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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.