Sunday, November 21, 2010

This is where I draw the line

As a Catholic raised in the post-V2, Novus Ordo Church, I've come to accept a few common problems with the way the Mass is celebrated at many parishes. What follows is not necessarily specific to my parish:

I accept that the choir will sing with more enthusiasm than skill, and that the director will choose songs unfamiliar to us and just beyond the choir's ability. If I attend a folk Mass, I accept that the songs will be performed 4-8 bpm too slow, leading "Blessed Be the Lord" to sound like a dirge, and that at some point during the liturgical cycle "Lord of the Dance" will be played despite my most desperate pleas to God. If I attend the LifeTeen Mass, I accept that I will know none of the lyrics, and that the lead guitarist will rock the house whether rocking the Lord's house is appropriate or not.

I accept that the lector will inevitably pronounce "Cephas" as Seh-fuss rather than Kay-fass. I accept that Father will give a rambling, discursive homily that fails to either illuminate or captivate, and am quite pleased when he actually unpacks the Scripture in a riveting and useful manner. I accept that Father will, at some random point, interpolate something into the liturgy that won't invalidate the Mass but won't be called for. I accept that the person/people on my right and/or on my left will expect me to hold his/her hand during the Lord's Prayer, even though the GIRM makes no provision for such an awkward, touchy-feely gesture so completely unnecessary to our worship. And I accept that people in line for the Eucharist will look at me strangely, and the EME will glare at me sternly, if and when I elect to bypass the cup (confident that in the bread I have already received the fullness of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ).

But there are a few things that I will never accept, which will cause me to depart the congregation in search of a real Catholic Church:

  • Liturgical Puppets: I've said many times that the Mass, when performed with due reverence and dignity, can make great theater. This is definitely not what I meant; this is Theater of the Absurd. The Mass, by the very nature of what it does, is sufficiently full of drama and impact. It does not have to be dramatized ... or, in this case, traumatized.

  •  Designer Vestments: The Mass is not about self-expression. Put another way: It's not about you, Father. Actually, the priest here is probably Episcopalian, though there are pictures of RC priests wearing copes, chasubles and stoles that look like they were stolen from a Goodwill store frequented by hippies and drag queens. (In fact, this one looks like every bad idea for a muumuu stitched together. Or perhaps it was designed by Roger Dean in between Yes album covers?) Here, the old salesman's rule definitely applies: Keep It Simple, Stupid!

  • Artsy-Craftsy Liturgical Decorations: Do you really know what's going on up there at the altar, Ms. Liturgical Director? If you did, you wouldn't have had the gall to cover the altar with a cloth made of sewn-together neckties. This is the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Our Lord, a Sacrament of great power and majesty, and deserves something better than a Hobby Lobby craft idea.

  • Clown Masses: Y'know, there's nothing like a clown Mass to announce to all the faithful, "WE DON'T TAKE THE LITURGY SERIOUSLY!" C'mon, now, whose brain wave was this travesty!? Any priest who willingly attempts to perform the Sacrifice of the Mass dressed like Krusty on anti-depressants ought to be assigned to a chaplain's position at a retired nun's home. (A horrible thought just struck me: he could be the next Vicar General of his diocese.)
  • (Not Pictured) Liturgical Dancers: Do I really need to say anything more? Okay, if I must: IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU!

1 comment:

  1. We had puppets like those in a Unitarian Universalist service once. The kids held them, acting out the book "Stone Soup." More appropriate than for a mass