Sunday, August 17, 2014

Muzak for the Spirit

I have been on the road with my actress Maria and her husband for a while now.  We are ending up a tour of nine shows in ten days in four states.

Today we find ourselves in a small town in Minnesota off the interstate.  We made the mistake of going to Sunday Mass, as we are obliged to.

This is always a crap shoot.  Why, in the universal Catholic Church that Christ founded, is it such a risk to go to Mass at an unfamiliar parish?  But it always is.  Today we rolled the dice and got a pair of snake eyes.

The church was new and the artwork in the narthex ugly, except for the old historical stuff from the old beautiful church that has since been torn down.

But the atmosphere!  Atmosphere is a difficult thing to describe.  The atmosphere from beginning to end in the Mass and everything associated with it was suburban, insipid, bland, uninspiring, contrived, and gay (in the worst sense of that word).  The homily was not really heterodox, not really orthodox - just kind of fuzzy and flaccid.

But there was one real moment.  When the congregation prayed the Our Father, I closed my eyes, and you could hear the genuineness of that prayer.  These people were praying that prayer, with a unity and an earnestness.  This was the one moment when heaven and earth were palpably together at that Mass.

Of course there's always that other moment when heaven and earth come together at Mass - the consecration and the communion that follows: and that transcends any inept nonsense on our part.  But right there in this shopping mall parish as communion began, the intense and creepy piano player (who's apparently the "music minister") began ad libbing pop fills on the keyboard.  Loudly.  So that you could neither pray nor focus on anything else.  And the message of the music was: this is not threatening, everything is comfortable, everything is indistinguishable, this life devoid of passion is the omega point of creation - this lame and soggy existence is the nirvana that all "persons" have sought.  Resistance is futile.  It was muzak for the spirit.  And it came at the most intimate part of the Mass.

I left the building, skipped communion (I was in no shape to receive it at that point), but returned when the music had stopped and stayed in the narthex for the blessing and dismissal.

And as we left I thought, is it any wonder that the Church these days seems powerless in the face of evil - small evil or great evil?  Is it any wonder that something like what I just experienced has no hold on the hearts or minds of anyone, or any normal person?  Is it any wonder that bishops enable pedophiles when the greatest single moment in the lives of any of us - communion with God - can be trivialized and emasculated in this way?

I would rant more, but it's time to head to Iowa for tonight's show.  Pray for us and pray for our Church.


Bob Cook said...

Sorry to hear of your experience, Kevin. This morning's Mass at St. Peter, Chillicothe was the third Mass in a row where our Priest chanted all the Dialogs. We Also chanted the Lord's Prayer. Chanted the Introit, Offertory and the Communio, all in English. So there are some parishes trying to adhere to Musicum Sacrum. I'll be visiting some friends next weekend. It will be interesting to see how their Mass is celebrated.

Anita Moore said...

Thank you. To quote myself from a little over a year ago, after a similar experience, such is the Cruise Ship of Peter, the favorite fantasy of so many Catholics, even in the hierarchy.

Unlike the Barque of Peter, constantly under assault and in danger of sinking, yet manfully plowing forward through rough seas, the Cruise Ship of Peter is nice. Its worship is uncontroversial. It is bland. It is insipid. It is jejune. It is decadent. It is effeminate. It kindles no fires, stirs no ardor, pricks no consciences. Its lifeblood is mediocrity. It docks at any old port, and will strike any old compromise to do so. It insulates man from the uncomfortable mystery of the supernatural, and protects him from transports of zeal. There is little enough to distinguish it from any other organization calling itself a church, or even from secular society: its very furnishings are precisely those of a posh country club. That is why it always has smooth sailing, at least for as long as this serves the purposes of the prince of this world. Even when sailing is not smooth, the ship is so grand and luxurious that nobody on board notices. One leaves the liturgy on the cruise ship feeling as though one has just been to a really nice wine and cheese reception. With its affluence and its amphitheater layout and its cushioned pews and its polished wood and its orchestra pit next to the sanctuary and its soothing, tranquilizing liturgy, the Cruise Ship of Peter is all ordered, down to the smallest detail, with a view to sealing up Catholics in a soft, warm cocoon of niceness and upper-class comfort, making them forget, or even filling them with friendly feelings toward, the pirates and cutthroats that smile back from their little boats that nevertheless daily increase and close in.

Pat said...

Kevin, you went out at Communion because the music was crummy? How bad could it be? I've gritted my teeth through "A Whole New World" from Alladin being played in the background. I've been to Easter Vigil with liturgical dancers and incense bowls and Jazz muzak, visiting Priests telling us to close our eyes and breath in and out, clearing our minds of everything, including God. GUM chewers and worse!... Much worse that I would just as soon forget. Maybe my conscience wasn't sensitive enough to know I that maybe I shouldn't have gone to Communion if I had a, well... more than fleeting homicidal impluse, but, in my heart I know the liturgy will only be perfect in Heaven, and I am in need of God's Mercy as well, so I go. God forgive me if I shouldn't have.