Tuesday, April 21, 2009
GIRM Warfare: Part One
(<--- shamelessly lifted from Fr. Z's blog)
Even before I was Catholic, I loved liturgy. When I was ten, my family attended a traditional Episcopal church for a few months, where the liturgy was beautiful, the priest was reverent, and the community was flourishing. We ended up leaving because, among other things, the liturgy made my ex-Catholic mother uncomfortable. However, I can still remember loving the rhythm of the service; the mystery and beauty of incense, vestments, and chanting. (*note: I’m calling it “the service”, not “Mass.” Mass is where Jesus becomes present in the Holy Eucharist, made possible through consecration via apostolic ordination. Episcopalians don’t have a valid priesthood (so far as I understand it), so the liturgy they celebrate doesn’t culminate with true consecration like ours does).
I was drawn into the Catholic Church partly due to the mystery and beauty of the liturgy, and so I am easily saddened when I visit a parish where liturgy isn’t always up to snuff. I’m a huge fan of Fr. Z and his motto (“save the liturgy, save the world”), and I find myself often thinking about liturgical abuses. Where’s the line between nit-picking and being genuinely concerned?
A few liturgical abuses that secretly drive me crazy include:
Female altar servers. This is one of the areas I just bite my tongue and grimace, because I know that 99.99% of the parish would burn me in effigy if they knew how I feel about this.
If altar service is meant to inspire and foster a call to priesthood, why the heck are girls encouraged to be altar servers? To be fair , the girl servers at our parish are awesome, and most of them serve with reverence and do a great job. But it just seems strange. Of the dozen or so servers at our parish, more than half are girls.
I wonder if boys simply don’t serve because they think it’s girly? After all, an alb looks suspiciously like a dress to a teenage boy. This is what liturgist Fr. Edward McNamera seems to be saying: “Among the pastoral factors to be weighed is the obvious yet often forgotten fact that boys and girls are different and require different motivational and formative methods. This difference means that both boys and girls usually go through a stage when they tend to avoid common activities. Preteen boys in particular are very attracted to activities that cater especially for them, and they tend to reject sharing activities with girls.They also tend to have a greater need for such structured activities than girls who are usually more mature and responsible at this stage of life. As a result, some parishes have found that the introduction of girl servers has led to a sharp drop-off of boys offering to serve. Once the boys have left and enter the years of puberty, it is difficult to bring them back.” (source)
Similarly infuriating is mixed gender foot washing on Holy Thursday. One of my co-workers (who also happens to support women’s ordination…) organized twelve people to come forward and have their feet washed at the Holy Thursday Mass. This year I think there were six men and six women. I’m not aware of precisely what the GIRM says on the matter, but the foot washing recalls what Jesus did for the apostles. The apostles were men. It’s not really an accurate representation of the Last Supper, then, eh?
Extraordinary Ministers of Communion. Maybe I'm crazy, but it seems that one of the only redeeming qualities of the EM is speeding up the progress of the Communion line. Those who serve as EMs might find is a special ministry, which is great, but I have several issues with it. First, EMs seldom are comfortable with distributing on the tongue. Priests and deacons are trained to do this. EMs often aren't. Secondly, when I go to Communion, I want to focus on Jesus, not if the EM serving me is someone I know. Thirdly, during his ordination a priest's hands are bathed in chrism, specifically prepared to consecrate and distribute the Body of Christ. The EM's hands weren't. Fourthly, an EM is less likely (if at all) to withhold Communion from someone who shouldn't receive. This applies more specifically to people publicly dissenting from the Church. Last week at Abp Dolan's installation, Rudy Giuliani refrained from receiving- and good for him! However, had he gone up, would bet Dolan might have refused him the Eucharist (rightly so). Would an ordinary EM have the moxie to do that? My guess is no.
Sloppy terminology. A few months ago our pastor decided to slightly tweak the way in which people come forward for Communion. The new set-up makes a lot more sense, and things go more smoothly now. To explain the new system, he included a “map” in the bulletin to demonstrate the Communion flow. The map showed the six stations where people receive the Body of Christ, the six where they receive the Blood Christ, and how to move among them. It was a great map.
Except that instead of “Body/Blood” of Christ, it said “bread” and “wine.”
I almost screamed. I brought this up with several people and explained (I had to explain this? Really?) that labeling the stations as “bread and wine” is simply bad theology. When people come to Communion, they don’t receive bread and wine. They receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. If they want bread and wine they can go down the block to the Lutheran church. All of them scoffed at my concerns. "Everybody knows what it means," they reassured me. "What the map says doesn't matter."
But doesn't it?
Last Sunday at youth group one of my eighth graders - a smart girl very involved in the parish, whose family attends Mass each week -- was genuinely surprised when I explained that we really receive Jesus' Body at Communion. Was this news to her? Really? I shudder to think about the misunderstandings rampant among the kids who don't even come to Mass; the kids who parents drop them off on Wednesday nights and that's it.
"Save the Liturgy, Save the World." No, I don't think everyone should revert to solely using the Extraordinary Form. Novus Ordo has a place, and I think Mass in the vernacular can be a good thing. But we need to ensure that a Novus Ordo liturgy is still sacred, reverent, and holy; after all, the Mass is Heaven on Earth!