The next stop on the ecclesiastical safari was a beautiful, Shore Shore parish that was founded in 1922. (By the way, I'm from the old school Staten Island where everything south of the expressway was "South Shore". I guess the newcomers would call this area "East Shore"). It has a pretty interesting history. Before the present church was constructed in 1928, the parishioners first worshipped in a Revolutionary War-era tavern, and then in a wooden chapel that was transported from the old Vanderbilt estate (present day Miller field). At some point in those early days, the founding pastor even erected a huge mission church a mile and a half away, to accommodate the seaside vacationers. They still hold one Mass there every Sunday.
I attended a 1:15 Mass at the main church and was surprised to see it packed with around 150 people. Hardly anyone genuflected when they entered their pews and absolutely no one sang along with the female organist, who sat in the choir loft. However, they didn't seem to display the infectious boredom usually associated with such lack of piety. The pastor of this church is a young Indian priest, but the priest who said this Mass was a short, stocky, White man. He was attended by two altar boys (shocker) and a young, male lector in a suit (another shocker). The sound system was excellent, and the priest had a very articulate and commanding voice. I eagerly looked forward to hearing his sermon.
He seemed to be tearing through the Mass at a manic pace. At one point, as he was saying a prayer over the gifts, he gave the universal "hurry up" gesture with his upraised hands to the men with the collection baskets. Needless to say he used the short form of the Gospel reading about the resurrection of Lazarus. By this point he was starting to sound like a cattle auctioneer. His sermon had a good and sensible message. He said that even though there are only 2 weeks left until Easter, we can still have a "good Lent" if we manage to break at least one bad habit and resurrect our souls like Jesus resurrected the dead Lazarus. I liked listening to this priest. He was obviously intelligent and well spoken. However, he wrapped up his sermon in about 40 seconds. I kid you not. Literally 40 seconds. He then resumed his frantic race to set a new world's record for fastest Mass. I don't know if he succeeded, but he managed to get it done in 25 minutes, which is the fastest time I've ever witnessed for a Sunday service.
This was a disgrace and a shame. I can't think of a single good reason that a priest would have for treating the Mass, and the congregation, so disrespectfully. Do any other religions or Christian denominations have to endure a clergy that is so bored with worship that they race to get it over with as quickly as possible? Do any other faiths have a laity that is so docile and indifferent as to tolerate this? Or maybe the laity wants it like that? I know that I've often heard a priest praised because he keeps his sermons short. If that's our attitude, then why do we go to Mass? To fulfill a Sunday obligation?...as if anyone under 60 still remembered or adhered to such old-fashioned ideas. There's certainly no sense of community and certainly no edification or inspiration, and polls show that most Catholics don't believe in the Real Presence anymore. So why do they go?