catholics will hardly notice a deviation from the script.  There are four options for the opening prayer, and not too many of us have all four memorized.  But to add his own, then comment how he felt it wouldn't be a big deal to add a fifth, drag that into a comment about him bringing a fifth (of spirits) elsewhere and then joking how he hoped no one would turn him into the bishop.  Many complaints have been heard about the monotony or repetition in  Mass, but this was about the only repeated line I remember from the weekend, about not being turned into the bishop.  Perhaps he was begging for someone to do just that.

The best thing I can take away from this weekend is a new appreciation for how mundane and ordinary our Sunday Mass at our church is.  Hardly perfect, poor music, bad hymns and questionable homilies from the deacons; but at least they don't joke about how bad they are.  And for that I am very thankful. 

I have come to a compromise with anyone who likes the liturgical goofiness.  I won't whine and complain about the little stuff anymore if you promise not to flaunt it.  It is so juvenile and could ruin a perfectly good weekend.


frival said...

Someone once said that the greatest damage done to the Church by the liturgical "reform" was that we all now have to think about the Mass. There is a certain something to be said for truly being able to say "the Mass is the Mass is the Mass" because it is always stable. By making everything a series of options it opens up gaping holes for personal opinion in what should be a unanimous action.

That said, I can see the benefit in giving options to liturgically-aware pastors who can use those options to help underscore certain crucial points. The potential benefits are real and we do no one a service by denying them. However, they need to be used with much greater care and contemplation than they generally have up to this point or they run the risk of degenerating into the butt of jokes just as you mention.

This is something I am hoping the Pope will help to resolve positively, mostly through catechesis but also through appointments and legislation as necessary. The Church is just now figuring out what did and did not work in the liturgical "reform" after Vatican II - it's likely to be another 5-10 years before we've cleaned ourselves up enough to be done with all this. I certainly hope it takes less, but I'm trying to be realistic so I don't get discouraged.

Anonymous said...

Apropos to your observations, Kale, the latest issue of Homiletic and Pastoral Review has a good article on the Priesthood, Mass, and Narcissism, co-authored by a professional psychologist and his son. Haven't finished reading it, but it seems to concur with what I've long held: that a priest obsessed with "personalizing" the Sacred Liturgy is essentially jumping up and down, screaming: "Look at MEEEE!!!".

And I thought that one of the four fundamental criteria for judging worthiness for priestly ordination was personal and emotional maturity. Silly me.