Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ah, the convenience of hypocrisy!

As usual, Joe over at Shameless Popery (one of the best apologetics blogs I've read) had a great post up the other day.

There's not much more to say beyond that. Either an unborn child is a human person worth of life, dignity, and respect, or it isn't. There is no middle ground.

Our Lady of Good Help, pray for us!

Monday, December 5, 2011

So Much for Relevance

Not being alive during the tumultous period just after the Second Vatican Council has its perks.

I mean, for me, a baby Catholic who's only been going to Mass since 2006, tales of clown masses, Pizza Eucharist and liturgical dance are as foreign to me as the Abominable Snowman or Sasquatch; unbelievable horrors I've heard about but never seen with my own eyes. (And thank goodness)

But while those vestiges of Sacrosanctum Concilium misinterpretation are almost gone, a few remain. No, I'm not talking about hand-holding during the Our Father, though I am thrilled it's on its way out.

Much worse, I'd argue, is the idea that the Mass is something we do, something that ought to entertain, something that is about us. This is a postmodern, mega-church mindset, and while such a mindset is not necessarily bad, is isn't appropriate in a Catholic liturgy. The liturgy is about God.

Jimmy Fallon did an NPR interview the other day during which he mentioned his Catholic upbringing. As a child he loved elements of the Mass now considered old-school: bells, incense, his special job as an altar boy. In the interview, Fallon mentioned that he recently went back to church but found it off-putting:

GROSS: Do you still go to church?

Mr. FALLON: I don’t go to – I tried to go back. When I was out in L.A. and I was kind of struggling for a bit. I went to church for a while, but it’s kind of, it’s gotten gigantic now for me. It’s like too… There’s a band. There’s a band there now, and you got to, you have to hold hands with people through the whole Mass now, and I don’t like doing that. You know, I mean, it used to be the shaking hands piece was the only time you touched each other.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. FALLON: Now, I’m holding hand – now I’m lifting people. Like Simba.


Mr. FALLON: I’m holding them (Singing) ha nah hey nah ho.

(Speaking) I’m doing too much. I don’t want – there’s Frisbees being thrown, there’s beach balls going around, people waving lighters, and I go, ‘This is too much for me.’ I want the old way. I want to hang out with the, you know, with the nuns, you know, that was my favorite type of Mass, and the grotto, and just like straight up, just Mass Mass.

Notice that? Things that are supposed to make Mass more "relevant and accessible" to hip young adults like Fallon - like having a cool worship band, holding hands all the time, using gimmicks - didn't speak to him. And you know what? I don't blame him.

We don't need gimmicks to make the Mass relevant. It's already relevant for what it is. Jesus is always relevant, and His Church will endure forever.

Bring on the smells and bells. The hip music and social hour can wait outside, thank you.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

We the Young Fogeys

My nickname around my office is Pollyanna. I'm sunny and optimistic by nature, but sometimes I think that kind of attitude is certainly called for.

Lately, I've been quite encouraged by the beautiful, patient witness of several of my Facebook friends concerning a certain article and video that are going viral around the Internet. Not being from the house of Gryffindor myself, I'm a bit of a mouse when it comes to engaging others in debate about such things and have mostly kept to the sidelines. But seeing my friends, in all their critical-thinking and patient-and-loving glory respond to people with whom they vehemently disagree but still love and respect, has been uplifting. The West is not dead yet.

In addition, I reflect on the other ways I see fellow young Catholics standing up for their faith and their Church.

For example, among all the hulaballo about the New Roman, Missal, the comboxes of the Catholic blogosphere sometimes resemble a warzone. But into the fray stomps Marc, all of 18 years old, and offers this beautiful solution instead. Sure, he's snarky when snarky is called for. But I love his blog because it gives me such hope for the future.

Remember the Harvard valedictorian who entered the Dominican Sisters of Mary last fall?

She's one of a steady stream of talented, educated, and dedicated young men and women entering consecrated life.

At the same time, we young laity seem to be stepping it up, not content to let the world around us crumble to an amoral wasteland for our children to inherit. Using techniques Pope Paul VI could have never imagined, the New Media will be a huge force in the coming renewal of the Church. (Encouragement examples: here, here, and here)

It can be easy - too easy -- to become discouraged. Parishes are still closing, sometimes at an alarming rate. Yes, there's a priest shortage. Yes, most Catholic young people are cohabitating and contracepting at a rate equal to their secular peers. Yes, fallen-away Catholics represent the largest religious demographic in the country. But amid all that bad news, we must remember there is always hope. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Holy Church he founded will certainly go through ups and downs along the way, but the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

And with your spirit!

It's been a few days since the implementation of the Missal so I've had a bit of time to collect my thoughts.

Since a large part of my job is teaching, for the last several months I've been looking at the Missal from an education standpoint: it provided a teachable moment to educated families and youth about the Mass, and even those who have been "Catholic their whole life" needed to learn something new. My coworkers and I provided handouts, powerpoints, special sessions, videos, and email updates in our preparation. We did everything we possibly could to make sure our families knew what was coming and why.

Now that it's here, I can let go and simply enjoy it.

Before I loved the new Missal because it was a teachable moment, another very visible sign of how seriously Pope Benedict takes the renewal of the liturgy, and a chance to "freshen up" how we see the Holy Mass.

Now I love the new Missal for all those reasons, but mostly I love it because it is beautiful. It is fresh. There were hiccups along the way, of course; I'm sure it'll take most people the better part of a year before "and with your spirit" is our reflexive answer to "the Lord be with you." But the depth of the prayers, especially during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, is amazing.

I've only been Catholic for four years, but I already had most of the prayers of Mass memorized. But now I get to listen anew, and delve into the beautiful language with brand new ears.

Is the language more formal and complicated? Of course. Is that bad? Of course not. Formal language is required for that which is important. When the Supreme Court is called into session, the marshal says, "Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court!" Despite the fact that nobody ever uses "Oyez" during their every-day speech, it's still appropriate. It's 2011, but this traditional formula hasn't yet been replaced with "Hey! Can y'all listen up? These guys are important, ok?"

Might it sound silly? Perhaps a bit. But it conveys the seriousness of the occassion: a meeting of the highest court in the country.

How much more reverence and seriousness ought we bring to the celebration of the Holy Mass?

Something I dislike about the Missal is the way it has brought into sharp relief the various (and often opposing) views about the purposes and attitudes people have about the Liturgy. The comboxes of the blogosphere and the Catholic news outlets (and secular news in some cases) were full to bursting with angry comments from both "sides" of the argument. Ad hominum attacks, misquotes of Sacrosanctum Concilium, sweeping generalizations, and awful rhetoric gave me such a headache that I threw up my hands and refused to read comments at all.

But still I see hope. The Missal is beautiful. Much of the Church is young and orthodox. It's a good time to be Catholic.

Deo gratias!