Sunday, July 23, 2006


I had a hair appointment yesterday that ran late so Rocky and I couldn't make the 5PM vigil Mass at our church so we went to the 6PM at another parish. It was without a doubt the WMOAT (Worst Mass of All Time). When we walked in I knew something was wrong right off the bat. Jesus was not behind the altar, not in a chapel but stuck in a corner. That's right, the the Blessed Sacrament-- Jesus in the flesh, our joy, our strength, our salvation--- was stuck in a dank, drab corner next to the side door.

The choir was rehearsing when we came in and I realized that the songs they were singing were the same ones I used to hear at Mass when I was young child back in the 70s. It was like we had fallen into a time warp. There was a gray haired guy vigorously attacking the guitar and most of the shorts wearing parishoners looked to be in their 50s and 60s. There was only one baby, and a few little kids and two teenaged boys. Everybody else was a Boomer. There were even banners (ugh!) hanging on the wall.

A bored looking altar girl sat in her chair on the altar for half an hour before Mass. I've never seen an altar server just hang out like that before. Usually the altar boys at my church are actually doing something to assist Fr. Theoden and Fr. Aragorn. This child seemed to be just lounging.

And then I saw the dog. I love animals, dogs especially. I'd rather play with a dog than talk to most people. I think the Doberman is one of the most perfect creatures God ever made but a dog does not belong on God's holy altar. It was the priest's dog and I guess he was just checking his territory. He walked around, stopped to be petted by various delighted people and seeing that everything was in order he returned the the sacristy. Then the priest came out. He wore an orange Polo shirt and greeted us like a maitre d at a swanky restaurant. He was very nice and the people were very sweet to us, obvious newcomers but it was so noisy that we never got to pray in peace. Even if your "ministry" is to be the church greeter if you see me hunched over saying my rosary with my eyes closed don't come over to talk to me unless my car is on fire in the parking lot.

Finally Mass started. The priest had on the green vestment but there was no alb or maniple underneath. He dropped some parts of the prayers and improvised. There was no Confiteor (when I was a kid I called it the Comforter) and when was time for the homily Fr. left the ambo and strode into the aisle. My first horrified thought was that he was going to walk the pews like a Pentecostalist preacher but he mostly stayed in one place. His homily consisted of jokes and audience participation.

I looked behind him at one the altar girls and was stunned. This child spent the homily and most of the Mass drumming her fingers on her chair's armrest, resting her head on the back of her chair and staring at the ceiling while she sat sprawled, with legs gapped open. I have never seen such disrepect in my life. These people wanted altar girls so badly (Why?) that they picked a girl who obviously didn't want to be there.

They held hands at the Our Father but I declined. I don't hold hands with anyone but my husband and blood kin, sorry 'bout that buckaroos. The priest added some words to the Concecration and told more jokes at the end of Mass. He would've made one hell of a stand up act. At the end no one stopped to pray and no-one visited the Blessed Sacrament. One man looked at me with a quizical expression when I genuflected before the tabernacle. We ran out the side door.

Rocky told me that this was the first time he ever had to say a Hail Mary in order to get the strength to sit through a Mass. He wanted to get up and leave at several points but kept telling himself that it was a valid Mass. I spent the whole Mass thinking of Jesus in that corner. There is a prayer in the Tridentine rite that asks God to look at our poor efforts with an indulgent smile. I thought of Our Lord smiling at this mess like a dad who's just been presented with a hideous rice and macaroni mosaic by his beloved seven year old and took some comfort in that.

I felt like Kurtz from The Heart of Darkness lisping, "The horror! The horror!" As I said this Mass reminded me very much of the 70s. It was weak, wishy washy Catholicism lite and I saw nothing there to live my life for and nothing to drink death like water for if need be. It was like a Lutheran or AME Zion sevice. I can't imagine a young woman or man sittiing in that church and feeling any call to the religious life. I can't imagine a young woman or man from that parish wanting to stay Catholic after high school.

Afterwards Rocky and I both decided that when we see our pastor again we're going to tell him that we love him and thank him for the beautiful reverant way he celebrates Mass.


Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

Yet another reason as to why we need The Mass of the Ages brought back.

Like I've said before, the Tridentine is set in concrete. The New Mass is built on a foundation of quicksand.

Christine said...

a dog in church?

Andy Nowicki said...

Not to nitpick-- your eyewitness account of this atrocity was quite compelling-- but I don't think Kurtz (utterer of the phrase, "the horror, the horror,") was really the lisping type. He had his flaws, but a tendency to lisp wasn't among them.