Here’s another in my series of reviews of churches. It’s one that arguably I shouldn’t write. But the truth must be told.
This was one of the most bizarre Catholic worship experiences of my life. What the HELL (and I use the word advisedly) is going on in this parish?
I got lost getting there, and arrived during the “gathering hymn” (Gathered as One), so I didn’t have a bulletin. Architecturally, it’s a nice traditional church, with slightly updated interior decoration. We did the spoken Kyrie option, and then…no Gloria. Hmmm, didn’t know that O17 was a penitential season. Then came the Psalm, and lo, it wasn’t what was listed in the Small Weapon of Mass Destruction (aka missalette), but it was there under O14 (same tune but with altered rhythm). Now I don’t know for a fact that this is illicit; there might be seasonal psalms like the seasonal propers. It’s lazy, certainly; responsorial psalms are easy enough to put together. [ UPDATE : it was, indeed, a seasonal Psalm and hence licit.]
Then on to the Homily. It turned out this was a very special day, being the farewell mass of Fr. Matthew Mankowski. So there was nothing at all about the texts of the day in the Homily, which was his farewell address. OK, fine, you don’t leave a parish every day; we can let the lack of catechesis slide. But there was recorded background music to the homily! I couldn’t make out the words at that volume, but it was a trained male and female singer with orchestra, in a style reminiscent of 50s movie musicals, and it looped several times. Fr. thanked everyone who needed thanking, and praised their accomplishments together…feelgood stuff. About 2/3 through, there was an abrupt change in tone. He said that he could be bitter about what happened, then cited Matthew 10:14-15 while stamping his feet. Apparently, he’d been driven out of there. There were other remarks which seemed to express regrets that he’d focused on the physical plant and externals of parish life to the detriment of souls.
Then on into the intercessions, no Credo. Offertory: “Prayer of St. Francis” by a vocal duo (no point of contact with “Exaltabo te”, which would have been appropriate, considering). Communion was a choir “anthem” ( i.e., song). All of the music was “eccleasy listening” style, with only the opening and closing hymns (We are called) accompanied (loudly and with inappropriate style and foot-twitching on the expression pedal) by organ, the rest on piano. The choir, by the standards of OF parishes in the Diocese of Youngstown, actually sounded decent. Distribution of communion was efficient (should it be?). Then, after Communion, Father sat there while they had more recorded music…it was a feature, not just to cover sacramental cleanup.
So, OK, apparently there are some toxic goings-on here, and we should pray for the parish, for Fr. Mankowski, and for whoever follows him. I don’t know the whole story; maybe my neighbor who sings in the choir can fill in the details. I don’t know whether this approach to the liturgy was Father’s idea (in which case maybe he should have been drummed out) or, as seems more likely, the inmates took over the asylum and he tried to stop it. At any rate, here are the violations of liturgical norms (not counting things like “not even pretending that the bologna of the 4 hymn sandwich has anything to do with the Proper texts”, which ARE norms here in the US, albeit aberrant norms):
Omission of Ordinary texts (2 counts)
Substitution of Psalm texts
Use of recorded music in church (2 counts)
If I were the incoming pastor here’s what I’d do: give the organist copies of Sacrosanctum concilium and Musicam Sacram and set a meeting to discuss how he would implement them, disband the liturgy committee, and sell the piano to feed the poor. I’d point out that since we’re not doing the FCAP thing where the Propers should be, maybe we should have real Propers, and that they don’t necessarily have to be in English. That superabundance of women singers would make a dandy women’s schola. And if we’re doing something extra, like a big homily, maybe Mass doesn’t let out at noon sharp like some public school class. And Bishop Murry, could you keep an eye on these guys? They need some healing…and some supervision.