I wanted to go early today, and Rusty really doesn’t want me going to St. Michael’s (long story). Fr. Leo had mentioned that some of his people really didn’t like the liturgy at St. Joseph. The context made me think “too conservative”, so I thought I’d be interested. I was doing 8:30 instead of 11:15, so I figured it would be pretty laid-back, maybe a low mass. I was kind of conflicted about a lot of things going in, so that didn’t help.
I drove in…big building (includes a school, now closed), lots of cars in the lot already…walked in the door, and there were greeters in suits. Wow! No bulletins though (There was supposed to be; they’d gotten delayed by Friday’s storm.). I went in, sat in the seat closest to the door, looked around, and had to fight the urge to walk back out. It was one of those long-the-wrong-way, sit-in-a-semicircle-and-pay-attention-to-your-neighbor-instead-of-God type churches, but what isn’t nowadays? Along the left wall were the Stations of the Cross, with about 2 steps between stations (not much of a walk there). Front left was a setup for the Dread Combo: organ console, grand piano, bunch of music stands. I saw a flutist wander in: oh noes! There were big organ pipes in the back corners, which made no sense unless it was some antiphonal organ setup; maybe they were just for show. I never found out, because the organ was never used. And dead center was a big wooden Y (“Why”?) where the crucifix should have been. Once they turned the sanctuary lights on, I saw that it WAS the crucifix. It looked as if some local chain saw sculptor had gotten the crotch of a tree and made it into the arms and torso of Jesus, then stained it all with a dark stain so that you couldn’t tell where he’d botched the detail. Behind me by the door were plates full of what looked like little whole wheat drop biscuits (does baking soda count as leaven?) which I realized with some horror were the Hosts.
People came in. Lots of distracting talk in the vestibule, but when people came in, they came to pray. And they dressed for church, a pretty rare occurrence in American Catholicism these days. And they crossed themselves more than anyone I’ve seen outside of the Anglican Catholics. No doubt about sincerity here.
The band/choir came in: 2 flutes, a clarinet, a guitar, a pianist, several men singers and the cantress. They started up, and hey, they were good! Together and in tune (the soft bigotry of low expectations at work). Big procession with singers in it: good. Overmiked cantress drowning out everything else: not so good. Ordinary was Massive Cremation, hymns from pp. 61x of Gather. Service started with kind of a preview of the homily, which was rather odd considering that we hadn’t heard the Gospel yet. So we got to the rambling homily, then Father announces that they’re going to do this thing with the new confirmands instead of the Creed. WTF? (“What’s THAT, Father?”) I thought that it might involve the confirmands saying the Creed, but no such figleaf of liturgical propriety was forthcoming. Instead, they were welcomed into full participation in the congregation and the two groups vowed to pray for each other. A good thing to do, I wouldn’t for a minute deny them a moment in the sun… but they aren’t the Creed! Like priests get to decide what’s black, what’s red, and what’s read? It would have taken, what 3 minutes to say the Creed afterwards? Is this the Mussolini-style, make-the-trains-run-on-time Catholic Church?
The rest of the Mass was pretty uneventful. The prayers of the faithful included that nonsensical phrase “social justice”. Father was pretty conversational with the Consecration, with an odd inflection under both species “This is My Body, which WILL be given…”, as if it wasn’t being given at that moment. It would be nice if more priests would treat that moment with a little more solemnity…speak the works slowly and seriously as if they really meant them; put a little hocus-pocus into it. I’m sure Jesus did. I’m very sure he didn’t say, “Hey, Rocky! See this pita? It’s ME! So EAT ME! You too, Judas.” Not that this was at all blasphemous or flippant, but really, this was the moment He had lost half His followers for, so it was a big deal. It’s still a big deal.
So, in summary: liturgically, these folks do liberal really well. If you like getting half-Massed, like having a good Haugen sing, this is the place for you. It’s not the place for me. I’m not sure there is a place for me. Today I think that I’m the Goldilocks of liturgy: This Mass is too hot, this Mass is too cold, this Mass (St. Michael) is just about right but I want brown sugar and cinnamon in it, and Mommy won’t let me sit at the table with you ’cause you’re bad kids. Last time I was at Queen of the Holy Rosary, I surmised that the reason all the ex-SSPXers spent so much time on their knees was that they had sticks up their bums and it hurt too much to sit. My wife tells me I have a stick up my bum, and should go there. As usual, she is probably right. God help me!