The problem of Zombie-Robot parishioners and ‘active participation’.

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Have you ever sat in Mass and felt like this?! I know I have. There have been many times where I have just zoned out. I realise the priest has got to the end of his sermon and I haven’t really heard a word because I was daydreaming.

I suppose it doesn’t help when most other people around you are doing the same thing. To my horror, I realise that I have become one of those legendary Zombie-like parishioners that I used to marvel at as a child.

I remember the droning monotone chorus of the congregation during the creed, the robotic expressionless handshake of peace, the lifeless melody of the organ with literally 2 people singing out of the entire congregation. The ones who used to hit the ESCAPE button and walk out straight after communion – I guess they’d fulfilled their weekly obligation right? And yet we, and the same other people used to turn up week after week and filter up the isle into the same old pews that we almost seemed to be pre-programmed to return to.

A congregation of mindless robots.

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And it wasn’t as if our church wasn’t trying – they got the parishioners involved in the offertory procession, the choir, the readings and bidding prayers, they even got the children to go up onto the sanctuary during the consecration to see up close what the priest was doing. But still, before long it began to dawn on me that I really wasn’t getting anything out of Mass.

By age 13 I had stopped going. I just didn’t see the point. It was so boring. The people there were so boring. The final nail in the liturgical coffin for me was the ‘Teen’ mass. The cringeworthy band with their ‘Rock’ hymns, the priest trying to be cool, the fact that they were trying so hard to include and please us… It was just embarrassing.

I felt quite sorry for them in a way. I could see how hard the few motivated ones were trying to make it work, but it wasn’t cutting it. It didn’t have any interest whatsoever in going to a dead church full of robots. There was nothing in it for me.

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It wasn’t until 5 years later, age 18, when I had my first ridiculously powerful, life changing personal encounter with Jesus after a failed suicide attempt that I began returning to Mass.

Because of that encounter, I suddenly realised that Jesus Christ was real, alive, and truly present in the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the Eucharist during Mass. In those first few weeks of returning to Church as a young adult, on my own, I remember how the words of the readings and the Holy Gospel would just fly accross the church out of the mouths of the readers and just penetrate my heart like a flaming spear. I remember getting butterflies in my tummy, and my heart racing as I approached Jesus in the Holy Eucharist for the first time in a long time. And I remember the gentle peace of Him, as He surrounded me with reassurance and calm during my first tentative steps of my conversion of heart, that I was wanted and loved by Him.

And yet, I was still surrounded by those loyal, yet long suffering mindless robots that surrounded me as a child. The droning creed, the robotic handshakes, the 2 lonely hymn singers… They were all still there! In some ways I found it quite funny 🙂 but I also found that it broke my heart. I was home, but my family were zombies.

I would just watch them week after week, just going through the motions. It was like they were asleep inside, while my heart was completely on fire for Jesus. I learned pretty quickly that I was not going to fit in.

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After another 10 years or so I began my Catholic studies at Maryvale university, and for the first time ever came accross the term “active participation” in the Vatican 2 document Sacrosanctum conciliumthe Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. I learned here that one of the main aims of the day in and around the 1960’s was to get the laity to participate more in the Mass. I was amazed because I thought the robotic zombie parishioner was a modern phenomenon. It seems not.

The other bombshell I learned was that up until the late 1960’s, the priest always used to say Mass with his back to the congregation!! I couldn’t believe it! Why on earth would he do that? The Mass before the late 1960’s was very different. It was said in Latin, the priest had his back to the congregation, people used to kneel to receive Holy Eucharist and would only receive on the tongue. Women were required to cover their hair in church, members of the congregation would often say rosary during Mass if they didn’t understand the Latin. Things were really different.

I can really understand why people were calling for reform in the church and pushing the idea of the “active participation” of the laity in the Mass. How easy would it be to zone out during Mass if you were just sitting there not even able to understand the language? So the Council Fathers developed this idea of active participation:

“14. Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people” (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.

In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work.” – Sacrosanctum concilium

Although it was never actually an official part of the reforming documents of Vatican 2, the radically new idea of the priest facing the people began to creep in a few years later. The idea behind this was to make the people in the congregation feel more welcome, more involved and for the first time ever they could see what the priest was doing on the altar. It was all aimed at moving towards this idea of active participation.

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I can totally understand what they were trying to do in the late 1960’s, but 50 years later with obviously dwindling parishes, lack of religious vocations and widespread theological ignorance within the church, the million dollar question is:

Has this radical idea of active participation actually worked?

It was initially implemented to reduce parishioner zombification during Mass. But as i’m sure you will agree, the zombie robots are alive and well and STILL filling our churches today.

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Now, as you have probably heard, Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, urged priests and bishops at the Sacra Liturgia conference in London on July 5 to start celebrating Masses ad orientem (with their back to the congregation) beginning on the first Sunday of Advent this year 2016.

This had caused uproar in the more progressive circles of the church as they believe it would take us back 5o years and undermine all the efforts made at active participation since then.

However I think they have got the wrong end of the stick here…

I think that it is pretty safe to say now that the active participation thing has not worked as intended. In all honestly, I think it has backfired massively and has actually drawn the people even further away from participating actively.

You see, the active participation that occurs currently is focused on outward signs and physical gestures. But this is not what active participation is meant to be. The true meaning is for the persons spirit to be actively involved in the mass, not though superficial things like carrying the offertory gifts, but to carry out our Baptismal ‘priestly’ role by offering our entire lives to God as Christ did on the Cross.

Of course it was never explained to me as a kid – or even as an adult that we are actually present at Calvary in real time during Mass. I never knew that. I also never realised that the Mass is something that is directed at God – not at the people. I never knew. The first time I realised that was during my first ever Tridentine (Traditional Latin) Mass where the priest had His back to me. When he lifted up the consecrated host with his back to me, I suddenly realised that Mass was not all about me. It was all about God.

We all face God. The priests offers the sacrifice on our behalf. Man is not the centre of the liturgy – Christ is.

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During Mass, by right and duty of my Baptism, my job is to offer my whole life – joined to the eternal sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, to God.

Why oh why did no-one ever tell me this? How can anyone possibly be luke warm during Mass armed with this knowledge? THIS is the active participation that we are meant to be carrying out during Mass – not joining the priest on the sanctuary or clapping during the Gloria.

I can see now that all those external participations actually served as distractions that drew my attention away from what I should really have been concentrating on internally. Even the priest himself can become a distraction during Mass – especially if he is young and handsome (yes, this has happened to me before during Mass *cringe*).

So to cut a very long argument short – I can totally see where Cardinal Sarah is coming from. He is trying to move the focus of the Mass back to where it should be – onto Christ, and eliminate the many distractions that have crept into the liturgy over the years. He is also trying to educate us as to the real meaning of “active participation”.

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There is one last thing…

Offering Mass this way would also be a wonderfully unitive thing to do with the Eastern Churches. They all offer Mass with the priest having his back to the congregation – they never changed. And as with everything in Catholic culture, this posture is highly symbolic. I spoke to my Byzantine friend who put it perfectly:

“Every movement in the Liturgy is symbolic. For instance, we face west during the exorcism part of the Baptism ceremony and then turn to the east (the altar) to declare our allegiance to Christ. It seems strange that the priest would face west to lead us in prayer/speaking to God on our behalf.”

Yes, that does seem strange when she puts it like that doesn’t it? I’m going to have to think more about that last part very, very carefully.

 

 

The Gay Mass – Inclusive, or Liturgical Apartheid?

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From the Brentwood Cathedral Facebook Page.

Brentwood Cathedral in Essex, UK is due to hold a Mass on March 13th 2016 specifically for gay, lesbian and transgender people and their families. The event has been billed as an outreach to the gay community as part of the year of mercy. But I am wondering if this really is the right approach?

I suppose if we are promoting the un-holy trinity of diversity, inclusion and equality, then the week after this they should really be singling out another group of sinners to invite to their own special mass. Will next week’s mass be specifically for thieves and their families? Liars and their families? Or those who have a problem with masturbation, and their families?! (I wonder what sort of a turnout you would get at that mass?! – not many I bet!)

The point I am trying to make is that sin is something we should naturally feel a healthy sense of shame for. This is why Confession is confidential. This Mass on the 13th is almost being presented like being affected by homosexuality is something to be celebrated – or at least normalised. And while I am a firm believer in accepting the sinner, not the sin, I do feel here that the emphasis of the whole day is way off the mark.

I spoke to my chaste catholic gay friend about this and asked his opinion:

“No. It’s wrong. It’s stupid. It’s like a voluntary liturgical apartheid.” He said. “I went to one of the gay masses one time when I lived in Chicago. The pews were 90% male. They took the kiss of peace literally: Partners kissed each other, on the lips, in front of the Blessed Sacrament on the altar. The homily? You’d never know you were at mass; The priest made no attempt to weave the readings or Gospel into a message specific to that particular flock. There were no calls to heroic sainthood amidst a decadent culture, etc. It was “just another mass.” Everyone (except me) went up for Communion.”

He went on to describe the culture that had sprung up around the so called ‘gay mass’:

“After that mass, many of the guys go to a local gay bar for ‘Show Tunes Night’ to get drunk, lust after other men, and try to hook-up. Right after mass. I’m still ‘friends’ with guys on Facebook who post about this. ‘Fabulous mass! Time for a martini bitches!’ So, yeah. I’m not a fan of the ‘gay masses’. You genuflect to the Church; the Church does NOT genuflect to you.”

I think his last sentence makes a really important point. Is it really the correct attitude of the church to bend over backwards to accommodate a particular group of sinners and make them feel special and elite? Is that really the way to a true conversion of heart? It seems to me that there is real danger in this approach as it could lead the sinner to believe that not just he is accepted by the church, but his lifestyle is accepted by the church. This eliminates the need for repentance and forgiveness. Is this mercy?

I can sort of understand the mind-set behind just getting them through the door, but it kinds seems like they are being invited there under false pretences. And I understand the one step at a time mentality, but one has to be extremely careful this doesn’t slip into the ugly guise of the dreaded Gradualism.

Should we reach out with mercy AND truth to those who have SSA? Absolutely. Should we create a ghetto for them? No. The church has never turned away repentant sinners, never. And it never will. I am worried that this gay mass, rather than leading people to repentance and forgiveness, is instead leading people to believe that the Year of Mercy is all about saying that certain sins are no longer sinful. In essence it is leading people to believe that the Year of Mercy is all about letting people off the hook.

My gay friend went on to tell me:

“A priest here who hosts a 1-hour call-in radio show makes the comparison: If we’re in the woods, and I see a bear come up behind you, BUT I don’t say anything to you, because I don’t want to upset or offend you, then the bear attacks you and you DIE, I am NOT being ‘merciful’! ”

I asked my friend what his approach would be instead?

“There IS an apostolate in the Church called Courage for homosexual men & women. There’s a branch here in Chicago, and their website shows 2 in London: https://couragerc.org/  I did not hear about Courage at the gay mass I attended in Chicago; I heard about it from a priest, in the confessional, at a parish that shines as a model of fidelity & obedience and doesn’t pander to the culture. Thanks be to God if your diocese offers that “gay mass” for the conversion of sinners, if they preach: “YOU are not a bad person, but your ACTIONS are evil, and God will grant you mercy IF you repent and sin no more,” but how often do we hear that?”

It seems pretty obvious to me. We are all sinners right? So why do the organisers of the Brentwood mass on the 13th seem to be promoting it as a celebration? My friend had an opinion on this also:

“I would probably say, it’s homosexuals or sodomite allies INSIDE the Church behind this, trying to subvert the faith from within, lasso-in their compatriots with a special mass, again, segregating them as ‘special’ and ‘elite’.”

I guess this though was in the back of all our minds right? I hope to God he is wrong on this, but as far as I can see it comes down to 1 of 2 possibilities:

Either the organisers of this mass are incredibly naïve in their approach to getting sinners to repent, or they have no intention of inviting them to repent and are instead treating the day as a celebration of “love” in all its forms.

Lord have mercy.

 

Old and New Lent.

 This year I have been lucky enough to be asked to make two very different Lent sets.

The first is a traditional Roman style with and old-gold look. The second is a more modern full gothic style with white and silver. Both sets use the same purple damask material but look entirely different in their finishes.

The gothic set uses a Celtic embroidery which, like many Celtic knots, uses a triangle pattern to represent the Holy Trinity. This is most appropriate as the parish I made this for is called Holy Trinity parish and this just happens to be the parish logo. It is wonderful to be able to personalise vestments in this way. This set was bought for the priest by a parishioner. In fact, they was so impressed they have approached a guild within the parish to fund further sets in the same style!

You will notice also on the back right down at the base there is a coat of arms. This is the diocesan shield for Edmonton, Canada.

The Roman style vestments have the IHS symbol which are not tied to any particular parish. This was bought by a priest in the UK. It is not unusual for priests to move parish, so this set will be appropriate for use in any parish he might visit, or be resident in.

Both styles start at around £600 depending on material and embroidery.

Are you interested in bringing beautiful vestments back into your parish? Please contact me for a chat and I’ll see what I can do for you!

Email Clare at: info@diclara.co.uk

And please visit the website: www.diclara.co.uk

Today is my 2nd anniversary of becoming a priest.

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By Fr. Simon Dray

Today is my 2nd anniversary of becoming a priest.

We might ask, ‘what do you do as a priest?’, but in this 2nd year of priesthood there’s been a deeper appreciation that priesthood is less about ‘doing’ and more about ‘being’.

My diary’s still full, but a priest is meant to be an ‘alter Christus’ ‘another Christ to the world’. Through the Priesthood, Christ the head continues to make himself present to his body, the Church.

The priest accompanies those carrying heavy crosses – people who do so with great humility and love despite their burdens. I initially thought, ‘at the very least I can pray and offer Mass for their intentions’.

Another priest corrected me, saying ‘no saying Mass is the most we can ever do because we are priests’. The Mass isn’t something that we (collectively) do. It remains Christ’s work of our redemption. He told us when he is ‘lifted up he will draw all men to himself’. In the Eucharist he does exactly that, so it’s the highest prayer we can offer for someone.

When the priest pronounces ‘this is my body… this is my blood’, they aren’t merely the words of the Institution Narrative, but of Consecration because it’s Christ, the Word of God who is speaking them!

In the same way, ‘Do this in memory of me’, means we aren’t re-enacting an ancient historical event, but are once again drawn into his saving passion, death and resurrection. God gives us back our life; one that endures for the eternal life.

Dying on a cross is humiliating and lonely. Those closest to Christ had betrayed, denied and deserted him. Only John, the beloved disciple, his Blessed Mother and the other women took station with him. In the Eucharist, Christ as God, finds a way never to be alone on the cross.

That’s why we go to Sunday Mass and why it matters if we choose to be absent because it means we’re missing from the foot of the cross – again! Coming to Mass makes us like the ‘beloved disciple’ and we stand by him as he gives his life as a ransom for many.

Only the fruit of the cross can sustain the Christian life as it gives us the grace to be faithful to Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life. Bishop Richard, at Festival 50, said, ‘we need priests, for unless our communities have at their centre the celebration of the Eucharist, the Mass, they will not be Catholic communities in the true sense’.

We must get real! If we want priests we can’t sit around waiting for the bishop to send us one. Indeed, it’s the other way round – we must send, from this community, our sons, brothers and nephews so he can ordain them!

Priestly vocations come from practising Catholic families. Pray that tonight we go home and make the Eucharist and Priesthood a priority for our family discussions and prayer.

Pray for priests. Pray for this priest, and for all Catholic priests all around the world.

Another boring Valentines day, Another boring Mass.

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Last week I was visiting a church near to us. I went into the sacristy before Mass to speak to a friend of mine. She was busy getting things ready for Mass and was showing me where all the vestments and altar linens were kept. She asked me if I would like to serve Mass that day. With a heavy heart I said “No, thanks. I’m a girl!”

That threw me a little bit and it wasn’t until i got home later that day that I realised that something very, very disturbing indeed was going on in that sacristy. The used altar cloths – the corporals, and the purificators used by the priests and the ministers of Holy Communion were not being properly rinsed after Mass. Instead they were being tossed straight into an old cardboard box where they would wait to be picked up by the cleaners and put through the washing machine. This meant that small parts of our Lord’s body and precious blood were getting washed down the drain. With our Lord’s body and blood on this linen, this old cardboard box shoved under the sink was in-fact acting as a tabernacle.

I spoke to a priest friend about this and he told me that there is no way in the world this should be happening. I was horrified. I felt sick to my stomach. I was so distressed by this that I didn’t sleep that night. How could this possibly be happening? Did no-one realise what was happening? Did no-one care?

In the morning I cancelled all my plans for that day and set about buying the things that were needed to set this situation right. I bought a glass bowl that the linens could be soaked in, a clothes dryer they could be hung out on, I replaced the old cardboard box with a plastic crate and put instructions for the priests and ministers of Holy Communion explaining how the linens needed to be rinsed by the priest before going into the laundry. I spoke to the sacristan that morning who had never really considered what was happening but agreed with me that it could not continue. I spoke to some of the priests who agreed with me that it could not continue.  I set up all the stuff in the sacristy and said the chaplet of Divine Mercy, begging forgiveness for the way His body and precious blood had been treated. I went home feeling uneasy – but better.

That night I sent an email to the priests of that parish explaining what I had done and also saying “… although there are many clubs, groups and initiatives within the parish, the central focus should always be Jesus in the Eucharist. And if we cannot get respect for Jesus in the Eucharist right, then any other work we do is quite frankly useless…”

I spoke to another priest friend that night and told him about the situation. He was embarrassed to say that he had also been failing to rinse the altar cloths properly after Mass, but that he would not be making that mistake again. It started to dawn on me that this was probably not a one off situation. My heart sank. No, it broke.

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The next morning I got a call from the parish manager. She had removed all the stuff I had put into the sacristy and proceeded to call me a “very naughty girl” for acting without getting specific permission from the parish priest (who’s day off it was yesterday). I apologised and said that in any other circumstance I would agree with her, but on the issue of the blessed sacrament being disrespected then I’m afraid I had no other choice than to act that day. She asked me who was in charge of the parish. I said Christ. She disagreed with me! It seems that by not following strict parish protocol I had somehow offended her to the point of undoing time and space. She was more concerned with the fact that I hadn’t got an email reply from the parish priest, than she was about our Lord’s body and precious blood getting washed down the drain. I told a priest friend about this and he told me not to worry too much. He said “Clare, if she had been around on the morning of the resurrection she would have complained to Jesus that He had left cloths in the tomb!”

So now what was I to do? I sent a letter of apology to the priests:

“…I’m very sorry if I have caused any offence by trying to sort out the used linen situation in the sacristy.
The parish manager called me today and explained that under no circumstances must I act without the approval of the Parish Priest.
I understand and agree with this, but in this circumstance my responsibility was to my Lord. I’m afraid once I found out what was happening, I knew the situation needed rectifying that day. I simply could not be responsible for His Body or Precious Blood being disrespected in that way for a second longer.
I was also aware that if anyone else was to find out what was happening it would cause great embarrassment to the parish.
I’m sorry if I have caused distress, and of course it is up to the parish priest if he wants the linen situation to continue in the way it was? But I assumed that he would have been as horrified as me…”

I just couldn’t understand how the parish priest was letting this happen? Either he didn’t know he was supposed to be doing this – which is a FAIL. Or he did know he was supposed to be doing this but wasn’t bothering – FAIL. Or even worse, he didn’t believe those altar cloths were carrying our Lord’s body or precious blood – MAJOR FAIL.

How was it possible, I thought, that the relationship this priest has with Jesus (assuming he has one) has got so dry, so mundane. How is it possible that his heart has become so cold that he is not moved to tears by this situation like I am?

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And then my husband asked me a question: “Sooooo honey! What shall we do for valentines day this year? Hot crazy sex under the stars? A mad shopping weekend in Paris? A hot air balloon ride over the Pyramids? Or shall we just do what we’ve done every year for the last decade and get a take-away and watch Arnold Schwarzenegga movies?”

“Meh.” I replied. It kinda struck me at that point that I had probably been judging that poor priest unfairly.

Let me be the first to admit that I take my spouse for granted – everyday. We have been married for 15 years. And anyone who has been married for more than about 5 minuets will agree with me that the mind blowing-ness of well, everything tends to wear off pretty soon – well day-to-day at least. Eating dinner together every night, having sex, watching films, conversation, all gets a bit, blah. And of course the relationship will go through good patches and bad patches. And in the bad patches we would rather just not be around each other at all to be honest, but we have made a life long commitment so we just get on with it.

Now who am I to say that this priest is not going through a bad patch in his relationship with Jesus? And who am I to say whether the relationship has just got a bit, blah? This good and faithful priest has said mass pretty much at least once EVERYDAY for the last 40 years or so. And that is besides all his other duties. I can’t even say whether I have the backbone to survive marriage for 40 years?! Who knows? The thought sends shivers down my spine to be honest (and my poor husbands too he!he!).

But, I am also a mother. And if it was my son’s blood on that cloth, and I was standing I the sacristy after Mass, you can bet your bottom dollar the priest would not be throwing that altar linen into a beat up old cardboard box. And for us as laity, do we prepare properly every time we receive Jesus? Or has that become routine too? Forgive us Mother Mary, for routinely disrespecting your Son in this way.

In hindsight I would have approached this whole situation differently by going straight to the parish priest and bringing up the subject with gentleness and compassion. But instead I just reacted, all be it justifiably, but it has still resulted in a massive evangelisation FAIL on my part in regards to the needs of the priest. Now, somehow, I have got to find a way to sort it all out “…That’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into!”

Finally, may I ask all the priests who read this blog to have a think about if this is a situation that is going on in your sacristy? If it is, please, please take steps to ensure the Blessed Sacrament is not washed down the drain. And know that I am praying for you. I love you, and I understand that a lifelong vocation is not easy, but it is worth it.

THE MASS: I ate some old cheese and had a really weird dream.

A few nights ago I found some really strong cheese at the back of the fridge (probably left over from Christmas). I ate it, and then went to bed. I had the strangest dream…

I was in my Church – the church in which I was Baptised , made my First Holy Communion, Confirmation and got Married in. The church I like to go and sit in, right up next to the Tabernacle to pray. But today I was not sitting praying. Today I was standing. The Tabernacle was open and Jesus was standing just outside it, and I was standing right next to Him. We were looking out over the church.

Let me show you a picture of my church. I have put a big yellow circle round the Tabernacle to show where we were standing in the dream:

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This is the view we had from where we were standing:

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Then Jesus began to show me the history of my church from about 100 years ago. It was like watching a film in fast-forward. The first thing I noticed was a priest directly in front of us dressed in very beautiful ornate vestments. He was wearing a heavily embroidered beautiful sort of cloak thing I haven’t seen before. Anyway, he performed the consecration and then elevated the Host right in front of us – facing us, using the old high altar.  Then I looked at the congregation and I saw women with hats. I was aware of people being born, growing up and dying. And I could see people’s prayers coming up off of them – rising like steam and hovering above them filling the air.

Here is a picture of my church from a long, long time ago:

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Then as time was fast-forwarding I saw physical changes within the church. The high altar was no longer used. I saw the new altar being constructed and put into place about 15 meters away from us. Priests now said Mass facing the congregation instead of facing us. Vestments had become simpler with brighter colours, and the whole thing just seemed a bit less formal. Women no longer wore hats. I saw people wearing short-sleeved tops. People were being born, growing up and dying. There were now 2 atmospheres I could see within the congregation. One was reserved and quiet, uneasy yet still trusting in God. The other was loud and brash and domineering. In parts of the congregation, hearts were growing cold. I looked at Jesus. He wasn’t saying anything, He was just there, showing me all this.

Here is a picture of my church with the new altar put in. This is how I remember my church as a child.

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Then came more building work. Massive building work. The whole layout of the church was changing. The new altar was removed. The altar rails were removed. The Baldacchino was removed and sold to an American pop star (this actually happened in real life). The first 6 pews were removed. The top of the pulpit was removed. The whole sanctuary was brought forward about another 15 meters into the congregation.

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Now the priests was very far away from us. He was right there in the middle of the congregation. All eyes were on him. The congregation were smiling and laughing. People were on the sanctuary dressed in jeans and trainers receiving Jesus in Holy Communion and then distributing Him to others. Holiness had been replaced with a generalised social acceptance and a more day-to-day relaxed attitude. People were being born, growing up and dying. The congregation looked different. People were now coming into the church expecting to gain something for themselves rather than coming to give something to God. People had an expectation to be entertained. Some priests began to entertain. The people laughed and smiled. All eyes were on the priest.

Here is a picture of my church now:

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And as we stood there watching as time past I felt the congregation move further and further away from us. Peoples intention was good, but they were so distant – like the same way people look when they are watching TV and you are trying to talk to them. Distracted I suppose, but more than that. I think it would be more accurate to say that for these people, their parents were distracted but they are just vacant. Their attention seemed not to be able to get past the priest.

This is the view from the Tabernacle during Mass.

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They were happy enough but undernourished. Like how you feel when you have spent a whole week eating nothing but junk food. They did not understand what was happening during the Mass. Prayers no longer rose like steam from the congregation. There was just this deadness. Heaven was all around them but they could not see or feel it. They were blind and deaf to the supernatural. It felt like it really wouldn’t have mattered whether we were there or not because quite frankly, we were just being ignored.

And then it hit me. The horror of what had happened, what was happening. The result of choices and changes over several generations. Slow enough so you would not recognise it in real-time, but as clear as day if you watch it in fast-forward like we were doing. I looked at the congregation and then turned to Jesus, and with tears in my eyes and my voice filled with despair I whispered “They don’t know You’re here…”

Then I woke up.

“I’m not sure I’m ever going to be able to give the sign of peace again.”

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I had another conversation with my seminarian buddy… (I’m in black, he’s in red):

“I’m going to mass just now for what seems like the first time. Well, it is the first time since I actually became aware of where I am and what is happening on the altar. Actually I’m terrified. Say a little prayer for me! And thank you for opening my eyes to the fact that I am the ACTUAL crucifixion and the ACTUAL resurrection – not just a re-enactment of the last supper.

I was praying for you throughout Mass today. So…I’m dying to ask…how was your experience of Mass today then now that you know what’s really going on?!

Mass today… Just like we discussed, I put myself at the foot of the cross with mother Mary, Mary Magdalene and John. But I kept having to get up, sit down, get up, kneel down, get up….. And I kept having to respond to the priest which was interrupting my concentration.

I felt Jesus very clearly during the consecration enter my heart, and I was not afraid of being at the foot of the cross with the others – His Mother etc. and also my parents and the rest of the congregation. I understand now that there is no separation between the church militant and the church triumphant during Mass. None at all.

NONE at all! You’re absolutely right. Someone commented on the book of Revelation on your blog post – absolutely correct, the Lamb is adored for ever in the heavenly liturgy as one standing as if slain. This is WONDERFUL news Clare. Wonderful news. I would say, also, that the ‘having to respond’ thing is a frequent comment of those who go a bit deeper into the spirituality of the Mass – responding is somehow ‘inclusive’ on one level, but on another, it misses the point. I don’t think responding means you are participating more fully – in many cases, you participate less fully by responding because you don’t get the chance to pray.

…And then, as we were all standing there at the foot of the cross, contemplating this intimate declaration of love between God and mankind, alongside Christ’s grieving mother, someone taped me on the shoulder and with a big grin wanted to shake my hand!

Even WORSE!

It was totally out of place. I dropped to my knees instead. I’m not sure I’m ever going to be able to give the sign of peace again.

The way I look at it is this – I’d really rather not, but that’s because my understanding of the Mass is very different from those for whom the sign of peace is more significant. I suppose, I tend to do it on auto-pilot and I don’t move from the spot I’m in unless it would cause misunderstanding.

If you believe the Mass is a re-enactment of the last supper the sign of peace is great! It totally fits into place with what the disciples would have been doing – chatting and socialising round the dinner table. Before today I was a hugger and a kisser at the sign of peace! But now I cannot think of a more inappropriate gesture at that’d point in the Mass. What it achieves is to take ones attention away from the foot of the cross and instead directs it at each other. It’s nothing short of diabolical. At the most intimate part of the Mass – seconds before we receive the risen Jesus in holy Eucharist, the focus switches onto MAN. Surely it makes much more sense to have it at the beginning of Mass – the natural time to greet each other.

Seriously – if you are standing at the foot of the cross, would it be appropriate to smile and offer mother Mary a hand shake?!? When did people start doing this anyway? Who’s crazy idea was it? Whoever put this in place either did not understand what is happening at mass, or they deliberately wanted to move the focus away from Christ.

I don’t know where handshaking comes from. In the Roman Rite, the Kiss of Peace was done in two ways – at Solemn Masses between the clergy, in hierarchical order and soberly, whilst amongst the people a white disc called the ‘Pax Brede’ was passed around for each individual to kiss and hand on – they did not greet each other and certainly did not shake hands.

I’m going to have to look into this…”

The MASS: How could I possibly have been so dumb?

the-passion-of-the-christ-0

I had a life changing conversation last night with a seminarian friend of mine. It was about the Mass. It went like this… (I’m in red, he’s in blue.)

Hey! I have just started my first parents newsletter on the Mass. I’m talking about the Last Supper and how that was the first Mass. What would be the one line you would want to get across?

If the Mass was meant to recreate Maundy Thursday, the Christian Holy Day would have been Thursday. But it’s not – it’s the day of the Resurrection – because Thursday gives the model for what happened on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Ok say more to me…! explain it as you would to a 10 year old. So Mass is not a re enactment of the last supper? *Stumped at the first hurdle, Clare realises she is way out of her depth and knows nothing*

OK here goes (this is exactly as I’d say it to a 10 year old): Some people think that what we do at Mass is a bit like having a meal – a special meal – but still a meal. In some ways this is right, BUT it is the most special meal you can imagine. It is special because the person you love most in the world (Jesus, of course) is actually giving you himself as food. That sounds a bit gruesome doesn’t it? Well, that’s what’s special about Mass – Jesus gave us the way to eat his body and drink his blood in a non-gruesome way the night before he was raised up on a cross. This was called the Last Supper – or you could call it the First Mass! You see, the important thing is that Jesus died and was raised up again 3 days later. That’s what we have at Mass, not just a memory of something that happened in the past, but we’re actually there – we are there with Mary beside the cross, but also there 3 days later when Jesus rose from the dead. So to go back in time to the night BEFORE he died doesn’t make sense – why would we want to go back in time then? The most important bit hadn’t happened yet! Instead, on that night Jesus gave us the way, not to time travel, but to make present in our today what He did for us once and for all.

So Mass is not Maundy Thursday?

…no Mass is not Maundy Thursday! Maundy Thursday gives the model for the making present of Good Friday and Easter Sunday – the Paschal Mystery itself!

My head understands it technically, but my heart wont let it in. I’d die I think, if I let it in.

No you won’t! Let it in! Your heart is where it makes sense – your head – well, not so much!

I have enough problems coming to terms with the fact that He did that for me AT ALL – let alone to be present while it is happening! Man, this year is going to be an emotional roller-coaster

Yep.

So in a line…. At Mass, we are present at the crucifixion, and resurrection. I regard myself as being an extremely enthusiastic Catholic. If I don’t understand this then I can tell you right now – other people don’t understand this either. 

Strictly speaking, at Mass, we witness the sacrifice made once on the cross, it is made present for us in the Eucharistic species and we can see Him lifted up, whose sacrifice alone could atone for the sins of humanity. So yes, it is the way for us to witness Calvary – but Calvary is only efficacious because of the Resurrection, so we witness the sacrifice in view of the Resurrection – the Lord’s “Hour” is not just the Cross, but also the Empty Tomb and the Ascension.

You know the greatest fear I would have if I was a priest? That saying Mass would become anything other than mind-blowing.

To be honest – it has to be less than mind-blowing otherwise a priest wouldn’t be able to celebrate it. But that’s how wonderful He is to us – He makes himself small for us, touchable…edible.

It’s too much! seriously! I’m going to bed…

I’m shell shocked. I never knew this. I NEVER KNEW. At Mass, I am present at the actual crucifixion and the actual resurrection! How come I don’t know this? Am I stupid? No. Did anyone ever teach me? No. NO ONE EVER TAUGHT ME. I was however wrongly taught that the Mass was just a re enactment of the last supper. I can’t remember who is was – it must have been at school. Who ever taught me was wrong. Who taught them?

I cried myself to sleep last night and then woke up at 4am filled with the same emotions. How many times in my life have I been present at the actual crucifixion and the actual resurrection without even realising it? As a Catholic with contemplative tendencies this kills me. How has this spiritual information been withheld from me for 35 years? I’m so angry.

But I’m also terrified. How am I supposed to go to Mass now? It’s the crucifixion: I will be standing at the foot of the Cross alongside His grieving Mother Mary. It’s the resurrection: I will be running to discover the empty tomb with Mary Magdalene – but instead of Jesus saying “Do not touch Me…”  -(John 20: 17) He is telling me “Take and eat; this is my body.” – (Matthew 26:26).

Ressurection

The secret jealousy I have felt towards Mary Magdalene all my life is now the cause of my utter humiliation. I have been at the actual crucifixion and resurrection with her pretty much EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. for years and years without realising it. *Deep breath*

How is it possible to take this all in? I feel an overwhelming desire to go to confession.

THE MASS: 2015 – Will you take the Red Pill or Blue Pill?

Happy New Year 2015!!

What an Iconic film clip! I love that scene. It has so many parallels with our faith. Of course we are all slaves, born into the bondage of original sin. Our whole lives are a search for the truth.

The truth is of course that God exists, and He loves us. We know this because He sent His only son to die for us so that we may have a route to eternal life with Him. We celebrate this fact at every single Mass we go to.

I am so excited about learning more about the Mass. I really do not know very much at all at the moment because no-one has ever taught me – which I feel puts me in the perfect position to be sharing this journey with the rest of you. I bet that 90% of the readers of this blog know about as much as I do about the Mass (excluding of course the Priests who read this blog – and probably those lucky enough to be educated before 1965.)

I’m going to be using the CCC, the GIRM and the Roman Lectionary as reference points, and I am speaking behind the scenes to Priests about each blog post – just to make sure what I’m writing is correct. Of course it is not going to be a series of lectures – more a diary of my own understanding.

I will be looking at the different forms of the Mass: Novus Ordo, Tridentine, and also the Eastern rite, the Ordinatriate and the different religious orders: Dominican, Carmelite etc. I will be seeing how the Mass has changed over time, and how this has change the Mass. I will be discovering beauty and why this is important during Mass. And I will be discovering what is going in on in peoples minds and hearts during Mass, especially in the minds and hearts of our Priests. And many other things besides…

I’m very much looking forward to this, but there is also a part of me that is slightly hesitant. The Mass is the highest form of truth we have on earth. At the moment i’m quite comfortable in what I know and what I don’t know. I realise that there are some things I am going to be investigating that are not going to be easy to write about. I realise that by blogging about the Mass at all, I am stirring a hornets nest because people are very, very touchy about this subject.

I hope I do a good job. I choose the Red Pill…

red_pill

So… I went to my first Latin Mass, and felt something completely unexpected.

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I’ve been wanting to go to a proper Latin Mass for a long time now. When I say proper, I mean the priest has his back to the congregation 90% of the time.

This is of course how all Masses were before Vatican II. I’ve never really thought about that properly – ALL Masses were said this way up until the mid 1960’s. This is the only style of Mass my favourite Saints would have known.  For myself, being born 35 years ago today (yes, today, Dec 3rd IS my birthday!) the Novus Ordo Mass (Priest facing the congregation) has been the only Mass style I have ever known, and up until very recently I was under the impression that it was the only Mass that has ever existed.

When I heard about the thing called the Tridentine Mass I was fascinated. Why would the priest face away from the congregation? How bizarre! So I found a church near me that has a Latin Mass and I went along.

I got there early and found this particular church has Adoration and sings Gregorian chant for 30 mins preceding Mass. And i’m telling you – that chant was beautiful. I have only experienced silent Adoration – which I LOVE, so this was a completely new experience for me. But it totally worked. I really felt like these people were praising Jesus in the Eucharist in front of them. There was an atmosphere of joy and beauty and reverence. The air was so thick with incense you could barely see or breathe, and almost all the women were wearing mantilla’s. The age range was from new born to 90-ish. There was one lady with 4 small children who played happily in the pew.

When Mass began i was slightly nervous. I don’t know Latin. But i soon realised how much i did understand, and the bits i didn’t – well, i know the Mass so well anyway i had no problem understanding what was going on.

As far as the priest having his back to me goes… At first i found it a bit frustrating. I couldn’t see what he was doing for goodness sake! And then it began to dawn on me that I had become very accustomed to going to Mass to be ‘entertained’. Then it struck me that I automatically judge a priest on his ability to entertain me. How awful! I honestly believed the Mass to be a dialogue between the priest and the congregation (me no nutting!). Where does this put God?!

I am certainly not the only person to have thought like this. These two paragraphs explain it perfectly:

“The priest at the Latin mass looking at no one visible is praising, thanking, blessing. He is not a performer, the newcomers realize, gazing at a crowd above the footlights. He is not a professor, a lecturer, a nightclub host gesturing from a stage. He is someone facing the same direction as the people in the pews. He is humbly talking to the unseen God. A figure as powerless before the Almighty as anyone else.”

 “Some go to a Latin mass for the first time and watch as the priest at the altar stands with his back to them. With that simple turn they realize that the celebrant at this point in the liturgy is not addressing them. For the first time in their lives perhaps, they realize he is actually talking to God. He is praying.”

As the priest elevated the consecrated host (with his back to me) I realised that the Mass is addressing God. In fact it would be more accurate to say that the liturgy is our response to God’s call. The Tridentine Mass made it suddenly clear to me where the Holy Trinity is during Mass. I do think it is extremely important for the congregation to see what is happening on the altar and to hear the Eucharistic prayers as is done in the Norvus Ordo style Mass, but with that simple turn I learned more about the Mass in 1 second than I have in 35 years. I wish the priest would come around the front of the altar with his back to us when he elevates the host in the Norvus Ordo Mass. Just that brief moment says so much.

"No, don't panic, it's just incense..."

“No, don’t panic, it’s just incense…”

Another thing I realised is that the primary and most important aspect of a beautiful Mass does not rest on the style of Mass being said, but on the personal holiness of the priest saying it. I cant emphasise this enough. It makes all the difference. Holiness in a priest during Mass is something that is almost impossible to describe in words, but at the same time is almost tangible. A priests personal holiness (in my humble opinion) is the biggest evangelising tool he possesses. Homilies are great, pastoral kindness is great, but if people can look at him and see/sense God, THAT is the thing that will touch their souls most deeply.

The last and most surprising thing I felt was rebellion. I thought to myself “If this was me, 70 or 80 years ago, how would I feel? What would I be doing?” And the honest truth is that I would be writing little newsletters translating the Latin into English so that I could educate people as to what was being said at Mass! I guess that says more about my personality than anything else! But for the first time ever, I did feel a tiny pang of understanding towards older people who today, will look at me with such disdain as I wear my mantilla. Perhaps the good old days were not quite a rosy as I imagine them to be, although I do feel that at some point, the baby got thrown out with the bath water.

Hmmm. Lots to think about.

Sources:

https://thejesuitpost.org/2014/12/some-catholics/