18 May 2003

First things first: Happy Birthday Pope John Paul II!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now that's done, I can complain about Mass today. It was First Communion for the CCD kids--75 of them, and of course they all processed in and processed out and their entire families were there. Many of them are Hispanic, so when I say "whole family" I mean about 20 family memebers per kid. So the church, which holds 1,500 people and is rarely full, was very nearly full today, and the processions all took a very long time. We sang nine verses of the entrance hymn, which was rather boring as the hymn only had three verses. Fr. Raul's homily appeared to be a call-and-response affair. "Every time I say the words 'the Body of Christ,' I want to you say 'amen!'" (Puts hand to ear) Congregation shouts: "Amen!!" So we shouted "amen" about every minute and a half, because of course his homily was on the Eucharist. I suppose his comment that the Eucharist is better than ice cream might appeal to young children, but I think it also underestimates their understanding of what the Eucharist is. Then again, maybe I'm naive. Anyway, someone started clapping during the rather upbeat offertory hymn, with several others joining in, and one of the communion hymns was a gospel tune. So, people shouting "amen!" at random intervals, clapping during songs, and gospel music... Does this sound like a description of a Catholic church to you? Because it doesn't to me.

There were a ton of extraordinary ministers. More than they actually had use for, apparently, because three who had chalices didn't seem to know where to go and ended up just coming back to the table by the tabernacle. I noticed that one place where someone with a chalice ought to have been was deserted. There were two liturgical dancers in white dresses with blue sashes and bare feet who carried some banners in procession, but I never saw them do any actual dancing, thank heaven. Not only was it strange, it was badly organized.

The first communicants received Our Lord in the hand, not on the tongue. I was shocked. At my First Communion, at the same church albeit 11 years ago, we were told that while we could choose afterwards to receive in the hand, that this special day, the first time, we must receive on the tongue. I nearly always receive on the tongue now (except when i find myself facing the Down's syndrome extraordinary minister--I tried it once, confused him, and he dropped the host, and I'd prefer not to have to pick Our Lord up off the floor), and I find the symbolism much richer. On a more practical level, while feeding onesself is a common activity, having something placed in your mouth by another person is not. You have to pay attention. Forcing the child to pay attention to what is happening is definitely not a bad thing. I'm not entirely sure I'd reached the age of reason when I made my First Communion. I had white gloves and Sr. Joyce told me I had to take my gloves off before I went up to communion, and I asked her why it mattered, since I wasn't going to touch the host. She told me "do it anyway" and I did. That's all I remember of the day. I don't remember the Mass at all. I really don't think the children who received today should have been allowed to receive in the hand. There is something special about receiving on the tongue, and as most of them will choose to receive in the hand for the rest of their lives, they may never have that expericence and will not know its joy. It's sad, really.

Somehow, I barely feel like I've been to Mass today. I will say some extra prayers or something. For the souls of the "liturgists" who designed that extravaganza, for the souls of the composers who wrote that music, and for myself, that I will have charity in my future dealings with these people and will not think too ill of them. Perhaps I shall also pray that I be given a sweet and persuasive tongue with which to persuade them that this is not the path to beautiful and reverent liturgy, and that their ears will be open to my pleas.

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