Children’s Liturgy of the What Now?

Children’s Liturgy of the What Now?

Folks, I don’t know about you but there is this thing my parish does that really gets under my skin. Before going any further, the following is just my opinion (all of it) and truly just a thought I had about children and mass today as we approach the celebration of Our Blessed Lord’s coming among us as a child. OK, how many things could potentially follow that line?  There’s the old “Let’s hold hands during Ebola season while we pray the Our Father”.  Don’t even get me started on the orans posture at mass.  I’ve come to accept it.  Just please, for the love of God, don’t try to force me into it.  I’m quite comfortable standing next to you with my hands clasped and pointing heaven-ward, head bowed so you cannot lock eyes with me when you creepily try to touch me.  Then there’s the old “Dan Fogleberg Dan Schutte is the greatest composer of all time and we need to sing his ‘music’ at every liturgical turn!” maneuver.  Look, I’m sure he’s a very nice man.  But his music could never compare to the sublime nature of plainsong and there’s only so much of Eagles Wings or Here I Am, Lord that I can take and I, just like my spinal surgery and its effect on my insurance this year, I hit my cap a long time ago.  I am just being informed that he did not write Eagles Wings.  My apologies to Mr. Schutte.  You’re off the hook for that one, pal. But the thing that really rattles my Roman Rota — no good? I’m trying — is something...
Holy Smoke! Why Liturgical Symbol Matters

Holy Smoke! Why Liturgical Symbol Matters

A few years ago I found myself holding young Benedict, my then-fifteen month-old pride and joy, amazed that he was being so good for me at Sunday mass.  I asked myself if God wasn’t giving me a little break so that for the first time in a long time I might actually hear the readings and not simply hear the first words and switch to some kind of auto-pilot wherein years of hearing the same three year cycle didn’t supply the context and meaning in my mind.  You know what that’s like?  Priest: “Jesus said I am the…”   Voice in my head: “Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Yes, I’ve heard this one before.”  In fact, as I looked down at my boy I noticed how particularly cherubic he looked that morning, almost seraphic!  Then came a moment when our celebrant prepared to incense the Book of the Gospels, for this was the high mass, when I noticed something that has always bothered me. I find myself frequently explaining things to my children at mass, hoping that in time they will come to understand.  That day I whispered: “The priest is using incense, Benny.  It represents our prayers rising to God.”  However, and I’ll never forget this, there was no smoke emanating from the thurible and I felt like a liar.  How on earth could there be no smoke, I wondered to myself.  Surely Father was familiar with Psalm 141.  What is the point of a clanging censer when it clangs with emptiness?  When I was a seminarian years ago I remember that the rector of our cathedral took...
Ask Not What You Can Get Out of Mass, But Whether Due Worship is Given to God

Ask Not What You Can Get Out of Mass, But Whether Due Worship is Given to God

One of the problems with contemporary Christianity is that too often Christians focus on what they “get out of Church.” I am thinking specifically of the plight parents find themselves in when their sweet newborn grows out of sleeping at Mass and becomes the loud and active baby. Their experience of Mass changes from one of focused prayer with very involved participation to distracted prayer and focus on keeping a child quiet in church. And while negative comments to parents about their children are rare, those are the comments that stick in parents’ minds, much more so than positive comments and encouraging smiles. One cranky fellow parishioner can take away a parent’s comfort with bringing their little baptized Christian to Sunday Mass. So the parents start going to separate Masses or take the baby to the back, fearing that their child is disrupting the personal prayer of those around them. It seems to the parent that as long as they bring little ones to church they will not be able to pray. This is not the case. They just need to learn to pray differently and realize that Mass is not about personal prayer but it is a place of public prayer. Here is the thing: the liturgy is about the Body of Christ as a whole giving due worship to God. It is about the Sacrifice of the Mass being made, which requires only that the priest make the actions of the liturgy in a fitting manner and that the baptized members of the parish be present. It does not matter for the due worship of God whether...
Modest and Festive

Modest and Festive

When I was last in Rome, a lifetime ago, I remember being so happy that the churches there has dress codes that were actually being enforced.  There were signs everywhere, reminding both men and women to cover up our shoulders and knees and everything in between.  It seemed to be reminding us also that, even though we were all on vacation to varying degrees, we were still entering a house of God, and even though we were tourists, some people might actually just be stopping in on their way home from work or to school to spend a quiet moment in prayer and we should be respectful of that.  Taking those five seconds to pull on a long skirt over my shorts gave me just enough time to mentally adjust my focus from play time to quiet time.  The clothing served as much as a physical a buffer between the outside world, the grime and the sweat, and the one inside the church, the cool and the calm, as it did a mental one, in that the added layers necessarily altered my pace to one where I had to slow down and appreciate the majesty of my surroundings.  It wasn’t fancy, but it did the trick. More recently, our pastor has been attempting, during the summer at least, to stress the need for a dress code specifically for Mass attendance, one that is both “modest and festive.”  I for one am thrilled about this.  I was raised with the importance of dressing “appropriately” for Mass being stressed constantly.  There were to be no jeans, no flip flops, hardly a sandal and...
Shooting Craps: Church Aesthetics and Spiritual Formation

Shooting Craps: Church Aesthetics and Spiritual Formation

Earlier this week, Tim opined on his experience of “rolling the dice” with regard to attending Mass.  Bridget responded.   I figured I’d take swing at giving my own thoughts,  though it’s more aimed at Bridget’s response than Tim’s original post.  Before I jump into this, I would like to refer you to a piece by The American Catholic regarding Canon 518, which essentially says you need to have a good reason for not going to the parish within your geographical bounds.  My good reason is the spiritual formation of my kids. So much for parish hopping for petty things (like disliking the pastor or the music or the missalettes  or the over-use of the quiet room or the ugly architecture or a million other non-Mass related things).  What about issues with the Mass itself though?  Here is where I believe we need to draw the proverbial line in the sand. I think Bridget too quickly dismisses these things as minor, I would like to take the opportunity to make my case as to why I disagree.  Those things are not just aesthetics, but play a major role in how Catholics, including myself, understand the liturgy, the importance of the sacrifice, and the role of Christ in our Church.  If something is important to you, you treat it with care and respect.  Lack of importance, disdain or carelessness. First, one may dislike the pastor for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to his age, thick accent, lack of energy when preaching, or something truly serious like skipping parts of the Mass, preaching heresy, wearing a Santa hat...