Sunday, March 20, 2011

Catholic Church Shopping, Part XI: Asymmetry

 I next visited another North Shore church of modernist design, which was only completed in 1990, although the parish has been around since 1966. It is not to my taste. The stained glass windows are cartoonishly juvenile, the seating pattern is sort of a half circle, and the shape of the church is- how should I put this?-something that could only have originated in the nightmares of some deranged mathematician.

A lady with a beautiful voice led the singing from the pulpit. No one sang. They all just sat there like dumb brutes and did not even pick up a missalette. It was embarrassing. The priest, who was assisted by two altar girls, was a thin, neat looking fellow, who did a good job of almost hiding his nervousness. I'm not sure what his name was, but there is a priest at this parish who is a filmmaker. I wouldn't be surprised if that was the priest I heard, as he wove a very detailed and vivid story through his homily about how he ordered Chinese duck for dinner on the first Friday of Lent. Rather than actually suffer a little for Christ, he decided to eat it anyway, figuring God would forgive him. The next day he took a hike along a river, and had his conscience twinged by the beautiful sight of a group of ducks swimming in the water. Then they flew away and pooped on his head, in an act of revenge I suppose. He then clumsily segued from that into a story of a lady he visits in the nursing home, who cannot speak. He then wrapped up these two stories by explaining that fasting during Lent is actually good for us.

This was an abysmal sermon, allayed somewhat by the good quality of the sound system, mirabile dictu. What was remarkable about this Mass was what he did after the reading of the Mass intentions. One of his altar girls brought up a handful of post it notes from the back of the church. On them were written the special intentions of the parishioners. The priest read each and every one of them aloud. There must have been 50, and they took about 10 minutes to read. "For my brother's operation, pray for him", "that my daughter will become the girl she one was", "that my son will find a job", "that my graddaughter will break her addiction", "that my husband will pass his tests", "for my grandson, who has Lyme Disease", "for my son, who has cancer", etc. I was taken aback and blown away. These were real-life concerns of real people. This was truth in all its rawness. People were hurting and longing and hoping. They needed help. They needed prayer. After having to endure so much phoniness in church for so many years, so much forced participation, fake communalism, ersatz music, so many asinine and out-of-touch sermons...this much raw authenticity almost brought tears to my eyes.

The rest of the Mass was unremarkable, except for the fact that as soon as Communion began, a mad rush to parking lot ensued.

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