Sunday, August 26, 2012

Water Park Mass: A Bad Idea

I don’t imagine it’s really much of a surprise to anyone to read in the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) that

22. The celebration of the Eucharist in a particular Church is of the
utmost importance.

That’s kind of a no-brainer. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian life, after all!  And it’s the bishop who has the primary responsibility for the proper celebration of the Eucharist in his diocese. The GIRM continues (my emphases throughout):

For the Diocesan Bishop, the prime steward of the mysteries of God in the particular Church entrusted to his care, is the moderator, promoter, and guardian of the whole of liturgical life. In celebrations that take place with the Bishop presiding, and especially in the celebration of the Eucharist by the Bishop himself with the Presbyterate, the Deacons, and the people taking part, the mystery of the Church is manifest. Hence, solemn celebrations of Mass of this sort must be exemplary for the entire diocese.

The Bishop should therefore be determined that the Priests, the Deacons, and the lay Christian faithful grasp ever more deeply the genuine significance of the rites and liturgical texts, and thereby be led to the active and fruitful celebration of the Eucharist. To that end, he should also be vigilant in ensuring that the dignity of these celebrations be enhanced

So, given this exhortation concerning the great dignity of the Mass, especially when celebrated by the bishop of the diocese, it’s easy to understand why bishop of the Diocese of Honolulu would go out of his way to celebrate Mass for the youth of the diocese at…

….wait for it…

…a water park called Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii in Kapolei, Oahu.

No, I’m not kidding. A reader alerted me to this fact, and provided a link to the announcement which says in part:

Blessed Pope John Paul II believed that young people were not just the Church of tomorrow, but the Church of today. To better equip them for their witness to Jesus, all youth are invited to celebrate the gift of their Catholic faith at Diocesan Youth Day on Saturday, September 1, 2012 at Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii in Kapolei, Oahu beginning at 9:00 a.m. This year’s theme is ‘Rejoice in the Lord always’ (Phil 4:4). It invites our young people to reflect on the presence of God in their daily lives and renew their faith so that they can share it with others.

"C'mon, kids! Mass in 10 minutes!"
So…the Diocese of Honolulu is seriously trying to pretend that a Mass at a water park – celebrated by the bishop, no less – will help the youth to “grasp ever more deeply the genuine significance of the rites and liturgical texts”?!?!

All righty, then. This quote from the Holy Father is also included in the announcement of the event:

“Joy is at the heart of the Christian experience. At each World Youth Day we experience immense joy, the joy of communion, the joy of being Christian, the joy of faith. This is one of the marks of these gatherings. We can see the great attraction that joy exercises. In a world of sorrow and anxiety, joy is an important witness to the beauty and reliability of the Christian faith.” (Pope Benedict XVI on the 27th World Youth Day, 2012)

A couple of things come to mind: first, perhaps I’m misunderstanding and projecting…but does it strike anyone else that “joy” is being confused with “frivolity” or “fun” in this case? Second, how exactly does spending a fun day at the water park “better equip” the youth for their “witness to Jesus”? And third, are the youth really going to be reflecting on the presence of God in their daily lives at this event?  

I have nothing against the kids (or the adults, for that matter) enjoying a day of fun at a water park, but let’s just call it what it is and not pretend it’s something else. And let’s not mix the sacred with the profane.

At the Catholic high school where I taught religion courses for one year, there was a monthly Mass, usually held in the gym. (The school had a small chapel which could only hold about 40 people, so the gym was the only venue that provided enough room.) The students were required to “dress up”. Occasionally, though, there was an outdoor Mass. In my not so humble opinion – and the opinion of many of the other faculty members – that was always a mistake. The kids sat on the grass in little groups. They chatted, as long as they could get away with it. They chose spots far from the “altar”. They were more interested in each other, the weather, and the end of the minimum school day than they were in the Mass.

Bishop Silva celebrating Mass. I guess they do
things a little differently in Hawaii.
So I’m guessing that the youth attending the Diocesan Youth Day water park Mass will be even less inclined to put their full attention on the liturgy. The event starts at 9am, with the Mass scheduled for 9:45am. I suppose that gives everyone time to arrive in their “dress up” clothes, and then Mass can take place while everyone is still appropriately dressed. Right?

Yeah, right. Come on. Can you picture Mass with these kids all clad in their swimsuits? The bishop has also invited and encouraged priests of the diocese to join in and concelebrate. How awkward for any priest to be administering Holy Communion to a bikini-clad adolescent girl! Sunday Mass at a parish church in the summer months is bad enough; how much worse will it be at a water park?!?

Back to the GIRM:

288. For the celebration of the Eucharist, the People of God are normally gathered together in a church or, if there is no church or if it is too small, then in another respectable place that is nonetheless worthy of so great a mystery...

I think it would be next to impossible to justify a water park as a “respectable place” for celebrating the great mystery of the Eucharist. But…maybe it’s just me?

The GIRM continues:

..Therefore, churches or other places should be suitable for carrying out the sacred action and for ensuring the active participation of the faithful…

I cannot even imagine how a water park can be made into a place suitable for “sacred action”; perhaps I’m lacking in imagination. But even if this is possible, can we even reasonably expect a large group of adolescents who are anticipating a day of fun and frolic in the water to be “actively participating” at this Mass? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

The announcement says:

If you have any questions, feel free to contact the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry at 808-203-6763 or email:

If you feel like sending a respectful message voicing your concern, have at it.

Be sure to visit Unam Sanctam Catholicam for another look at this issue.

Oh…and here’s a promotional video… 

Diocesan Youth Day 2012 from HawaiiCathYYAM on Vimeo.

See also More Liturgical Abuse


  1. Another example of how a confused clergy, in this case a Bishop, equates pleasing people with being a good Priest. As our Pastor said so well yesterday the important lessons the Church must teach are hard lessons....not the warm fuzzy stuff that a water park Mass is likely intended to foster.

    The more the Catholic Church engages in exhibitions such as this the more it gives the impression that we are little different than Protestant churches--and, thus, we will continue to loose Catholics to Protestant Churches as was the case with your Granddaughter discussed in one of your previous posts.

  2. Only in the Novus Ordo Church (aka Nervous Disorder Church)... Those that offer solely the Latin Mass, would NEVER allow a waterpark location for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

    Just the mere fact that women would have to wear veils would point out the absurdity - if not already crystal clear- of attending Mass in a bathing suit!

    I say, BRING BACK THE TRIDENTINE MASS everywhere and forever, once more!

  3. Having recently returned from Maui, this post resonates with me.

    I wrote about my experiences at my blog (A Tale of Two (Maui) Parishes) and yes, they do things "differently" in Hawaii. One parish I attended on a regular basis reminded me of the days in our diocese when the celebration of Mass was routinely corrupted by misguided notions such as those you've written about.

    When will prelates, priests and people realize that the aged hippy-dippy generation, shorthand for "Spirit of Vatican II" folk, was and is wrong about the Liturgy? They mistakenly think that making the Liturgy "relevant" will engage young people. My experience with contemporary college students indicates that a different tack is required. The college students I know have indicated in no uncertain terms that they want Tradition. They want Catholic identity and substance not frothy, abuse ridden liturgies which focus on the people (rather than Christ) and only serve to create a cult of personality. They want deep ritual and many routinely go to the TLM at Our Lady Queen of Peace and the Latin OF on Saturdays. In brief, they want Christ not kitsch, Jesus not cheesy.

    One parish I attended in Kihei was dominated by aged hippy musicians. The young people I observed at Mass simply groaned or laughed at their "relevant" bad-country-bar performances. I had to chuckle, too, otherwise my rising blood pressure due to disgust would have had me make a whip out of cord and cleanse the Lord's temple of the "spirits of Vatican II". I opted to ask Saint Michael to intercede for the parish. The times I did make known my concerns regarding the heresy laden preaching and liturgical abuses were met with insincerity. The Holy Father noted recently that insincerity is the mark of the devil. Too true.

  4. I recently had the opportunity to talk to the Jacob and Matthew band who played during the event and played during mass at the water park. One of things we talked about was about the controversy caused by the celebration of mass bu Bishop Silva at the water park. I wanted to know their opinion since they have played for hundreds of masses in different events across North America. They told me that mass was celebrated with complete reverence, that they didn't at any point felt that the Holiness of this sacrament was not disturbed.

    I don't know if the author of this article attended the event but let's remember that things sometimes seem different from the outside. I think that they were trying to get more youth to come by hosting the event on an attractive location. This of course might have led teens to attend the event not because of the purpose of it but for the location. But we don't know if one of those teens found the grace and love of God during the event. I would say that if one soul was saved that day then it was worth the decision.

    We don't know what actions they took to make sure that the location did not affect the celebration of the Eucharist but I'm sure they thought this thing through.

  5. David, there are clear regulations that say a Mass at a water park is not acceptable, no matter if the band that played there thought it was "reverent". Of course God can use any situation to effect a conversion or show His grace and love; that does not excuse celebrating Mass in an improper venue. The bishop's decision to celebrate Mass at the water park was scandalous to many.


Please be courteous and concise.