Sunday, October 9, 2011

Why I Dread Sunday Mass

To be fair, for almost a whole year, I did NOT dread Sunday Mass! That was because for almost a year, a priest in the parish 45 miles from our house celebrated Mass in the extraordinary form almost every Sunday. Now it's been 6 weeks since that priest has been able to celebrate that Mass, and that has left me and my husband with very few options, none of them good.

So, currently, I dread Sunday Mass.

We live in Eastern Oregon. The towns are far apart, and the Catholic churches even more widely spaced. But I'm not complaining about the distances; it's what's available (or not available) in each place that bothers me. And I'm not complaining about the lack of an extraordinary form Mass (okay, yes, I am complaining about that) but I am not opposed to attending a liturgically-correct, reverent Novus Ordo Mass as long as the rubrics are followed and the music is the official music of the Church.

As soon as we knew it would be some weeks before we could attend "our" Mass, we debated the alternatives. We could go to the Cathedral on Sunday morning. On the plus side, this is the location closest to our home - 12 miles. In addition...uh...well...let's see...there must be something else positive about it...oh! It's a very beautiful, hundred-year-old church with lovely stained glass windows.

But...the music. Guitars. Tambourines. Ditties from "JourneySongs". Additions like "Come Now, Children, Come" for the children's dismissal, and another tune for the sign of peace. Puh-lease. I have spent the past year becoming intimately familiar with the Gregorian chant propers and ordinaries, in Latin, for the extraordinary form of the Mass. Nothing can compare to the beauty of those chants, in my humble opinion. But surely there is something closer to that quality than the kindergarten songs that OCP has to offer in their various song books.

There is much more I object to at the Cathedral, but music is a big issue for me. So let's move on to the other options. We could attend the Sunday morning Mass at the same church in La Grande, 45 miles from home, where we've been attending the extraordinary form for the past year. But the same issue exists there: the music. OCP, this time "Breaking Bread". Piano. Guitars. Tambourines. And occasionally, a trumpet. It's not worth the 90 minute round trip for that. about the little mission church only 15 miles from home? We attended there for a year or so, too, before Father started offering the extraordinary form. We were forewarned providentially, however, when a friend emailed me to say that she was in charge of the music there, and her strategy was to play CD's. Since there is a substantial Hispanic population, she would play two songs in English and two in Spanish. She told me that the Nigerian priest said most of the Mass in English and Spanish - that is, saying it in one language and then giving the translation in the other. He also gave the homily in both languages. This did not sound like something I wanted to sit through. We have not even tried that option.

We could go to the Saturday evening Mass at the Cathedral. That, actually, is the option we chose. There are only musicians for that Mass every other week (and that's another story). On the off weeks, there are no musicians; the priest leads the singing, and it's all a cappella. I like hearing the people sing, though the choice of songs is not always (or even often) appropriate. And then there's the fact that the priest, unable to sing while administering Holy Communion, places a little CD player ON THE ALTAR, turns up the volume, and plays a song for us. It is the least offensive of our choices. (Although the CD player ON THE ALTAR is a little over the top, and I have to close my eyes in order to ignore it.)

One week, when we just could not face another Mass with the priest at the Cathedral, we opted for the Saturday evening Mass in La Grande. It wasn't too bad, but...the music. Two women singing, with guitars. Standard OCP fare. Ugh.

One other alternative is the Spanish Mass at the Cathedral on alternate Sundays. Not too bad, especially when the singing is a capella, even though it still sounds like kids' Bible songs. When they have the mariachi band, though, I cringe. Still, since my Spanish is not very good, it's easier to block out the priest's homily, which generally consists of platitutes from email "forwards".

I dread Sunday Mass. It's not just the music. It's what the music says about the state of our Church. Yes, I know Jesus is there at these Masses. I try to focus on that fact, and on Him. But the music says that we don't truly understand the Mass. We don't get that it is a whole, that it is meant to be sung, that it should all fit together, that it honors the King of the Universe. The music, as I have experienced it around here, detracts from my experience of the Mass. It is something I have to struggle to overcome in order to see Jesus in the Eucharist. It's not supposed to be that way.

I became even more aware of all this after attending a workshop on the new translation and the changes in the words of the Mass this past weekend. The workshop was based on a program called "Mystical Body, Mystical Voice" from Liturgy Training Publications. More on that in another post...


  1. I feel for you. I really do. I don't know what to say, except 'move.' And now, with the crisis in the Church, and Benedict getting more and more frail, and the irresolution between SSPX and Rome (which speaks to the TLM and its availability, for many of us), picking where to move to might be really tough. Will the mass be there next year? Who kows!

    I just don't know of any sadness like frustration at worship. I have gone home in tears many times. The tougher life gets, the more I need mass, and it gets tougher every day. I don't have access to daily TLM, but I did once, in Guadalajara.

    If I could suggest something that helps, you might pray the daily divine office--I mean the real one and the complete real one, that is, including the wonderful readings at Matins, in English. Baronius Press puts out a brand new one--pricey, $350, appropriate quality for it, including the vulgate for the Latin side. But there's a free way, too--Divinum Officium online, just google it. It will do all the work for you, you won't have to learn the layout at all. It's wonderful. The entire office is tied in to the mass, it feels just like the mass, that solemn--and filling. And frankly, it brings the drama, the real supernatural drama of our lives. The office is based on the psalms, with prayers by the same folks who brought us the collects in the mass, and you know how those get down to the nitty gritty, as far as pleading goes. Save us! Save us! I can't pray it enough.

    One more reference--you might like to read the 'Merits of the Mass.' It's late, I forget who wrote it but I have it on my blog, put Merits of the Mass whitelilyblog in google and you'll get to it. It's a compilation of the teachings regarding mass, the progression or range of grace that may be earned based on certain standards, that backs up your feeling that you are being robbed by these sorry liturgies you must suffer Sunday after Sunday. You are. You get less merit, because there's an algorhythm to how much we get for the extrinsic components of mass, which can vary, for the music, for one thing. (The intrinsic merit of each mass, being Christ, never varies). Anyway the author uses the traditional sources to make the complete picture about how to get the most grace.

    But I myself have the mass, for now, at least once a week and sometimes more. I'm really sorry for you to be without it. Of course, you offer it up, and maybe end up with more merit, for all that. Also we have to keep in mind that these people are our brothers and sisters in Christ and need taught, as they say in Pittsburgh. Best wishes! Animo!

  2. Thanks for your sympathies! I'll check out the book you mentioned...and I do pray the Divine Office, too. I agree with you - it is such a consolation. And it is also "second in command" to the Mass,so that's a good thing too. With our new bishop, things may change soon with regard to the availability of the TLM.


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