My husband and I usually attend the Spanish Mass in our parish, for a variety of reasons. I don’t look forward to it. Father generally gives his homily in Spanish, of course; but the last two weeks, his homily was in English because they are re-carpeting the office and he doesn't have access to his printer.
Both homilies were pretty good; the first homily addressed the fact that Sunday is a day of rest, what that means, and why it’s important. The next Sunday he talked about the fact that most people don’t appreciate Mass; we yawn through it, keeping an eye on the time; we are oblivious to the miracle that takes place on the altar, and all that. Very good; yes, very true.
BUT...he went on and on, and I began imagining myself raising my hand and saying, “But Father! What in the world about this Mass helps people to realize what an awesome thing is happening?! We have guitar music that sounds like Mexican folk music ditties; we have a woman in a spaghetti-strap top and tight pants reading the Scriptures (and most of the congregants are not dressed any better); we have ushers in Bermuda shorts; we have prayers that fail to mention our sin; we have very little that indicates that Jesus is Truly Present in the tabernacle; and you face the people throughout Mass as if you are the talk-show host! And yes, the sanctuary looks pretty good, but people don't treat it reverently!” And these same issues, or similar ones, plague the morning English Mass as well – plus at the English Mass, there are often girls as altar servers.
Father went on to tell us how we are refreshed by the Mass, and that it strengthens us to carry on for another week. Well, sure it would – if it weren't for those guitars, the spaghetti-strap tops, the Bermuda shorts, and a myriad of other little things that go on that don't convey the solemnity of the occasion - or the true joy and comfort that are to be had. But as it is, I dread Sunday Mass, and I have to find other ways to fortify myself for both the trials of the week and the liturgical abuses I’ll witness again next Sunday.
So I was a little miffed. Okay, I was irritated. This priest knows the truth of what I’ve written above. He would prefer to have only male altar servers. He would prefer to have more reverent, appropriate music. But he is afraid to press for these changes. I pray for him to be given some courage to actually change some things he knows should be changed.
In the meantime, I have found myself speaking quite frankly to non-Catholics (at least a couple!) about Mass. My friend Doc told me that he “enjoys” going to Mass when either one of two people are present with whom he feels some connection, and he can sit with them. His idea of Mass is that it’s a time for him to feel like he belongs to a community. He doesn’t at all see it as worshiping God, because, he says, he can worship God and pray at home; besides, he says, the good deeds he does outside of Church “count”, don’t they? Well, they count for something! But he doesn’t understand why we go to Mass.
I told him that I don’t feel like I’m a part of the local Catholic community, but I don’t go to Mass for those people; I go to worship God. And I don’t “enjoy” Mass because of the liturgical abuses, but I go anyway to worship God as best I can under those circumstances. When I said I don’t like going to the Spanish Mass, he said, “You shouldn’t go then.” He simply will not hear that liturgical worship is important to God. “God doesn’t care about the ceremony,” he says. Oh yes, God does care!
Unfortunately, too many Catholics agree with him about “ceremony”, and that is why our liturgy suffers. And because our liturgy suffers and is deficient, we are creating Catholics who don’t understand their faith and whose spiritual life is deficient.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.