Reminded Why I Left

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

Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven,
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

[…]“Before all this happens, however,
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:

Your Excellency,

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,

[TSP]
Did you experience anything similar following the election? Let’s keep praying for the wonderful young priests coming out of the seminary right now, that they one day are finally able to change things for the better. ☩
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[WATCH] Cardinal Arinze Discusses Removal of Altar Rails, Kneeling, and Liturgical Dance

Here’s a couple of videos of Cardinal Francis Arinze addressing people’s concerns when it comes to various practices (or lack thereof) cropping up in the Mass the last few decades. He addresses the unfortunate abuse of bishops and priests removing altar rails from their parishes, parishes that have removed their kneelers all-together (along with the stigmatization of kneeling from some), and the ridiculousness of “liturgical dance”. The video is from an event that took place somewhere towards the end of his term while Benedict XVI was pope.

The bishops of the West could learn a lot from the bishops of Africa…

For those of you reading this in an email subscription, videos will not display in emails, please visit the post on the website!

[VIDEO] Tips on How to Diminish Vocations in Your Parish

Here are just a few examples of ways a parish can make sure they don’t generate any priestly vocations.

Firstly, it’s very important that you make sure there’s no apparent role or purpose for the man on the altar. He should appear to parishioners that he’s just an old softie in what looks to be a fancy bathrobe (of course, they should never be in formal vestments). We want to make sure that young men roll their eyes at the priests. Young men are drawn to priests that are purposeful. Remove the purpose from the priest and you remove the desire for anyone to want to become one.

St. Patrick's in Seattle
St. Patrick’s in Seattle Facebook page

Next, we want to smack the people in the pews with ridiculous dancing accompanied by songs that have no place in the liturgy. We want parishioners who aren’t sure what the purpose of Mass is to be even more confused. We want them to question why they are taking an hour out of their valuable weekend to watch fourth-rate dancers and musicians perform. We want people to think that the Mass is about the humans on the stage rather than about Christ’s sacrifice on the altar. If this doesn’t force parents out of Catholicism, it will at least make sure their children never come back as adults with their own families.

Here are a few videos from actual Catholic churches

Here are the now-viral videos from Holy Spirit Parish in Berkeley, California. Here the priest is front and center (with about a dozen girls dancing) showing off his barefoot skills. Does this kind of behavior encourage serious men to enter the seminary?

Easter Mass:

Easter Vigil:

If any of these videos or pictures reminds you of your parish…RUN!

St. Patrick’s in Seattle Facebook page
St. Patrick’s in Seattle Facebook page
St. Patrick’s in Seattle Facebook page

It is important to avoid Masses that resemble the pictures below at ALL COSTS otherwise young people might take the Mass seriously!

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So Why Do People Hold Their Hands Out During ‘Our Father’?

The Answer: Because everyone else is.

Well, probably.

For cryin’ out loud

Catholics who attend attend most Novus Ordo Masses are no doubt aware that there’s a lot of hand holding and reaching out going on now during the Lord’s Prayer. Since there is no prescribed posture set by the Holy See or in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) by our bishops during the Pater Noster, it makes one wonder how the outreaching and hand holding has become seemingly mandatory during this part of Mass in many congregations.

I have read about people saying that parishioners down the pew will approach them expecting them to hold the stranger’s hand. Sometimes, in fear of appearing rude, they reluctantly give in. If there is no one around to hold hands with, people will open their arms, bend their elbows and face their palms upwards while they pray just like the priest. This posture is called ‘Orans’ (Latin for “praying). My favorite part, whether they are hand-holding or in the Orans posture, people hold their hands up juuuust a bit higher during the doxology: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory…”. So how the heck did this all start? Surely someone, somewhere instructed us all to do this during Mass, right? Nope.

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Catholics who have been going to Mass for the past few decades probably don’t remember this happening as much in the 90’s and earlier. I know that it was new to me when I returned to Mass. At first I just assumed I never noticed it before because I didn’t pay as close attention when I was younger…so I played along. Then, as I started looking into the reason for this, I slowly realized the truth. No one can say why this happened. It likely happened because of a couple factors.

Much thanks to the blurring of the line between clergy and laity following the Second Vatican Council, when everyone felt they had to act like a priest, I’m sure someone at some point wanted to mimic the Orans posture of the priest. When a couple people did it next to each other, it seemed natural for them to hold hands. When people saw people in the pew in front of them doing this, they became self-conscious of their posture. Scared of being labeled “that family that doesn’t know what they are doing at Mass”, they started holding hands without any discussion as to why they started doing this. Does this sound about right?

orans
Either in the Orans position or saying “ohhh, we got a bad ass here…”

The fact remains; the Orans posture is reserved for the priest during Mass and, historically, associated with someone in a priestly office. In fact, deacons are forbidden to even use the posture during Mass. So it seems weird that we are taking it upon ourselves to engage in a prayer poster that only the priest is allowed to do at the altar. That would be like us laying prostrate in prayer because priests are doing it during an ordination Mass or Good Friday service.

This all being said, the practice isn’t banned. If people want the warm and fuzzies by holding hands during what should be the most solemn of prayers, taught to us directly by Jesus Christ, go ahead.

Just don’t feel rude if you opt to shut your eyes and clasp your hands when some happy stranger walks up to you expecting a hand hold. You are not forced to engage in any posturing during this part of the liturgy. We should be focused on the Christ in the tabernacle rather than ourselves. The Sign of Peace is a much more appropriate time to lend a hand to your neighbor (even though some people can turn that into a whole fiasco too, complete with peace signs and kiss-blowing 20 pews away).

If you are concerned with the level of sentimentalism in your congregation, mention to your priest that you feel uncomfortable when people expect you to hold hands–chances are he will completely understand since this was never something that the laity was instructed to do! ☩

What are your thoughts on this?

For more reading, check out what Catholic Answers has to say about it.

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Which Senses Does Your Parish’s Music Appeal To?

Many American Catholics assume that church music is inherently crappy. While I am by no means a music expert (and I might even be mistaken on some of the technical terms I use below), I think liturgical music is very important. Like for most Catholics my age growing up, the bad music at Mass was just “part of the deal”…something to put up with while fulfilling our duty of Sunday Mass. When I moved to a different parish a few years ago, I realized some churches indeed have very competent musicians only to eventually realize that the music wasn’t necessarily appropriate for the Sacred Liturgy.

Since moving to a new parish, I realize the importance of traditional liturgical music. Most cradle Catholics in our country have only been exposed to two different types of liturgical music:

1) Bad music primarily because of bad (or very old) singers. Sometimes they have an entire choir of poor vocals and sometimes they have a lone singer at the pulpit. There is likely no Gregorian chant or [acceptable] polyphony because of the difficulty of both. While often it’s not the parish’s fault there are no decent choir members available, sometimes there are indirect reasons the parish is unable to attract talented laity.

2) “Progressive” or rhythmic music. This parish relies on modern instruments such as guitars or drums. Usually this parish has the pews stocked with the most “modern” hymnals and sometimes even comes up entirely with their own songs to use for Mass. These parishes tend to put on a concert of sorts, making the focus of Mass on the music and the musicians rather than God.

Of course, the worst would be a combination of the two!

Since the Second Vatican Council, many parishes have felt empowered to radically change their liturgical music even though Vatican II clearly states that Gregorean chant should always have it’s proper place in the Mass:

The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.”
Second Vatican Council’s Sacrosanctum concilium, no. 112

The entire situation saddens me because many Catholics just don’t know just what they are missing out on! Catholic music is actually fantastic, these people just have never heard actual Catholic music, they have only heard secular music with crummy, [kinda-]Christian lyrics or Catholic music presented so poorly they naturally turn their ears off. Make no mistake: I love many forms of secular music. In fact, I sort of fancy myself as a music aficionado, so don’t get the wrong impression. But good music takes on different forms depending on the situation and the only way music can enhance a Sacred Liturgy is by being…sacred.

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So why are drums, guitars, and strong lead vocals bad in church? It’s because their music appeals to our body rather than our soul or our mind. When you work out, what do you listen to? Probably rock, maybe some hip-hop or rap…something with a beat that gets you moving. A rhythm helps us jog just like it helps us dance. But we are not at Mass to tap our feet or bob our heads. We are at Mass to encounter Heaven and participate prayerfully. We want music that seeks to raise us up above the natural world.

When you want to study or do anything else that requires deep thinking, what do you listen to? Probably some form of classical music–symphony, piano, or singing. Probably something with a more reverent melody. Why is that? It’s because Classical music is appealing to our minds and our spirit. It opens our mind up to ponder what exists beyond our own physical body and natural world. This is why Gregorian chant and [reverent/traditional] polyphony are the most appropriate choices for music at Mass. I must also admit that I am becoming quite partial to the original Latin lyrics in these forms of music too–I think we should bend soul and intellect to understand these sacred lyrics, rather than watering them down to a form we more easily can understand (this isn’t to discuss the differences between the Latin Mass or the Novus Ordo Mass since Latin can be used in either). Not only are these forms of music more appropriate, they are absolutely gorgeous when done right…so gorgeous it can be hard not to fight tears:

Regina Caeli – I love this polyphony, it’s gorgeous.

Salve Regina  – If only more Ordinary Form Masses closed with this during ordinary time!

Agnus Dei – What prepares you better for the reception of our Lord, this ancient prayer chanted in Latin or the more modern (and often mumbled) “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world…”

Kyrie (polyphonic) & Gloria (chanted) – Many parishes put little emphasis on the [english-translated] Kyrie and I have been to some suburban parishes that treat the Gloria prayer as a blues song with rolling piano licks, drums, and lead vocals–seriously.

So what senses does the music at your parish appeal to…your body or your soul?

The featured image at the top is from here where monks chant in choir stalls.

For much more on traditional Catholic music, this is a topic the blog Views from the Choir Loft discusses regularly and much better than I can.