EXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – APRIL 2, 2008
By Rich Trzupek
Easter 2008. New beginnings. New family. New church. Actually, it’s the old church, from a couple different points of view. Being a Catholic church, it’s got a couple of millennia of history behind it. Being Holy Family, it’s the church your humble correspondent used to frequent, many a moon – and one spouse – ago.
Yet, somehow, Holy Family seems to be neither any longer. It’s a church inhabited by your new best pal, Jesus who – gosh darn it – is super-glad that you could make it to the party. His Dad, who was so very (very) ready to kick my sinning ass into eternal damnation if I didn’t straighten up and fly right during my misbegotten youth, is nowhere to be found. And, to my surprise, I find that I miss Old Crabby-Whiskers.
Even the cross is different. It’s cast in transparent acrylic, over twenty linear feet of space-age plastic dangling from the ceiling. Jesus isn’t hanging from this cross. Nah. That’s old school. Jesus is rather emerging from the cross, reaching an open palm out toward the congregation.
I’m reasonably sure that it’s supposed to represent your best buddy – the J-dog – extending a hand that is both inviting and empathetic. But, having grown up Catholic, I know what’s really going on here: Jesus is looking for a donation. This is Collection Jesus, subliminally delivering the 11th commandment: Thou shalt pony up when the plate is passed.
The mass? I check to be sure that I haven’t ended up a Southern Baptist revival gone terribly wrong. Everybody is way, way too happy for this to be a Catholic mass, and, consequently, the proceedings have a vaguely disturbing, “Stepford Wives” feel to them.
The choral director is positively ecstatic, for example. Hands clapping, fanny shakin’, smilin’ and dancin’ away, he is so overflowing with sweetness that diabetics in the congregation are forced to take extra insulin injections midway through the service.
When the congregation offers and blessing, en masse, everyone is directed to raise their right arms in unison. That’s one thousand or so right arms raised, at the same time. I suppress the urge to shout “Heil God”, figuring that would earn me a sharp elbow in the ribs from the new bride – at the very least.
Now I’m starting to sound pissy, instead of vaguely amusing, so let’s get off the details. It’s not that I think that this sort of mass is stupid (like Wiccans) (sorry, couldn’t help it), it’s just not Catholic.
I mean, if I wanted to belong to Willow Creek (not that there’s anything wrong with that) then I would go to Willow Creek. Isn’t that what’s going on here? It’s gotta be. With shrinking attendance and a dearth of priests, the Catholic church feels the need to compete with the Willow Creeks and Crystal Cathedrals of the world.
And that might be fine, but faiths shouldn’t need to compete with each other. If classic Catholicism is increasingly unpopular in the modern world, so be it. That’s the choice people make. Perhaps it’s just old age, but it seems to me that the church shouldn’t change, even if people do.
To my great surprise, I find that I miss the Latin mass. Odd, for I never thought I would say that. And I find myself wondering how many other people miss it as well.
There was an aura of mystery surrounding the old Latin mass, a connection to a world centuries old and to a God replete in majesty that mortals couldn’t hope to understand, but that they could not help but sense in some deep-seeded spiritual core. You left the Latin mass feeling awed by the power of your Creator. You leave this mass wondering what the review in the Metro section will be like the next morning.
To be sure, I like the Pastor, Reverend Pat Brennan. He’s sincere, an accomplished theologian and an inspiring speaker. Yet, he’s part of a trend that has swept (or infected, depending on one’s point of view) the church of my youth. It’s a church that has responded to all those classic, wonderful jokes about Catholicism by swinging 180 days in the opposite direction.
Catholic guilt has been swept away, to be replaced by spiritual self esteem. Nobody hits their knees any more. Instead, there’s hand holding, back slapping, applause and snapping your fingers in time to the music. You don’t hear “in nomine Partis, et Filii, et Spritus Sancti, amen” anymore, and it’s only a matter of time before the mass ends with “y’all come back now, ya hear!”
Times change. I know that. People change and institutions change too. It’s inevitable. But, though I’m sure that I am in the minority here, I wish that my church could have been the one thing I could count on never to change.