Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Year One Reflection


So.  I've been visiting churches around the Archdiocese for one full year now.  I've put off posting because I wasn't sure what exactly I wanted to talk about.  I think I'm going to go with thoughts on a variety of topics.

In some ways, the journey has been enlightening and in some ways frightening.  Enlightening in some ways because every parish is so different, yet there are threads common to all of them, which is how it should be.  Frightening because of homilies that border on heresy and parishoners who seem to think that Mass is another social occasion.  Some of the art is pretty frightening too.  One of the reasons I started to visit churches, is because I didn't really believe the more traditional blogs (and their commenters) about how bad and irreverent the average Sunday Mass is.  I think the biggest problem is the lack of the consistency between parishes.  One parish is reverent, while another parish has puppets.  They all should be reverent.  I'll give you that the music (and perhaps art) can and maybe should be more tailored to the needs of the individual parish.  However, it should still be recognizable as Catholic.  I mean I'm Catholic, I want to do Catholic worship, not Protestant or what ever worship.  Isn't that one of the points of being Catholic; to act like it?  (And to go to Heaven....)

On my social network (Plurk), we are currently discussing children at Mass.  I'm all for it.  I'm all against the Children's Liturgy.  The Catholic Church has managed, since around 33 AD to at least until the 1980s (not sure when it started) to survive and handle children in the Mass.  I'm not sure what this big push is for the Children's Liturgy.  In the 70+ homilies I've heard, only one was even remotely difficult in that my college education was needed.  Most of them are irrelevant to me (sorry to say) and most likely irrelevant to children.  The readings aren't all that difficult to understand either.  (I'm still trying to figure out the Letter of St. Paul to the Galoshes) Do I get to have a special liturgy that is relevant for me too?  Children need to be taught how to behave in Mass and sending them out for 1/2 of it doesn't accomplish this.  Think of it as training for future careers; I can't tell you how many boring and irrelevant meetings I've sat through.  Frankly, I think it is really creepy and somewhat sad to go into a Mass and be the youngest person there, sometimes by 10-15 years.  It is sad.  The crying children don't bother me for the most part, as well, it's what kids do.  However, if they don't settle down in 5 minutes, maybe take them out to the back instead of waiting to see if they will eventually calm down.  Of course, perhaps if they are going to scream during the Consecration, maybe you should take them out before ;).  I also understand Mass can be a bit, well, boring, especially for the little ones.  I have no problem with bringing something to keep them occupied, but I really feel it should be religiously themed.  They make Catholic coloring books, plush Jesus and Mary, and all sorts of religious themed toys and books.    I have been informed there are even plushie saints and a plush Mass Kit.

My next big issue is with clothing.  Now, I'm not fashionista and have no idea what is in style (I love tie-dye.)  However, I do know that if you can't bow or genuflect because your clothing is so tight and/or short, perhaps you should reconsider your clothing choice.  I'm also a big subscriber to Jesus is my homey, so I don't really go for that uber dressed up look for Mass. (Although I did manage to dig up a long skirt and mantilla for St. Francis de Sales....when in Rome...) However, my shirt has a collar and sleeves and I have started wearing long pants consistently.  I realize St. Louis is hot in the summer, but I have yet to encounter a parish that doesn't have air conditioning.  Now some of them have had air conditioning on life support, but they still had it.  I realize the walk to the car from the door might be a little hot in clothes, but you know think of it as a reminder of how unpleasant Hell will be, should you land up there.  Besides, suffering is good for us.  Sister said so.  Also, parents, really think hard about what your lovely daughter is wearing to Mass.  I went to one Mass where some 40 year old man was oogling a 15 year old's arse (in a short skirt) for the entire Eucharistic Prayer.  And guys, I really don't want to know what color boxers you are wearing...and try to find something without stains or holes...

I have decided I like more classically built and more decorated churches.  There's nothing really wrong with modern churches or sparsely decorated churches, per se, I just don't like them.  They don't feel like a Catholic Church and they don't help me get in the right frame of mind for worship.  At some churches, I had a hard time determining if I was actually in a Catholic Church.  I like more decorated churches because sometimes my mind wanders, and looking at the statues and windows helps at least keep me focused towards God instead of something else.

I am now more convinced that Fr. Z is right and we are losing our Catholic Identity.  From the Nazi saluting people doing the blessing, to hands being upraised like the priest at various points in the Mass, to the Protestant songs being sung in the Mass, I see a more Protestantish Mass.  What I think is so worrisome, is that many (like I once was) don't know that these things are not acceptable/approved.  Father allows it so it must be okay.  Our Catholic Identity is slipping away and we don't even realize it at best and at worst, we are actively doing things to lose it.  I'm not sure what exactly should or can be done.

Have I found a parish yet?  Yes and no.  There have been a few parishes that I wouldn't mind joining and would be happy at; unfortunately they seem to be out in the middle of nowhere and well, I'm just not a country girl.  There haven't been any parishes I would run screaming from.  There were parishes I felt I would fit better in than others.

I'm really enjoying seeing how varied the Catholic Church truly is.  I'm looking forward to seeing the different rites in the Catholic Church.

Until next Sunday!


  1. Please explain what you think is "protestantish" music. Looking over the past year, you have certainly endured a lot of bad music.

  2. When I think of Protestant music, first and foremost, I think of music that is featured on Time Life on those Worship CDs, like Open the Eyes of My Heart and Christian radio. It could be argued that anything not written by a religious is not Catholic, but I think that is a little on the narrow side. I think music that isn't based on scripture, however loosely, is iffy. I'm thinking of Our God is Awesome. I think music that doesn't respect or reflect the theology, doctrine and traditions that the Catholic Church holds and teaches. Many of the songs are about me rather than God. In the song Anthem, there's a line about We Are Creed. What does that mean that I'm Creed? Songs about Mary are very Catholic but hard to come by.

    If you hang out at more of the traditional blogs such as Fr. Z and New Liturgical Movement, they point out some songs, such as Ashes, are out right heretical. I'm not all up on that and am able to pick out what is heretical and what is not, unless it is a big obvious heresy.

    I have also noticed, that many of the songs are less than 30 years old. What happened to the stuff from 100 years ago? Surely, even though the Mass was chanted, there were hymns and stuff people sang....

    What's wrong with having a balance at Mass? An older hymn and a newer song?

    I won't even going into what songs are appropriate at what point in the Mass. I will say that Gather Us In is not a Communion song. I managed to learn what songs go where in 8th grade. It can't be all that hard.

  3. While you have suffered and reported on a lot of musical drek in the past year, I think you are not quite correct about calling it Protestant music. While some of the quasi-evangelical stuff may have Protestant roots, the really bad stuff you have described is as much Catholic as Ted Kennedy was. Haugen, Hass, Hurd, and the St. Louis Jesuits dominate your weekly listings. They are Catholic ;they are largely scripture based. Musically they leave something to be desired. Yes, our music directors are myopic when it comes to selecting music- almost always written during their lifetime and in fact written during their college years. Nostalgia does make for bad liturgy.
    Go to Christ Church (Episcopal) Cathedral or Second Presbyterian Church some Sunday morning and you will see a liturgy and music that is inspiring, grand, respectful and filled with awe of God that makes the best of Catholic liturgy seem shabby.
    I do notice that you have not yet been to some of the best Catholic liturgies yet. Early on, you went to Cure of Ars- their music is first rate despite the awful acoustics of the building. Go to the Old Cathedral, St. Monica's, Our Lady of the Pillar, St. Anselm or Little Flower on a Sunday and you will see how good Catholic liturgy and Catholic Church music can be.

  4. I suppose a better way to say it is that Haugen/Hass and crew don't strike me as particularly Catholic. Some hymns, like Down in Adoration, At the Cross Her Station Keeping, Holy God We Praise Thy Name, and most of the Mary songs, are clearly Catholic. There's no doubt about their Catholicity.

    When I walk into a plain Church and hear that essentially generic Christian music, I start wondering if I'm in a Catholic Church.

    As for the parishes you suggested, they are closer to home, so I'm saving them for winter. :) Got to get out to the hinterlands before the sleet comes!