Live Boldly – Within the Mass

The Holy Mass is the most important aspect of the Roman Catholicism. It is the setting for the Holy Eucharist just as a gold ring sets a diamond. The Sacrifice of the Mass is the “source and summit” of our faith. It is where heaven touches down, briefly, on Earth. It’s unfortunate that all too often this “gold ring” appears to be more of a, I don’t know, braided hemp ring in many places. When the liturgy is irreverent, casual, or even silly, the congregation begins to believe that it actually is all these things.

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For the first segment of a series of posts on bold Catholicism I would like to focus on how Catholics be such within the Mass. So often we think of evangelization as something that is exclusively directed towards non-Catholics when we should also be trying to evangelize the minds and hearts of many already-Catholics who may not know much about the Church or Christ beyond the banal display, and poor catechesis they receive from St. Suburban parish under the leadership of Fr. Fluffy. Many people have no clue how beautiful the liturgy can (and should) be. Most American Catholics unfortunately have a protestantized view of what should happen within the walls of a church on Sunday morning. In the past few decades, both small and large aspects of our faith have been suppressed by those who reject beauty and truth for pop culture acceptance and practical relativism.

10885407_987752134572287_2724274928534180188_nMillennial Catholics are reclaiming the beauty (such as sacred art, music, and architecture) and truth (such as homilies featuring authentic Catholic teaching) in many parishes as we speak with “re-renovations“, establishing the Extraordinary Form of Mass, bringing back public processions, and more. But still the vast majority of parishes feature Fr. Fluffy and his “liturgical coordinator” leading a disenfranchised congregation. It is the job of Catholics blessed with the awareness of the beauty and truth of authentic, counter-cultural Catholicism to set an example for other Catholics who, though no fault of their own, are unaware of what Catholicism can be and should be. These lackluster parishes should be viewed by faithful Millennials as gardens where seeds can be planted. Whether St. Suburban parish is your regular parish or you are lucky enough to attend a reverent and beautiful parish (meaning you must occasionally have to go elsewhere for whatever reason), we should make sure to conduct ourselves according to the standard of reverence displayed in parishes which proclaim the beauty and truth of Catholicism and Jesus in the Eucharist rather than according to the median standard of whatever parish we happen to be in for a given Mass. For example, there are some people who regularly attend wonderful parishes dedicated to the Extraordinary Form but conduct themselves differently once they go to St. Suburban parish for whatever reason. Enough of Catholics feeling self-conscious!

To be clear our motivations need always be just. If one is acting a certain way for attention to one’s own piety, such a display would be shamefully prideful. However, if the motivation, first, is out of humility before Jesus in the Eucharist, the high importance of the Holy Mass (a Wedding feast), and, finally, to normalize common and worthy Catholic practices among others who may not have the courage to ‘stand out’ in a group.

Here are some tips for those who want to change the parish subculture one Mass at a time.

Dress

The Mass is the wedding feast of the Lamb! The Mass is a bigger deal than the $250,000 wedding between your friends of Trevor and Tristyn (or Tony?) because the Mass is the wedding between Jesus, the Lamb of God, and us, the Church. Holy Communion is the consummation of this union…this is important stuff! If we are willing to shave and wear our best clothes to Trev ‘n Trist’s hitching shouldn’t we at least consider how we are dressing at Mass? Of course we should go to Mass no matter our dress, if we had to work third shift Saturday night or are unable, for whatever reason, to dress nicely. But if we have the ability, we should.

You’d be amazed at the compliments your family will receive by other parishioners at a St. Suburban church when they see children in dresses and bow ties and the parents looking like they want to be there. Everyone deep down knows families should be dressed up but few do.

  • Men – strive for a formal jacket and tie of some kind. A suit is wonderful but a sport coat, tie (bow tie!?), slacks and nice shoes should be the bar. Your sons look at how you dress for Mass, not how they themselves are dressed. Absolutely never, unless you were beaten and held hostage the night before and you managed to escape just in time for Mass, wear a t-shirt with your favorite sports team on it. Also never wear sandals or shorts. There are men who go to a parish where dressing decently is the norm and make sure they fit in by wearing decent clothes but then go to another parish, which they know to be more causal, and dress down. Why are they dressing according to how others are dressed? Men should strive to dress this way no matter the parish they are at because we are not there for other people. And if it’s winter, take your coat off when you get in the pew.
  • Woman – Do I dare suggest what women wear? Perhaps I should have my wife type this but I think she’d agree. Strive for a beautiful dress and nice shoes. Use common sense with the type of dress. There are also other beautiful outfits that are not dresses but a dress is typically what women wear to a wedding and what women have traditionally worn to church on Sunday across all forms of Christianity. It’s authentically feminine which is powerful nothing to downplay.girl-in-veil-300x51
    • Veiling – If you are a woman who veils at a parish where it is common but not at parishes where it is less common, I ask why not. I think many women who have found the beautiful and traditional sacramental of veiling in the comfort of these reverent parishes are nervous to do so in typical Novus Ordo Masses for fear that they will look different. I beg women who have taken up this practice to do so every possible time they are at a Mass or adoration. Sure, in some places you may be the only person (there are options for very small and un-showy veils and nice hats are also an option) but think of the powerful witness it provides for some other young women who may have been considering doing so themselves, older women who assume nobody does it anymore, or the woman who never even heard of the practice but is now curious. Women, be bold for Christ! The veil is both a beautiful symbol of sacred, live-giving femininity and the a recognition of the True Presence of Christ. It is also scriptural. I have heard about and noticed more young women (typically between 18-35) wearing veils at Novus Ordo Masses. In fact, I was at an Ordinary Form Mass on a state college campus a few nights ago where there were six women (likely all under 25) in beautiful mantillas. This is definitely a noticeable aspect of the current Catholic renaissance we are seeing happening right now. So, don’t be bashful, be BOLD.

Reverence

I’ll be quick here. Again, people should strive not to act one way at one parish and another at another parish. The Universal Church means each Mass is just as important as the next as far as we are concerned (regardless of if one appears to be less impressive than another). If you profoundly bow (or kneel) at the mention of the incarnation in the Nicene Creed in one place where everyone does so but then don’t do anything at St. Suburban, whom are you really proclaiming the creed for?

  • Communion
    • If you are used to kneeling and receiving on the tongue at one parish, why not do it at another. If you’re used to receiving Jesus in complete humility, why wouldn’t you receive him that way somewhere else? This is another practice that is growing among Millennial Catholics at parishes where it’s not the norm. No altar rail? No problem. We’re kneeling anyhow, it doesn’t have to be comfortable. Maybe this will encourage parishes to install them again!
      • This can be difficult for some people at typical parishes where there’s hoards of lay “Eucharistic Ministers”, and reception is done haphazardly in the hands. There’s the fear, similar to women veiling, that they will stand out. This was certainly my thought when I became used to using an altar rail at a traditionally-minded Novus Ordo parish but sometimes attended the parish much closer to my house. “What will I look like?” I just felt like it was weird I acted one way in once place and another at another place. Well, after doing it a few times, it’s nothing. No one says anything and if someone does, just remind them that it too is scriptural. Ask them why they stand and use their hands. Don’t allow the bad practices of many affect how you receive the Lord.
      • At the very least, strive for reception on the tongue. The whole in-the-hands deal has become so out of control and it must be countered.
      • UPDATE: Hilarious article from Eye of the Tiber today – Attention Whore Kneels to Receive Communion

at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth
-Phil 2:10

We need to reclaim our church culture but we can only do this if we actually…do it! It’s an exciting time to be a Catholic! It’s the Renaissance 2.0! In the next post of the Live Boldly series we will discuss ways to do so outside the Mass ☩

Signs of Hope: Catholic Hippies Getting Defensive and “Fussy” with New, Beautiful Parish Renovations

If you’re looking for a laugh, check out an article in the National “Catholic” Reporter (not to be confused with faithful Register) remarking on the opinion of Michael DeSanctis, a church building “consultant” and theology teacher. The entire article basically reads like that of a cornered, rabid raccoon. There is a stench of defensiveness because these holdovers haunting the turrets of the failed (and erroneously implemented) “reforms” of the Second Vatican Council are watching their utopia of a beige, frozen-in-the-1960s, kumbaya Catholicism slowly dissolve only 50 years later.

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Isn’t this where everyone pictures getting married?

Michael states that a major problem in the Catholic Church today is parishes “re-renovating” churches into making them actually look like Catholic churches again. Many of these dinosaurs–who came of age during the enlightened sexual revolution–cringe at the joyful, passionate, and polite undoing of their “renovations” of the 60’s and 70’s which really was just destruction: the removal of intricate altar rails, the painting over of sacred art, the removal of stained glass depicting saints, the carpeting over of marble or parquet floors, the removal of baptismal fonts, and much more. Read an abbreviated version below with my emphases and comments:

New clericalism is imposing old ways on modern church architecture

Church architecture has become a frontline of the liturgy wars as Catholic churches undergo re-renovations.

Restoration-minded pastors, most who came of age well after Vatican II, are ordering the changes. Gone are what they sometimes disparage as “Pizza Hut” churches. The goal is to restore tradition. They impose altar rails, the placement of the Blessed Sacrament near the altar, and use expensive marble on the floor to seal off the sanctuary area as a polished and exclusive arena for clerical liturgical action. Sometimes the choir gets relegated to a back loft, providing disembodied sound. In other parishes, circular seating arrangements are abandoned in favor of long rows of pews.

Those misguided pastors, if only they came of age during V2, then they would know the damage they are causing! I like how they are “imposing” the placement tabernacles near the altar. Isn’t Rome require the tabernacle be close to the altar (if not centered under the crucifix where it should be)? Why is this so controversial? I also laugh at him saying the choir gets “relegated” to the back loft. It’s actually called the “choir loft”, you know, where the choir is supposed to be. And the “disembodied” sound should sound disembodied quite literally, it should remind us of angels singing.

“Architecture is how we express our liturgy,” DeSanctis recently told NCR in a phone interview, noting that the generation of post-Vatican II priests routinely came out of the sanctuary to interact with their parishioners during liturgy. They built churches with a focus on circular design, to bring the congregation closer together, as well lowered the altar to bring the priest closer to the congregation.

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Everyone is a priest and Father is just one of us!

First off, again, I am pretty certain that, according to GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal), priests are not supposed to “interact” with the congregation outside of distributing the Eucharist. What does he want these priests to do exactly? What exactly does he assume the purpose of Mass is?

But that has changed with the emergence of many younger clergy, schooled in seminary with the thought of Pope Benedict, who re-emphasized clerical distinctions. Across the country, DeSanctis has noticed how many pastors are redesigning the suburban churches built in the 1960s and ’70s with a focus on priestly action.

It’s pretty obvious the disdain for young, faithful Catholics, isn’t it? Sorry that nearly all the Millennials who engaged in the Church right now care about beauty, liturgy, and “distinctions” between clergy and laity. One of the biggest problems of the past 50 years has been the erosion of these distinctions. Many priests came to understand their holy vocation as just another day job (contributing to many behaving very badly) which devastated the number of men interested in the priesthood. It’s not about “priestly action”, it’s about offering the Mass for the congregation, something they can’t do.

In his article, DeSanctis offers a defense for the much-maligned modernist suburban church, with its focus on nurturing community. He begins with St. Jude the Apostle Church in Erie, a product of postwar Catholicism. It is a modernist structure with a distinctive summit cross, built to be “a place of worship completely at home in the modern world.” St. Jude’s, he notes, fit into the modern suburban American landscape, and that was its strength…

However, that model has changed. St. Jude’s has undergone a re-renovation in recent years.

Elaborate candles now serve as boundaries to mark off the sanctuary from the pews. The altar area has now been transformed by marble, visually setting itself off. The new architecture, intended to recapture traditional elements, has a “look at me” clerical mindset, writes DeSanctis.

The sanctuary and pews (nave) are indeed very distinct places and it should be obvious. The altar should be noticeable since that is where the sacrifice of the Mass takes place. And “traditional elements” do not exist for their own glory. The goal of soaring ceilings of artwork and masonry is to direct our gaze towards heaven and the glory of God. It is also to help us see beauty in the world, beyond the mundane and temporal imagery of carpeting, abstract stained glass, and solid-green polyester vestments.

He notes that such changes are examples of “fussy territoriality” expressed through physical changes made by “a wave of priests intent on undoing the achievements of their immediate predecessors, a generation or two of men animated by the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council.”

Church architecture needs to bring clergy and laity together, notes DeSanctis

Hmmm, who exactly is acting fussy here? And, again, mentioning those awful young priests. Can’t all priests just be old? Can we stop ordaining new priests all together? Their passion for Catholicism is really just messing everything up! The whole problem with this mindset is they are so concerned by their human achievement rather than serving Mother Church. This is why we have visible musicians performing at Mass, priests packing sermons with laugh lines and clapping after Mass. The whole problem is that our worship has been of ourselves; the priest too often looks at the congregation and praises them while the congregation looks back at the priest and laughs or claps. It’s circular entertainment rather than vertical worship.


Quite a funny article because you can smell the defensiveness which means things are going in the right direction. In 500 years, I expect the years between 1960-2030 to be just an odd historical blip on our 2,000+ year timeline. ☩

CS Lewis: Holiness isn’t Dull, it’s Irresistible

If Christianity feels like a chore to you, dig deeper. Once it clicks, it’s like the Wizard of Oz; life goes from black & white to color. Every person, art, and (upright) activity you love…you love more deeply. Beauty is found in places you never expected. As Saint John Paul II stated: “life with Christ is a wonderful adventure”.

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If you don’t believe seeking holiness is joyful, exciting, and irresistible, keep digging, keep reading, keep praying, and seek out beautiful liturgies to surround your reception of the Eucharist.

Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls’ but they are the walls of a playground.

-GK Chesterton

Congress Repeals FCC Internet Privacy Rules

Yesterday the book Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher (who right now is receiving much attention for his new book The Benedict Option) was waiting on my front porch when I returned home from work. It’s a book I have wanted to read for quite some time and finally bought a used copy. The book is about how some conservatives are returning to a form of conservatism that is actually interesting in conserving things — freedom, education, family life, natural resources, beauty, liberty, Christianity, etc — rather than purely focusing on economic strength and accumulating…stuff.

The back of the book includes Dreher’s “Crunchy Con Manifesto” of nine bullet pointsincluding the following:

  • Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.
  • Big Business deserves as much skepticism as big government.

At the same time I scanned the Crunchy Con points on the back cover, conservatives in Congress were (and still are) in the process of sending President Trump a bill to repeal FCC Internet privacy rules that require giant telecom corporations to ask their users to “opt-in” to them storing and sharing private user data rather than allowing them to do this automatically. They use this information (among many ways) to build profiles on people to sell the advertisers so they can send us eerily targeted ads. The data storage is also ripe for abuse as we already know by the tens of thousands of (known) data requests by the government recently.

Republicans argue this levels the playing field with websites like Google and Facebook who are already allowed to collect data on their users and have a sort of monopoly over online advertising. But why are we so concerned by leveling the playing field for giant corporations to compete with each other when the currency to do so is our very intimate, private information? Maybe the answer is cracking down on Google and Facebook rather than allowing telecom providers to do the same.

Quoting from the Wall Street Journal:

What if your telecom company tracked the websites you visit, the apps you use, the TV shows you watch, the stores you shop at and the restaurants you eat at, and then sold that information to advertisers?

In theory, it’s possible, given the stance Washington is taking on online privacy. Lawmakers on Tuesday voted to overturn privacy rules that required telecom companies to get customers’ permission before sharing their web-browsing and app usage history with third parties. 

The telecom providers had argued the rules put them at a competitive disadvantage to online ad giants Google and Facebook, which generally aren’t regulated by the FCC.

Google and Facebook have built huge businesses powered by reams of data they collect about consumers’ online actions, both on their own properties and across the web. That trove of information largely explains their dominance — combined, they have a roughly 47% share of the global digital ad market, according to eMarketer.

But online advertising executives say telecom providers potentially have access to more powerful data than the two tech powerhouses. Their networks — both wired and wireless — could give them a window into nearly everything a user is doing on the web.

“ISPs like Verizon can now start building and selling profiles about consumers that include their friends, the news articles they read, where they shop, where they bank, along with their physical location,”…

For example, a wireless provider might track which websites and apps a consumer uses, in addition to their location, and use that information to help determine which products they’re likely to purchase.

If a consumer uses the same telecom provider for wireless, broadband and TV service, the provider could, in theory, track the majority of that consumer’s online behavior and media consumption.

Is this really what conservative voters want? I doubt it. It’s telling that the Republicans, who can’t seem to agree on anything important right now, are able to quickly come together to do something so pro-big business at the expense of everyday Americans. Political conservatives in this country tend to be more pro-privacy than their liberal counterparts so why don’t the politicians they voted for reflect that? To the contrary, this is the first thing to likely be signed into law with their new president? Until there’s more information suggesting there are benefits not being properly reported, what a disgrace. ☩