Thursday, 15 July 2010

The One with the Squeaky Orange

Six years ago, somewhat desperate to find Sunday Mass whilst on holiday in Spain (a harder task than we’d anticipated) we stumbled into a neat, new but reassuringly classically designed church that seemed to be under the care of the Passionists. My heart leaps for joy when I see the Passionist badge and a cassocked priest with said badge greeted us at the door, I felt reassured.

The rest of the congregation were all German ex-pats; well dressed, well groomed and monied. We were made to feel at home, though perhaps they were too friendly as before we’d even sat down we’d been co-opted to read at the Mass. The readings would be in English but the rest of the Mass would be in German. The next outburst of friendliness came when one of the parish helpers came round with what can only be described as a box of toys (I was the youngest in the congregation). From this box was produced a squeaky plastic orange for my husband, I was given two well polished blocks of wood and my intrepid mother-in-law was given a maraca. Every member of the congregation had some such object.

Mass started. The “toys” were for shaking/banging/squeezing during the Gloria and the Sanctus. It was probably one of the most bizarre liturgical experiences of my life.

It was obviously a parish where (for what ever reason) every subtlety and nuance had been beaten out of the phrase “active participation” with a large assortment of noisy plastic fruit.

Staggeringly, I still felt like I’d been to Mass and did not feel I could not attend that church again. Mother-in-law had the casting vote however and as the timing of their Mass meant some discomfort due to her taking of “water tablets”, we managed to find a Spanish, Spanish Catholic church the following Sunday evening to suit her bladder.

Sadly, I feel that these days with my more refined view of the liturgy, I’d have been outraged by that Mass. Has all this searching for liturgical perfection done anything but make me intolerant; too easily shocked, too easily offended and too dissatisfied with the Mass as I find it. Indeed, is intolerance and outrage ever the right response, even to indefensible puppet, teddy bear, football and clown masses? What is the point self-righteous indignation? I will end up worse than a dog chasing its own tail, at least the dog derives some pleasure from its activities.

2 comments:

berenike said...

Well, as someone pointed out, you wouldn't want to say you're tolerant of granny-torture, would you?

Tolerance means Putting Up With Bad Stuff (or, in a softer way, with stuff you don't like), and the only reason for putting up with bad stuff is that doing something about it would be a greater evil.

You could try cutting out the self bit, and just have some righteous indignation, which is perfectly healthy.

Robert B. Heath said...

Maybe you're right. Sometimes some little thing will get at me during the Mass, and I have to struggle to not become so absorbed in the thing that upsets me that if totally distracts me from the Mass.

I can picture some saints having a sort of compassion about it, about the Priests and people who are so "misguided" that they think such "abuses" are necessary and good.

We have to somehow make a distinction between people who are misguided or misinformed, but very sincere, who really believe what they are trying to do is good, and those who have malicious motives, who really want to destroy the faith of others.

I worry very much that the strongly expressed opinions of some public people who "know better" come across as very uncharitable (Of course, I'm not referring to you at all) and that sort of judgment and uncharitableness does a greater disservice to the faith of others than the liturgical "abuses."

Also, I guess, at some point, we have to discern what our role is when it comes to abuse. Am I called to endure it? Am I called to be a reformer, and so I have to go after that rebel priest? Am I called to be a simple reporter, one who sees something pretty bad who writes to the bishop, and then should leave it to the bishop's judgment.

Maybe not all of us should act like reformers, because we are called to endure it for love of Christ, offering that endurance for the healing of whatever (whoever) needs to be healed.