Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What did you see and hear?

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception!

Amy Welborn used to have, on her old blog, a "What did you see/hear" feature in which she would open up her blog's comments for people to share their experiences at Mass--not in a "catalog of negativity" sense, but in what I'd call more of a "snapshot of American Catholic experience" sense.

Since she hasn't done that feature in a while, I'm going to borrow...okay, blatantly for today. I wouldn't ordinarily do this, though; we're usually at one parish and singing in the choir which makes it less likely that I'd notice anything in particular unless it were really out of the ordinary.

We attended Mass last night at a church about 40 minutes (as it turned out) away in traffic, as I mentioned yesterday. I was a little surprised by some things: for instance, the music was provided by one woman singing unaccompanied; now, she was clearly a well-trained singer and was more than up to the task--her rendition of Schubert's Ave Maria was lovely--but only a couple of hymns were sung, and only one Mass part, the chanted Agnus Dei in Latin. I think this is an example of the continuing misunderstanding of how we're supposed to think of sacred music: the music of the Mass (Mass parts, etc.) is more important than music at Mass (hymns, and so on) but we tend to get this exactly backward in this country. However, it would be a lot for a single cantor to lead the whole of the Latin Chant Mass parts alone (particularly the Gloria, which can make even singers quite comfortable and familiar with it stumble on occasion), so perhaps the situation was more one of the lack of availability of the choir than anything else.

Overall, though, the Mass was lovely, the homily a good one (Father quoted Tennyson's poem, which is always a good thing!), and nothing particularly earth-shaking happened. Except, perhaps, for the Obligatory Parade of EMHC's--I honestly thought, as we waited and waited and waited for all of them to receive Holy Communion so they could help distribute the Blessed Sacrament to the rest of us, that it would have taken far less time for Father and the deacon simply to have handled it all (except, of course, the Precious Blood would not have been offered).

Still, compared to some people's experiences, I have nothing whatever to complain about, and plenty of gratitude that this vigil Mass was even available.

Now--how about you? What did you see/hear at Mass today or last night?


Lindsey said...

We went to our parish church for Mass this morning at 9am. Pulling into the parking lot at 8:55 and having to wait to get into a spot and then rush inside, we barely made it into our seats before the music director led us in the first hymn. She and the organist provided the music. This is a parish of over 4,000 families, so it's not surprising to me that the church probably held, oh, 400-500 people this morning. No where near full, but enough so that all the pew ends in the front section where I like to sit were taken by old people ;) and of course we had to climb over them to get to a nice big open section in the middle (it was myself and the 4 kids).

It was mostly older folk, as typical at a Mass during school hours, but I saw several homeschooling families that we know.

The priest wore white vestments with a light blue section down the middle. I missed the homily because of my toddler. :o/

The music was Marian, except for 2 advent songs we sang during Communion. There were 2 deacons and a few altar servers present.

Over all, I feel extremely blessed to be able to start my day today celebrating Mary our Mother with the Church. If I weren't Catholic and didn't have this particular obligation, I know I would not have given her much thought today, or at all during Advent. I'm glad the Church makes my mind and heart go there.

Sharon said...

I went to the Mass at our parish school. During the homily, Father held up a $5 bill and asked, "Who wants this $5 bill?" All the kids raised their hands. Then he balled it up in his fist and then asked, "Now who wants it?" Everybody raised their hands again. Then he threw it on the floor and stomped on it. "Who wants it now?" All the hands went up again. His point was that no matter how many mistakes we've made, or how unworthy we might feel, God counts us valuable no matter what (just like $5 is still $5 no matter how crumpled or worn out it is).

Then he asked a trivia question: Two things happened in the 1850s: Pope Pius IX declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, verifying the teaching that the Church has held since the beginning that Mary was preserved from sin from the earliest moment of her life; and Mary appeared to Bernadette in Lourdes and announced, "I am the Immaculate Conception." Which happened first? Several kids raised their hands, and Father called on one of them. He answered correctly that the dogma was declared first. The prize? The crumpled-up, squashed $5 bill.

mdavid said...

It was a special mass for me.

There was no evening mass on the day itself, only a noon mass and vigil. So I had to go to the vigil (work too far away for noon) and expected the very worst as usual - bad theology (if not heresy) from the pulpit, feminist soggy prayers, Haugen-Hass '70's music, and even possibly a communion service rather than a mass with a boomer liberal woman giving the sermon in a alb (it's happened before). And of course expecting feminist claptrap throughout the prayers and sermon no matter who was running things.

But it was nothing like it! The priest gave a thoughtful, meaningful sermon on Mary, even quoting St. Augustine. (Well, he did oddly play some music at the pulpit, but he's a bit odd himself and it was not malicious, merely weird). Even the music was traditional - the first time in ages. And the mass was nearly empty - almost all the old guard was gone, and it was peaceful, even beautiful. My kids were actually perfectly behaved. And to cap off the powerful evening, I glanced across the way at the old lady who runs the parish and plays the piano and I swear she was completely wiped out - I could feel it in my bones that the old guard's days are numbered, and their demise was very soon. It's exciting to imagine them all gone, for good! Everyone hanging on for a mass like this (scheduled at a terrible time, expecting terrible, political sermons) are the final, serious Catholics, and it gave me a thrill to see us all together, how many kids everyone had, having made it almost to the other side. First flash of hope for the local church in ages!

Funny ending: in-law locked keys in their car, and we had to pack 12 kids into our vehicle for the ride home and didn't even see a single cop on the way home. Mary was watching out for us.

Deirdre Mundy said...

We went to the bi-lingual Mass at 5. My husband had gone at 7 am, so I was kid-wrangling on my own. But the 3 and 5 year old fell asleeo, the almost-7-year old was attentive because she adores our priest and the Mexican choir, and the baby was in heaven because I sat in front of one of his favorite families (Lots of kids under 8) and they smiled at him.

The Mass was pretty empty-- most people gravitate towards the monolingual Masses and this one was mostly timed so that the kids going to CCD could hit Mass first.

Bi-lingual Mass always makes me realize that we're not one parish, we're just 2 parishes that happen to share the same space on the map.

It makes me wish for more Latin and chant, so we could all have ONE Mass in a language we understood (well, I can follow Spanish because of my 4 years in school and my Latin!) It seems like one effect of the Vernacular is to divide multi-ethnic parishes-- it would be nice if we could all go to the same Mass all the time.

Our priest gave a good homily. He spoils us like that-- any personal anecdotes always relate directly to the doctrinal point he's making about the readings. (That's why my eldest daughter adores him - even SHE can follow his Homilies. No gimmicks, just good, solid preaching.) He talked about how Mary didn't just say 'fiat' once, but that she had to keep saying, over and over, every day of her life, and how each fiat was a choice. Because God has a plan, but he only reveals it too us bit by bit. (Like driving in a Lake Effect snowstorm...)

I live in the midwest. In our town of 20,000 people (which is MAYBE 5 miles across, if I measure the long way) we have 3 parishes, each with a full complement of Masses. The "far" Parish is 1.5 miles from my house. Our parish had English Vigil, Spanish Vigil, English 7 and 9, bilingual 5, and Spanish 7. So if you're not to fussy about language, you could probably get to Mass at our Parish. And if you are fussy, you could have hit one of the others, or driven to Michigan city (20 minutes), Rolling Prairie, or Fish Lake. I love this about the midwest-- it's one of the reasons I'd be afraid to move to the Bible belt. I like that we DON'T have to work to get to Mass, and that if the kids sleep late there's always another option....

It was a good day. I gave them unexpected icecream when we got home, to celebrate that all 4 had been quiet and happy in Mass. (And that the 3 had made it the WHOLE TIME in big boy underwear!)

Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) said...

It makes me wish for more Latin and chant, so we could all have ONE Mass in a language we understood...

This struck me as funny because out wonderful pastor who used to say a Novus Ordo Mass in Latin for most Holy Days and also on Sundays used to put in terms of "when I say it in Latin, both English and Spanish speakers are equally disadvantaged... everyone has to use a translation" which he always provided!

Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) said...

OUR wonderful pastor...

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Mass was at midnight. Chanted parts in Latin, Immaculate Mary, Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above were the hymns used. No EMHC's...of course when you're at Mass at a seminary, you're not likely to run into any crazy problems :)

Anonymous said...

A good Mass at a church I don't regularly go to marred only by the presence of Haugen/Hass music. That stuff is toxic.

LarryD said...

Thanks for the link, Erin.

Kate said...

My daughter and I were happy to attend Mass at La Purisima Concepcion Mission in California. Mass is only held there on special occasions and this was one of them. It was a privilege to be there.

Later that evening my daughter's boyfriend came to the house while she was at work and asked for my husband's and my blessing. He intends to ask her to marry him at Christmas. We gave our blessings gladly.

Please say a pray for Angela (our only daughter and our youngest child) and Jack, our wonderful son-in-law to be. Thank you.

Charlotte said...

Well, I think I've got more of a unique experience to share:

Based on time restrictions, my husband and I decided to go to a noon mass at the local Spanish parish, which has mass at noon every Wednesday anyway.

I have never set foot in this parish where a priest actually showed up, and yesterday was no different. For whatever reason it was, AGAIN, the 2 local priests who serve the Spanish community couldn't be there and sent the Deacon.

With the Deacon, there were 13 total in attendance. My husband and I were the only non-hispanics there, with the exception of a local attorney that I recognized. I found this surprising, since it was a Holy Day, and it's the only place in town with a noon mass. But like I said over at my blog yesterday, I know most Catholics would rather skip the obligation than actually go to a Spanish service. Oh well.

I am well familiar with this Deacon's manner of doing things, so no surprises. (I assume this turned into a Communion Service because the priest wasn't there?) He does everything in English and Spanish to accomodate everyone and makes a big deal of it so that you "feel welcome and part of the community." I appreciate his always trying to make everyone feel welcome, but he takes it to the extremes, insisting that we all take turns doing the readings in our native languages.

After his homily, he always asks people to share out loud their thoughts and opinions about what he spoke of. Yesterday he asked people to talk about "Why I came to mass today." Of course, one or two people stood up and talked - about how great Marian feast days in Mexico are.

Later, during the prayers of the faithful, people were invited to call out prayers for what they wanted out loud. In the past, he's even had people come up and circle the altar, holding hands, while he prepares communion. Yesterday he didn't do that, which I found curious.

I must emphasize that this is a poor parish and as with Hispanics, the "welcoming spirit" is always in play. When we left, my husband and I commented to each other that it would be great if all Catholic parishes could get their acts togeher: Strive for orthodoxy, but also have the community/welcoming spirit that we experienced yesterday at the Spanish parish.

Not my cup of tea, to be sure, but it's good to be reminded of the loving side of a Catholic community once in awhile. God bless them.

Maureen said...

My husband went to the 8am Mass (NO) and I went to the 5:30 Mass last evening (TLM) at our parish. I don't usually go to the TLM but the timing worked for my husband's schedule and the tag-teaming of the 4,3 and 1 yr old. While I had to watch others to know when to sit, kneel or stand I did enjoy the way many parts of the Mass were sung. The frequent movements or tasks performed by the servers was distracting so I found myself closing my eyes and just listening.
I wish I had kept my eyes closed after recieveing Communion. I'm still very disturbed by what I saw. Just before Communion a visiting priest came out to help distribute. He had on his simple stole over the basic white underlayer (alb?) and took a container of consecrated hosts from the tabernacle, presumably from an earlier Mass (which would have been NO). This Mass has you recieve kneeling at the altar rail and as a person rises another takes their place and the priest moves back and forth along the rail. After returning to my pew I happened to look up and noticed a line waiting for the regular priest's side and no-one going to the visiting priest's side. He just stood there waiting for people to approach the rail and none did...and it's all coming from one center aisle that people normally form 2 lines in. When the singers finished they went to him but it was weird. At the Sunday NO Mass people would have automatically stepped forward to the priest who was waiting. I want to think that people were so intent on recollecting themselves to recieve that they didn't notice the entire empty side of the altar rail. However, I can't help but wonder if they felt this priest was somehow less because he wasn't in full regalia and present for the whole Mass or that the hosts he had were less because they had been consecrated at a NO Mass. If it's either of my feared reasons then I think they slapped God in the face by disdaining one of HIs annoited priests and His body which HE deigned to give us in the Eucharist. I can't help but have these thought when one reads some of the things said by those who reject the NO Mass and anything else that has happened since Vatican 2.

Maureen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
freddy said...

We went last night to the 7pm Mass at our FSSP parish, which means extraordinary form Mass. Four of our older boys served, so I didn't watch much, not that I find alter boys distracting -- I love the beautiful cadence of what Father calls "his extra hands" -- but because as the mom, I'm always afraid they're going to act the way they do at home: one will trip over another and land on his face, the other will instantly proclaim that it's not his fault, and the other two will begin a mock light sabre battle with the candle sticks! (Hasn't happened yet, but I'm still fearful!)
However, they did do a beautiful job, and the choir sounded great. They've been chanting a Gloria that's just lovely, with the men's and women's voices trading lines.
In his homily Father spoke about the history of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the beautiful titles given Mary by the Eastern Churches, and the mystery of Mary: creature, Mother of God, and intercessor.
For us it's "hope husband get's home early enough to grab some dinner, rush to get out of the house, them come home late with cranky toddlers," but it's worth it!

Red Cardigan said...

Great comments, all!

Joe, I certainly hope you'll be able to do as you suggest--will keep you in my prayers, as we need lots more good priests!

Charlotte, I'd be a little annoyed if I went for a Holy Day Mass and only got a Communion Service. How a parish with two priests gets away with this is amazing--I wonder what the bishop would say?

Maureen, while I like your charitable explanation (e.g. that people were too focused on receiving Communion to realize a second priest was available) I'm aware that there are a subset of people who attend the E.F. Mass who do not believe the N.O. is valid and who believe that all hosts consecrated at an N.O. Mass are not really Jesus (or at least are dubious). The pride it takes to reach that conclusion is every bit as frightening, to me, as the pride which insists that women ought to be priests--though the ultra-trads would be horrified at this, I believe they are spiritual brothers and sisters to the worst dissenters on the N.O. side. It all boils down to believing one knows better than the Church.

Geoff G. said...

Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) wrote:

This struck me as funny because out wonderful pastor who used to say a Novus Ordo Mass in Latin for most Holy Days and also on Sundays used to put in terms of "when I say it in Latin, both English and Spanish speakers are equally disadvantaged... everyone has to use a translation" which he always provided!

I've always rather thought of this as the big advantage of using a dead language. Everybody's on the same footing.

Well, not everybody I suppose...if you've got some Latin then you have a bit of a leg up.

It's my understanding that part of the reason for translating the Mass into the vernacular in the first place was to help people understand what was being said.

My personal experience has been that I pay much closer attention to Latin texts than I do to translations simply because I can't skim Latin like I can English.


It's rather nice to hear that some parishes at least seem to be moving away a bit from that horrid '60s era guitar-and-tambourine music.

One very nice side benefit of being Catholic is that you have about 1200 years of music at your disposal. It's really a shame that it's not better exploited.

I'd view it as a bit of a minor scandal that Anglican churches in general tend to have better music :)

Anonymous said...

Reading the comments was mostly nice, except for the one guy who is openly excited about a bunch of people dying.

What's with that? Is that an approved Catholic attitude?


Red Cardigan said...

Actually, Anonymous, I agree with you. I find that sort of thing extremely distasteful.

But I'm pretty laid-back about letting people say what they like, so long as it's not obscene or anything.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Red Cardigan. I understand the non-interference policy, but that bit called for a call out.

I used to attend an Episcopal parish largely comprised of political liberals. Our priest sternly and regularly admonished the congregation against taking pleasure in the personal suffering or public humiliation of political or cultural opponents. He was adamant that wishing harm or misfortune to anyone comprised a serious impediment to our faith journey to Christ.

Maybe that's why I reacted so strongly. I had to face my own arrogance under the supervision of such a pastor. Not pretty to look at, but once you let go of it you can see how much it hampered your growth in the Lord.

Fr Pat said...

Many thanks, Erin, for continuing this "What did you see and hear?" feature. As a regular celebrant of Sunday Mass, I find reading these responses to the lived experience of liturgy to be both helpful and thought-provoking. If we priests paid some more attention to what people actually think and feel during Mass, I guess more of their prayer-needs would be met, more of the time.
P.S. If anyone out there would like to see the daily homiletic input on the Lectionary, provided by the newly formed Association of Catholic Priests (in Ireland), check out our website:
Fr Patrick Rogers