Rolling the Dice

I do not yet have an extensive network of Catholic friends scattered hither and yon on which I can call when I’m searching for an out-of-town Mass to attend. My wife and I attend St. John Berchmans‘ Cathedral parish in Shreveport, LA and have probably gotten a little spoiled by the quality of the liturgy. We appreciate the silence when entering, the beautiful organ and choir heard but not seen, the sprinkling of Latin throughout the Mass (at least I like it; my convert wife says “it’s Greek to me”), the traditional architecture and music, and the reverence exhibited by the parishioners.

Trinitarian dice. Pic by jcoterhals

And so it goes that this weekend we visited Dallas (celebrating Chinese New Year with our kung fu school’s Grand Master) and “rolled the dice” on which Mass to attend. We ended up at the church closest to our hotel; the Mass would be considered normal for an urban/suburban somewhat large American parish; nothing heretical or what could be considered liturgical abuse by any means. It was a step above other attempts we’ve made in the past at attending Mass out of town. We’ve been to Catholic churches without any visible crucifix in the sanctuary, where during the consecration the host was elevated a few microns above the altar for a tenth of a second, where the choir and orchestra(?) were situated behind the altar, and to Masses that more resembled hootenannies.

But right about here my pride alarm starts to go off. I can’t help but being of two minds about such situations:

  1. As long as there is proper matter and form, the Eucharist is valid. Stop being a Pharisee and remember that there is some liberty in certain parts of the Mass. Jesus is present here too and you have the awesome privilege of receiving Him, but it’s hard to receive on the tongue with your nose in the air.
  2. Jesus is present, but our eucharistia is a thanksgiving for what He did at Calvary. At Mass we are at the foot of the cross, and as such it seems only appropriate to worship him in a reverent way. The Mass isn’t about us feeling good about ourselves; it is us remembering what He did for us and why He did it. The laity are entitled to a liturgy celebrated well that ties it to the universal Church throughout the world and throughout time. An overemphasis on participation and modernization risks severing those ties.

My default stance is #2, though I chafe at my own smugness whenever I see the guitars tuning up for “Lord of the Dance.” I’m sure it’s another example of both/and.

I’m sure I’m not alone in my experience. Have any of you spent an unusual amount of time Church-shopping? I don’t know what this says about my wife and me, but we spent more time trying to find a good hamburger in Dallas than a good Mass; though that may be evidence that I’m letting stance #1 some more room in my preferences.

Is it possible to be too picky about what Mass we attend? At what point do you forgo the parish closest to your home to find another Mass farther away but celebrated more to your liking?

Looking forward to combox input or to future posts by my T&C brethren and sistren on this topic.

4 Comments

  1. No it is not possible to be “TOO picky” about what Mass you attend! We left a parish that is one mile from our home in favor of a traditional, orthodox, reverent, beautiful, pious, (did I say reverent?), truth-filled Church, which is 4 miles from home. Our family’s faith formation and ultimate salvation were at stake, because at the former parish we were subjected to heresy, lies, irreverence, misunderstanding, confusion, and disloyalty to Rome. In the name of “progress” and while pushing for relativistic “modernism”, the former church lost the sense of what it means to be Roman Catholic. Don’t think we didn’t try to affect change, because we tried in many ways. However doors were closed in our faces. When your spirit is unsettled, there’s probably a good reason. Thank GOD we had an alternative, and an amazing one at that. I pray for the former church because Jesus is in their tabernacle too, even if they don’t realize it. We are part of the Great Catholic Migration, and we are SO grateful…we don’t feel the least bit smug, because we are on the side of truth. We are relieved and feel safe. It is not safe to roll the dice with your faith formation.

  2. Think of it this way: seventy years ago such a question would have been unheard-of coming from a Catholic. The very notion that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass would be so radically different from parish to parish would have shocked and scandalized the average Catholic prior to the disaster of 1970. Such questions would have been asked by Protestants, not Catholics.

    The real question for Catholics isn’t whether or not one is being “too picky”, but it ought to be, why are we being forced to choose at all? If it is Him, He Who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, who are we, mere men, to change His sacred face for the sake of whim and preference??

    Live as a traditional Catholic, assist at the Traditional Latin Mass, for just one month, and you will never go back to the novus ordo again.

    • I agree with the vast majority of this. In our diocese, the Novus Ordo is not yet available on a weekly basis. It’s a mission diocese, so the priests are stretched pretty thin.

  3. I agree that it’s OK to “shop around” for solid, orthodox Catholic parishes to join and masses to attend. It is sad, but true: some parishes and some priests are simply not fully in line with the Church in form or teaching sometimes.

    I also agree that being Pharisaical or downright “snobby” about details or ways of doing things is not Christ-like. That leads to division and I’ve seen it really turn people off from the “snobs” in question who immediately start trashing a priest or parish or service as soon as they are out the front doors of the church.

    There’s a line of detachment that we are called to I think, where we should make sure that we are not being overly attached to what are really just our personal preferences and ways we think things should be done. Like he said, in some cases, if the proper matter and form are there, then we should work and pray that we can just focus on what is happening.

    Just my two cents.:) God bless, and great post.

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