July 23rd, 2012Falling Down the Rabbit Hole at Massby Lorraine V. Murray

“Welcome to our Eucharistic celebration,” the cantor bellows. “Please silence all electronic devices. Your cooperation is appreciated.”

“And now, before we begin, let’s stand and greet those around us.”

Really, it’s more than I can stand. First, we are not at a Eucharistic celebration; we’re at Holy Mass. Can’t we just call it that? Do we have to call laypeople “ministers” and the altar the “Lord’s Table”?

Have we fallen down the rabbit hole into a brave new world where everything sacred has been stripped away?

Forgive me, but I don’t want to stand up and greet the people around me. You see, I said a quick hello to the folks who are sitting next to me when I first came in. And I will greet them again later during the sign of peace.

It’s not that I have anything against these nice people, but standing up and grinning and sticking my hand reminds me too much of attending some convention where people are learning how to hawk a new product and they are testing out their cheesy tactics on each other.

Next, the person on the stage –whoops, I mean the altar--announces the “gathering hymn.” Why do we have to gather anyone? Aren’t we all standing there poised to sing what used to be called by the ridiculously simple but quite accurate term, the “opening” hymn?

All these bits and pieces of idiocy are chipping away at the sacred elements of Mass. Someone somewhere –calling Oregon Catholic Press! – decided we need smarmy lyrics, upbeat, rinky-dink show tunes and plenty of self-aggrandizing reminders (“We are Called” and “We Are Many Parts”) to get us through Mass.

Is it any wonder that in some parishes, people come in, sit down and start talking quite loudly about the movie they saw last night? Is it any wonder that many folks are chewing gum during Mass?

In some archdioceses, churches lack kneelers, so people literally just plop down in the pews when they enter the auditorium – whoops, I mean sanctuary --foregoing those precious moments of prayer before Mass.

Even after receiving Communion, they have nowhere to kneel. Many of these parishes also have dispensed with hymnals and use overhead projectors instead, contributing to the sense that this is not Mass at all, but rather some kind of community get-together.

It was Flannery O’Connor who emphasized that there is a striking difference between Mass and the Elks club. Of course, it is true that going to Mass and attending a meeting at the Elks club share features in common.  

In both cases, you get to see friends, you get to eat donuts at some point, and you share a common perspective on things. But unlike Mass, the Elks Club has nothing to do with anything sacred--and that was her point. She died in 1964, so she didn’t the enormous efforts made to reduce the sacred to the secular.

Ten years ago, just as our parish was succumbing to Marty Haugen tunes, cantors and piano music, I recall looking at the tabernacle with tears in my eyes. It was so hard to concentrate during Mass that it was nearly unbearable. And I heard this little voice remind me, “I’m still here.”

I know that Christ is still there, and I trust that one day all this nonsense will disappear, and we will again have reverent liturgy and hymns that worship God instead of ourselves.

I trust we will again have an altar rather than the Lord’s Table. And we will enjoy a stretch of silence after Communion rather than being subjected to more wretched ditties compliments of Oregon Catholic Press. 

And, yes, I know that Jesus loves us, and He loves us even when we are strumming banjos and pounding drums and singing songs like “Rain Down” and “Come to Me and Drink.”

But the Lord deserves better. He deserves something sacred. It used to be called the Holy Mass.

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  • July 23 2012 | by Manny

    I agree. Greeting the people around you during mass is kind of weird. I know we Catholics have a reputation of not socializing but this is not how to do it. Mass is a sacred rite, not a social event.
  • July 24 2012 | by Dena Hunt

    It sounds like it's even worse where you are, Sophia.

    Because I'm old, I don't think I'll see those "somedays" you talk about, but yes, they will come. One reason I know that is this post. You speak for many.
  • July 24 2012 | by Titus

    Marty Haugen only showed up ten years ago? Your parish was spared several whole decades of that nonsense. Just pray that you won't be thirty years getting rid of it like the few fortunate parishes that have.
  • July 24 2012 | by J.T. Lebherz

    As a cradle Catholic, and one who still attends the glorious church from his childhood, I can only say that you and I are singing the same sacred song. I swear that I closed my eyes and, in the dark of night, lay ministers came in and swept away some of the glorious traditions of our church and replaced them with "newer and more modern" ideas. Not all of them, mind you, but enough of them to make me want to shed a tear. The people that do these things mean well, I'm sure, but one does not force this stuff on a church that was built in the 1800's. The greeting before Mass is ridiculous and unnecessary. The once beautiful sacred songs have been replaced by songs that sound like childish campfire ditties. Our majestic and historic organ is played like a circus calliope because the current music director doesn't take full advantage of its enormous sonorous qualities. I also agree that there should be silence after Communion. I'm afraid that this can only be tackled at the local parish level and probably only after enough letters have been sent to make them aware. This response to your posting is my first move in that direction. Thank you for writing it and I hope that I got my point across... which is - I agree with you!
  • July 24 2013 | by Joe Rodrigues

    All I can say is AMEN to everything you just said.