Monday, May 9, 2011

Holding Hands During the Our Father, and Other Liturgical (or not so liturgical) Calamities

Controversy alert: This is likely to annoy and/or offend anyone and/or everyone at some point. Just thought I’d get that out of the way.

As a Sacristan at my local parish, I enjoy a unique view of things. Many weekends, you will find me doing my best to not interfere with Father’s work at the altar, thereby invalidating the Mass, or at least keeping my servers alert, attentive, and reverent in the performance of their duties. Other weekends, I enjoy just being one of the regular folks, participating in the Mass with the balance of the lay faithful. On occasion, I will venture out to other parishes, becoming a “Roamin’ Catholic.” What I find out there sets my blood boiling, and at best leaves me scratching my head, and at its worst, leaves me poorly disposed to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist. Below are just a few of my observations of a “typical” Sunday:

Now that’s out of the way, where do I begin? Oh, yeah, why don’t we start at the beginning? Unless it happens to be Good Friday, Jesus is in the room! When one and in fact, many, come in to prepare for Mass, please, keep your conversations with your neighbor, your husband, wife, children, whoever, to a dull roar. Most are only in the church for that one hour (unless Father heads down a rabbit hole, then it could stretch to a whole hour and fifteen), and it would be nice that if folks are not going to spend that time in prayer prior to Mass, then they would respect their neighbor enough to sit in reflective silence (perhaps it might cause one to actually hear the voice of God).

During the processional hymn, please, sing already! It’s terrible when the only voice you hear is your own, or the music director. Do not worry about whether or not you can sound like a rock star, make a joyful noise unto the Lord! Join the choirs of angels, and your voice will be fine.

While we are talking about music, let us walk down this path for a minute, and I promise to stay off it until the very end. The music in Mass should help us join in the worship of God, not one’s own voice and/or their instrument playing being exalted in lieu of the reason we are there. For a personal preference, guitars and drum sets have little or no place in the Mass. Just saying. Also, don’t want to hear Matt Maher, John Michael whoever, Bob Jones, Bob Denver, Steeley Dan, or anyone singing their version of Psalm 1-150. The Psalmist was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and that should be enough. There is a time for praise music. Mass is not that place.

Hands. Keep them to your self. Unless you are a ministerial priest (i.e., ordained priest or bishop), hands clasped in front of you, or at your side is what is appropriate. You say there is nothing in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal that forbids it? You are right. However, please show me where it says that you should do it.

When the priest or deacon says “The Lord be with you”, just say, “and also with you”, or after Advent 2011, “and with your spirit” or “et cum spiritu tuo”. Keep your hands to yourself! It’s not appropriate!

Join in the prayers where appropriate- at the end of the OT and NT, say with conviction, “The Word of the Lord”!, and after the Gospel, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ”! Sing the responses to the Psalm!

Participate in the Mass! During the Creed, when the priest says “by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man”, bow! Not a little head nod, like you heard a bit of music you like, but bow, in reverence. Remember at Christmas we genuflect. Give a good bow the other weeks of the year!

During the Offeratory- keep your hands to yourself- you are not the priest! You are not standing in persona Christi! The orans position refers to Christ on the Cross.
Now my biggest one- the Our Father! Here it comes! This was inspired by my friend Amy, who posts today on her blog about her own frustrations. Father Z lent his own spin today as well . If you find you must hold hands with nary anyone who comes near you, make sure it’s okay with them. Don’t grab my hand, or slap my arm with the dead-fish hand. Please and thank you. I understand that some priests invite everyone to hold hands during the Our Father. I would probably not attend mass again there should I have witnessed such a thing. Amy talks of germs and such, and just in general, her whole phobia of random strangers touching her. I don’t have such issues, but what I do have issue with is when our focus is taken away from Christ, who is truly present before us, so that we can hold hands with our neighbor, not to mention the odd fellow who wants to come across the aisle.

My next peeve is the “passing of the peace”. I understand the priest or deacon encourages us to share a sign of peace, but really, when the rest of mass is disrupted by this glad-handing, coming across two, three, four rows and across the aisle again detracts from what comes next: our reception of the Eucharist. Keep it simple, keep it close, please.

So, we’ve finally gotten through the Communion Rite (I will save my thoughts on EM’s for a later rant!), and now, Father has given the final blessing, the deacon has exhorted us to “go in peace to love and serve the Lord” (is that one or two alleluia’s at the Vigil? (Inside joke, can’t help myself), and the exodus begins. No sooner does the recessional pass the people are killing themselves to get out the door, stumbling over those that might, oh wait a minute for the music to end, to possibly say a prayer of thanksgiving for the privilege of worshiping God, and that He might protect our priests and bishops. Once the music ends, the applause breaks out for the choir. Why? For doing the job they volunteered for, or got paid for? They were there to worship God as well. But please after it’s all said and done, if you just have to get out of the pew, would you mind going the other way? I’m just going to be a moment, but I’d like that moment, thank you.

So, that for the moment concludes my Mass rant. Stay tuned next time, as we dig further into bad form during the worship of Our Lord.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Educating our Children, or Who Do You Think You’re Foolin’?

What exactly does it mean to have an education today, or for that matter to be educated? We’ve spent the last week or so discussing things that are right, wrong, and indifferent about how and why our children are educated today. We have the parochial and private school option, the public school option, the charter (quasi public/private) school, and of course, lest we forget, the home school option.

In my own opinion, there is not a great deal of difference today between the private/parochial school and public school options, except for perhaps a religion class tossed in, to be able to identify a school as a teaching arm of the particular flavor of that religion. There are, after all, Christian schools, Catholic schools, Jewish schools, Muslim/Islamic schools, and so on. There are private schools with no outwardly apparent religious agenda, but many times there is an agenda catered to.

Hilaire Belloc wrote in “Survivals and New Arrivals” about attacks upon the Catholic faith coming from nationalized education. He rightly commented that our Faith, indeed any faith, is under attack when subjected to such a system. The reason: a standard is established- to the exclusion of all others. In such a situation, truly one’s faith is put to the test just as certainly as the sun will come up in the morning.

So what do we do? I think that as parents, as primary teachers of our children, we need to be certain that our children know certain things, key among them, of course, being our faith. I happened upon “The Dangerous Book for Boys” recently, and perhaps inspired this piece. The list of topics is too long to repeat, in reading the titles, some are humorous, but all make a point- to be a good boy, you have to be well rounded. Subjects include science, poetry, literature, knot tying, fire lighting, games, history, grammar, even a section on girls (only two pages, but I figure the author is trying to get the lads to pace themselves). Perhaps one of my favorite sections, not to be bested by A brief history of Artillery, was Essential Gear. Please indulge me as I enumerate appropriate “gear” for a boy:

Swiss Army Knife Compass Handkerchief
Box of Matches A shooter (marble) Needle and thread
Pencil and Paper Small flashlight Magnifying glass
Band-aids Fishhooks

Notice a lack of Ipods, Cell phones, laptop computers, big screen televisions? Many of these things I had as a boy, except for probably the Shooter (though my mother reminds me that early on I did play marbles). And I didn’t feel lacking or incomplete. But I wonder that even my own son couldn’t hunt and skin a rabbit.

At the risk of inciting an onslaught of criticism, I quote Robert Heinlein, “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.”

I know, I know, many of his other quotes are completely heretical, but I would contend, after conversing with my bride, that Heinlein was a wounded man in many regards. I suspect that if one had suggested to him that many of his thoughts were indeed Catholic, he would have scoffed, and quoted another of his characters, and disparage religion altogether.

In fairness to the ladies, I perused the “Dangerous Book for Girls” and came away wanting. Many of the topics were similar to the boys, but almost saccharine in their approach. I submit there should have been more than one page devoted to boys, but alas, I am not the author, but would contend there is far more to know about us men than would fit on one page of a book guiding young ladies. The girl’s book also boasts its own list of essentials, and I find my approval returning:

Swiss Army Knife Bandana Rope and Twine
Journal and Pencil
w/backup pen Hair band Bungee cord (not for boys?)
Flashlight Compass Safety pins
Duct tape (what???) Deck of Cards A good book

Now I find my blood boiling (well, not really boiling, but you get my point). Why do the girls get a compass, and the boys don’t? Are we not establishing a stereotype early on that men won’t use it anyway, so why waste it? Duct tape? We all need duct tape. And I can find at least a hundred uses for bungee cords, thank you very much. And how is a boy to learn how to play poker, a section that has SIX WHOLE PAGES devoted to it? Perhaps the cards are a tradeoff for the section devoted to timers and tripwires.

There are any number of things that one can argue effectively are needed to be known in order formulate a proper education. As parents, we draw upon our own experiences and the counsel of those within our circles to discern what is appropriate, and what is not. We can choose to shelter our children from the world and leave them ill-prepared to operate within it. Or we can give them the tools to be what God has intended us to be, as Christ tells us in this Sunday’s Gospel reading, “You are the salt of the earth.” As Fr Oliver Vietor exhorts us in his homily, “Be Salty!”

If we remember Christ telling us the most important commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength,” and the new commandment He gave us, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, then we would do well in teaching our children what it means to be children of God, and to prepare for the eternal kingdom.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

MTV's "The Skins"- possibly child pornography?

I remarked to some a few days ago that I was going to write about this new television program, that was imported from Britain. I am prompted to write this morning because it appears I was beaten to the punch by, of all sources, the NY Times!

For those of you unaware of this travesty of a program, MTV, which long ago stopped playing music, and delved into the sleazy, trashy end of the reality television cesspool, has moved into a series depicting the lives of teenagers, high school aged, engaging in all manner of inappropriate behavior, including premarital sex, drug and alcohol abuse, and a general disrespect for anything that resembles authority.

My own experience of this "show" is merely from a commercial advertising for the premiere, in which a teen girl lies to her mother about going out to study with her friends. Perhaps they were studying, though I'm not sure what they were studying.

This morning, the NY Times reports that Tuesday morning (following the Monday evening premiere), officials at MTV (a unit of Viacom- list of their networks below) met in a flurry of meetings, wondering who might be held criminally liable for potential Justice Department charges of child pornography! I had to stop to shudder and think, "this is what finally caused them to be be concerned, jail time for child porn?"

MTV insists that the program is intended for adults, yet the demographic for MTV viewership has been and remains predominantly teens. They also advise that this program is shown after 10pm. I know, I'm talking a different universe here, but there are lots of teens that are still up at 10pm. I fear that if allowed, my own daughter would regularly be awake past that hour. (Have no fear, I have the parental controls locked down so tight on the TV in our home that sometimes the shows I watch end up being blocked!).

I know some will tell me the easiest thing for me to do is to just turn off the TV. On one hand, yes, that would stop the influence in my home. But what about the homes where it's not even considered possible to remove the TV? What about parents that don't put any settings on the box?

Where does it end? Looks like this one might come down to being afraid of criminal charges. While not happy that it came down to that, I will accept it as a start. It's time to push back against the networks that constantly seek to "push the edge." Instead, we should find those programs that as I once heard, "we'd be okay watching with Jesus on one side, and His mother on the other."

By the way, just so you can get an idea of what sort of influence MTV has on our television, it's parent, Viacom, controls the following: MTV, BET, VH1, Nickelodeon, Nick at Night, Comedy Central, Logo (this one would make you shiver), TV Land, Teen Nick, Rhapshody, AddictingGames, Atom, CMT, Paramount Picture, Paramount Films, MTV Films, Nickelodeon Movies. There are more, but this gives you an idea.

We as parents much protect our children. Voice your concern to these networks, and vote with your clicker!

Monday, January 3, 2011

My own thoughts on the dignity of women

I've been musing this post for several days now, and with a homework assignment and a half looming over my head, I figured this is the time to go ahead and work on the post.

As I write this, I would wish all a Happy 10th Day of Christmas! Yes, the 12 days of Christmas begin with Christmas, not culminate in Christmas!!!

Each Christmas brings me wondering on what it must have been like that night in Bethlehem, when our God entered the fullness of time, incarnated nine months earlier in the womb of a virgin. In that moment, at the Annunciation, this one woman became the greatest tabernacle of all: the Christ-bearer, the Mother of God.

All that we know of Mary places her high above that which we can ever hope to attain in this life. We know her to have been born without sin; Original Sin thwarted at her conception, that she might bring God into the world. She always kept herself open to the will of God- an example we would all do well to follow. And she is loved by her Son; we see it in Scripture, it has been revealed to us throughout the ages.

So, for centuries, nineteen of them at least, we held women high above us; some would say in this spirit of reverence and remembrance of Mary; even our Protestant brethren held her in the most high regard. However, I was reminded on Christmas Day no less, of how far we have fallen. I was watching a movie called "A Man Called Peter," which is about Peter Marshall, a Presbyterian minister from Scotland, who ultimately became the chaplain of the US Senate before his death in the 1950s. In the movie, a young lady who would later become his wife, recounted virtually verbatim, before a crowd of unruly youth, a sermon that Mr Marshall had given nearly two years before.

She told them, (and I severely paraphrase here) "Women want equality with men. Well, look what has happened now that you have it. For nineteen hundred years, women were held as superior to men, better than men, more fragile, more precious. Now women can cuss with the men, drink with the men, work with the men, and all other manner of things. In order to be equal with men, women had to step down."

That hit me like a ton of bricks. They were 100% right. I remember how my grandmothers were revered and loved. And I think that was great. I can't exactly say my grandmothers were always the nicest of people, but they were loved and adored. That's what I remember about them the most, and hold most dear. But then I see the break. I see how my father treated my mother, and I am saddened. I recall my own treatment of women in the past, and I shudder to think of the examples I have given to my own daughters, and how hard I have tried to reverse that trend, and provide them examples of how a woman should be treated, loved, and respected.

Ladies, women, you have a right to expect to be treated better than you have been. Mothers, what you tolerate now will be examples, good or bad, for your sons and daugthers. There will be effects, long and short term. Expect more of your sons, your husbands, your fathers, your brothers. Expect more of the boys your sons associate with, and those that your daughters fancy.

Men, we are sons of God- we can make the choice now, today, in this moment, to dig deeper, and look beyond ourselves. It does not matter if you have fallen in the past, God wants you to ask forgiveness, and go forward.

Adam failed in his one mission- to protect the Garden and all that was in it. Christ came to redeem those wrongs. We cannot win this battle alone, but if we walk in the light of Christ, we can reap the rewards of His sacrifice.

Men, read Ephesians 5. Live it in all that you do. Love your wife as Christ loves the Church. Love your heart, as it is as much a part of you as you are part of it. Remember that Christ came and served, not because He had to, but so that we would see that example and know that is what God always wanted for us.

Become an Ephesians 5 man. Proverbs 31 women will flourish before you.

Now, I will get in to my homework!