Unable to make it to my normal parish (where yesterday would have marked the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany), yesterday I assisted at Mass for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time at the church much, much closer to my house. Oh, how nice that drive is! Why did I ever give up such a convenient drive? Answering my question, the enjoyment of the six-minute commute was quickly neutralized for many reasons.
I was driving home from out of town Sunday morning which required me to fulfill my Sunday Obligation at the aforementioned parish because they offered an evening Mass. I won’t name this parish because it is irrelevant. But at one time I was a member of this parish only to leave it in search of a more worthy liturgy (Heb 12:28) and less banal, more Catholic-sounding homilies.
I entered the round, carpeted, suburban church a bit early. I figured the time saved on the drive could be put to good use with a rosary. Unfortunately, the tabernacle (which is pushed to the side of the sanctuary) had its view mostly obstructed by a mock Door of Mercy decorated by children. Not discouraged, I continued according to plan. Then, apparently spoiled by churches which try to maintain sacred silence in both the nave and sanctuary over the past couple years, I had to battle the distraction of a literal band practice taking place in the choir area inches away from the tabernacle (interestingly, the Door of Mercy wasn’t obstructing the view of those ‘performing’). I wish to point out that these people (a couple I know) are very nice and well-intentioned. I know a few members from this parish read this blog so I want you to be clear on this :). But it’s not easy to pray when there’s two guitars being strummed and a full drum kit being banged! Were we preparing for a protestant service or the Holy Mass? Were rosaries even allowed in here I jokingly thought to myself (hey, I was distracted).
Then the Mass began.
I won’t bother with writing about the unfortunate liturgy that was offered. It was as-expected. What wasn’t expected was the shockingly inappropriate political commentary that popped up.
Before the penitential rite, the pastor suggested that “because of how the election turned out” we need to call to mind what has happened to us as voters, asking for God’s mercy. It didn’t end there.
It’s a shame that this pastor chose not to properly form the conscience (since they, he alludes, are ill-formed) of his congregation by focusing on the meaning of the propers for this Sunday–and most others–because they offered some rich scripture:
Reading 1 Mal 3:19-20a
when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble,
and the day that is coming will set them on fire,
leaving them neither root nor branch,
says the LORD of hosts.
But for you who fear my name, there will arise
the sun of justice with its healing rays.
Gospel Lk 21:5-19
they will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Instead he repeated the common platitudes officially sanctioned by popular culture about “fear” and “hate” in his commentary on the outcome of the election. He treated us to a story about how he worked with many Latino families earlier in his career and how many of them are likely scared because of who was elected president (even though about a third of them voted for Trump). He told us how now it’s likely that millions of people will now lose their health insurance! Apparently he did not get the memo that Obamacare has resulted in less people insured and higher insurance premiums for those who are. He also must not be aware that the very Roman Catholic Church that employs him sued the government over Obamacare, along with other Catholic organizations in the United States. It’s too bad Cardinal Dolan, Little Sisters of the Poor, and other Catholics were not in attendance to be reminded about their apparent need for penitence by this thoughtful pastor.
I need not explain the many problems a Catholic faces with president-elect Trump because I have written about it many time on this blog. But one sure wonders, if Hillary were elected, would this sandal-wearing priest have struck the same tone over the woman who has extreme positions on abortion (including it being funded by tax payers), family issues, and the sovereignty of the Church in America. Was he even aware that this candidate’s campaign managers set up fake Catholic groups in attempt to weaken the American Church? Did this priest care about any of this or the legitimate concerns of the American faithful? I’ll bet not, especially since as long as I have known this priest, I haven’t witness him tackle one difficult issue.
But wait, there’s more! Then the priest actually asked for a show of hands to see who voted for Trump and who voted for Hillary! I sat, utterly shocked. Should I get up and leave this unfortunate display? Should I say something out loud to rebuke his behavior? Should I wait to let him hear my mind in the narthex?. I decided not to do any of these things. He has proven to be unresponsive in the past to concerns and anything said directly would likely be unproductive and self-serving. I decided instead, in agreement with my neighbor (a choir member at this parish), to write the bishop. And apparently, according to the same neighbor, other members will likely write the bishop after what they witnessed from this weekend. Here is a part of what I wrote:
I was at Mass last night at [typical suburban parish] in [whiteupperclassville]. Despite living in [whiteupperclassville], my family almost never goes to [typical suburban parish] because of events similar to what I’m about to describe (along with their liturgy). There are many other local young families that drive out of their way on Sunday for the same reasons.
Rev. [He’sWithHer] opened the Mass by suggesting we need the penitential rite for what happened in our country over the past week. He went on to suggest that the outcome of the election was deeply problematic for Catholics and we need to reorient ourselves in the wake of this. Then during his homily [I explain what was just explained]. Would he have addressed any of those problems if the election outcome was different? Probably not, because he, along with way too many of his colleagues, refuse to address topics that are not in line with what popular culture thinks.
Your Excellency, I (and many, many other in your diocese) have had enough of this nonsense. Please address it. Also, please address many of the liturgical matters that plague various parishes on a regular basis.
Thank you very much for reading this.
Asking for your blessing,