Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Aisle People

This letter, which appeared in the 9/15/16 edition of Catholic New York, should be printed out and posted on the doors or bulletin boards of every Catholic church. The epidemic of lazy, inconsiderate "Aisle People" is painful to see. If you have an overactive bladder, or are on active duty in the emergency services, or are the parents of rambunctious young children, then you have every right to plant yourselves near the aisle so as not to have to climb over others when you inevitably have to step out of Mass. If you're just a paranoid neurotic who has a psychological barrier against having people sitting on both sides of you, then please get over it and slide towards the middle of the pew.

Aisle People
Because of my peripatetic lifestyle, I’ve attended Mass at many parishes. For the past 20 years, I’ve probably worshipped at 30 different Catholic churches across America each year for a total of about 600. One thing that each of these houses of worship have in common is the Aisle People (AP.)

The AP covet the seats at the end of the pew regardless of the emptiness within. I always arrive at Mass early and sit toward the rear, so I present my empirical data on the AP from a disinterested distance. The AP make up approximately 30 percent of attendees, and I am not sure they realize the angst they cause in other parishioners. 

Everyone who attends Mass weekly has no doubt noticed that late arrivals will “probe the line” looking for a charitable aisle person to allow them to enter the pew. It disgusts me to see how many AP stare straight ahead, ignoring the petitioner’s tacit plea to access the vacancies within. After being ignored, the late-comers must then clear their throat, which will compel the AP to take heed. This distracts other congregants.

Only once in all my years have I heard a priest remonstrate from the pulpit regarding this opportunistic practice of “aisle seat covetousness” (at Mass in Arkansas). He was instructing while I am lamenting. 

Hopefully, the AP act as they do unconscious of the aggravation they cause other attendees because if they are aware of the inconvenience and distraction they cause and still park their corpus segnes at the end of the pew week after week, well, I find that almost unforgivable.  

There are a few occasions when AP are justified in maintaining their spot: if the AP is manning the collection basket or, like my sister, is with a disabled child or is part of the altar crew or has urgent bladder problems.  

The irony of this situation is glaring: every Sunday the priest urges us to be charitable, loving, considerate, humble and Christ-like. When the AP hear the priest speak thusly, does it not register that their action (or inaction) exemplifies the antitheses of these elements of our faith?

George Ganssle


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Catholic Church shopping Part XVI: mother church

Since we worship a God who literally rose from the dead, our "God of surprises" has the wonderful quality of regularly surprising us with the miracle of breathing life into things that were dead. And I was pleasantly surprised to recently see that a parish I had heretofore avoided as a moribund place now has a fresh spirit blowing through it. The feeling was palpable as soon as I walked into our island's mother church of St. Peter's (now officially part of the parish cluster of "The Catholic
Community of St. Peter-Assumption-St.Paul").

There didn't seem to be much going on in the bulletin but there was a pretty rousing flyer calling for men to join the Holy Name Society of the parish, describing their mission as being to make themselves better men, supporting one another's spiritual needs, and doing good works. There was a racially diverse congregation with a few young families sprinkled throughout. Honestly, there didn't seem to be too many more people there than attended when Monsignor Dorney was alive, but there was something new and ineffably encouraging about the church now. The choir was talented and seemed genuinely animated by a holy joy in their task. The priest was, I believe, Filipino and spoke rapidly with an accent with precluded me from understanding more than about 70% of what he said. And even though I couldn't really grasp the main point of his message, what I could understand of his passionate sermon was filled with one holy sentiment after another which, surprisingly, satisfied my soul. In addition, the church- which had been allowed to crumble away for years on end, now seemed like it had enjoyed some repairs and regular cleaning.

After Mass, a group of men hosted a social gathering in a room adjacent to the foyer, which had once been a chapel I think. They provided coffee and juice and a lavish spread of delicious pastries. The fellowship was warm and welcoming. I came away from my time there with an optimistic mood and uplifted spirit. I don't live close enough to attend regularly, but would definitely consider joining the parish if I did.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

St. Francis Friary, 1928-2014

After a year and a half on the market, the beautiful St. Francis Friary (known as a Center for Spirituality in its modern incarnation) has been sold to the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of New York and New England to be used as their headquarters. (And they're currently seeking donations to pay for it.) I'm glad the property will not be covered with 8,000 townhouses and I'm glad it was at least Christians who bought it, but this is still a disgrace and an embarrassment. How is it possible for the Coptic church to buy and maintain this property when the Catholic Church cannot? There are only 450,000 Copts in the entire United States. In the Coptic Diocese of New York and New England, which covers Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, there are only 25 parishes and only 42 clergy; I don't know how many parishioners are in the diocese. Compare this to the New York archdiocese, which has 296 parishes and contains 2.6 million Catholics. Yet with all our resources, we could not retain the Franciscan Friary? The Franciscans made a hash of it, but with the demise of Mt. Manresa, couldn't the Archdiocese have made good use of it? 

The Idol of "Participation"

When I attended Mass at Our Lady Help of Christians in Tottenville a few weeks ago, I was utterly shocked and horrified to see that two large video screens had been placed on the walls to either side of the altar. There was an explanation in the bulletin:

"The introduction of the TV screens in the church has caught the attention of many. I invite anyone who has knowledge of this technology and is willing to work and meet with Fr. Sylvester to learn about it. We hope to minimize the use of the Missals and maximize the liturgical participation making Sunday worship more interesting and spiritually beneficial to all. The clergy will devise ways and means to enhance their delivery of homilies using this technology."

The size of our video screens is in direct correlation to our holiness

So, there in one short paragraph are summed up a host of errors, misconceptions and incompetence from the first word to the last. The Vatican II Church, animated by the leveling, hippie spirit of communalism, has always been obsessed with the participation of The People (always ennobled with a capital "P") in the Mass. However the People stubbornly do not want to participate in the Mass. Therefore, our enlightened (ha!) overlords will_force_us to play-act their fantasy of the Great Group Hug by further degrading and infantilizing the Mass. 

I don't suspect the pastor at OLHC of any devious intentions, but his dumb response to a non-problem is based on faulty premises. He sees his congregation sitting in the pews week after week in a catatonic state and bemoans the lack of excitement and engagement, which he's been bred to expect from the "new springtime" in the Church. So, the natural response of a priest marinated in both the post-Vatican II era and the age of technology is to make it more entertaining! Whereas the clueless, 1970s hippie priest would bring in guitarists, clown Masses and liturgical dancers, the lame and impotent response of the modern, clueless pastor is to introduce TV screens. Next will be youtube videos, comedy routines, pre-recorded rock music, and other cribbed gimmicks from evangelical megachurch circuses. Who knows, perhaps they'll even introduce trampolines?

Coming to a Catholic church near you! 
Needless to say, the screens were a major distraction. They were scrolling announcements before the Mass (the same announcements that were in the bulletin), thereby precluding the ability to quietly pray. As the Mass started, the screens flashes the words of the Mass and the Scripture readings as we were simultaneously listening to them. Obviously, it is human nature to look at moving images, so everyone was staring at the screens instead of the priest. At one point during one of the guitarist's songs, a photoshopped picture of Pope Francis as the Good Shepherd was shown, conflating the current Pope with the Creator and Savior of mankind.

Our Lord...Francis?
I can ignore bad homilies. I can ignore bad music. I can ignore bad congregations and priests who rush through the Mass. I cannot ignore two 10 foot video screens that grab and demand your attention more than the Holy Sacrifice. They change the very nature of the Mass in a very fundamental way, which means that I will never, never go back to this parish.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The plot thickens.....

"Fr. Miqueli felt a sense of invincibility in his life of larceny and lust, because, according to people close to the story, he witnessed a child molestation by a priest on Staten Island back around 2002 and went to the archdiocese. They told him to keep silent about it, and, according to reports, arranged for him to become pastor of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini parish on Roosevelt Island in exchange for his cooperation."

Monday, December 14, 2015

"Slave" priest had Staten Island ties

So apparently the homosexual slave priest that's been all over the tabloid headlines worked in a surprising number of Staten Island parishes (St. Sylvester's, Holy Family, St. Clare's and St. Rita's) some years ago.

I think it's safe to assume that he didn't just recently discover that he was a pervert, a thief and a megalomaniac. So is it possible that no one in these Staten Island parishes ever noticed something "off" about this guy, when it was so apparent to the parishioners of St. Frances de Chantal? Or did people speak out about this priest but his  "guardian angel" in the chancery just shifted him around from parish to parish?

Monday, November 2, 2015

R.I.P. Monsignor James Dorney

Monsignor James Dorney, the co-vicar of Staten Island (whatever that means) has passed away at age 83. We have never been an admirer of his, as a quick search of this blog will demonstrate. But I would like to relate one positive memory I have of the man. I attended Stations of the Cross at St. Peter's on a Friday night in Lent about 8 years ago. Monsignor Dorney was already feeble and bent over with whatever physical ailments were torturing him. Nevertheless, despite the fact that the meager number of people in attendance surely would have granted him any allowance to accommodate his age and weakness, Monsignor Dorney nevertheless exerted all his strength to make a full, and obviously painful, genuflection down to the floor at every station to honor his Savior, and then struggled with everything he had to raise himself again and move on the next one to do it again. That was a beautiful gesture of love and respect for our God, and I will never forget it.