Friday, March 30, 2012

Chrism Mass: Diocese of Baker

The Chrism Mass is a very special event, of course. When I experienced my first one, I was overwhelmed and encouraged at the sight of all those priests together in one place. I especially appreciated it as a reminder of the maleness of the priesthood; it was nice to see all those men where we usually see so many women milling around the sanctuary as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion or as readers, announcers, or cantors.

Last night the Chrism Mass for the Diocese of Baker was celebrated at St. Francis de Sales Cathedral (due to the long distances priests are required to travel in our diocese, the Chrism Mass is held the week before Holy Thursday). It was supposed to have been extra special, as our Bishop-Elect, Fr. Liam Cary, was to be there to preach. Unfortunately, but understandably, he had to change his plans due to his full schedule, and he was not in attendance at all.

I know from personal experience that many people are involved in the planning of the Chrism Mass, and they all work hard and with sincere desire to provide a good liturgy. They also provide a meal for the priests, help with finding them lodging, etc. And of course, distributing the oils is quite an undertaking, as the oils have to be carefully poured into containers for transport. The Chrism Mass is no small effort for this little community!

That said, I offer some photos with commentary. I hope any of my comments that can be construed as overly critical will instead be taken in the spirit in which I intend them: as constructive criticism. 

Before Mass: the antependium is floor-length and the table is well-covered. Still, there are nicer fabrics that would make a more appropriate vestment for the altar; perhaps someday I will be able to make some suggestions for fabric and design. I'd be happy to sew it, too.

The procession was just beginning here, and the Knights of Columbus were taking their stations.

The procession continues and the priests take their places. You can also see the "Folk Group" (choir) in the right hand of my pet peeves. The choir loft was empty, save for me, my friend Doc, and about 4 other people. 

Here is another shot where you can see the choir in their place next to the sanctuary. 

There are very good musicians in the "Folk Group", and a number of very fine voices. When this group sings a  cappella at the beginning of the Easter Vigil Mass, it's beautiful. (Go here for an interesting discussion of the correct spelling of "a cappella"!). 

While these folks can play their guitars quite well, I find that particular instrument to be such a distraction - not to mention the poor, idle organ that has "pride of place" and is available in the choir loft! If only this group would be encouraged to learn and sing the Gregorian chants proper to each Mass! They could start with the Simple English Propers, for example. 

The "Gloria" sung at this Mass included an oft-repeated refrain, so the choir has obviously not received the memo about that prohibition.

Attendance seemed adequate; I estimated about 125 people, but I'm not really all that good at that sort of estimation. I counted 29 priests in attendance. (That's about the limit of my patience for counting actual bodies!)

Everyone is seated...

Here's the procession to the ambo for the reading of the Gospel. 

Now I will take the opportunity to rant a little about female altar servers. The Cathedral has quite a few instituted acolytes - read, adult males - but seldom uses them to full effect. What better place to put all of them into play than at the Chrism Mass? The bishop is there...all those priests...the deacons of the diocese...and if we then added the laymen who serve as instituted acolytes, we would have a wonderful picture of the hierearchy of the Church.

There are instituted acolytes throughout the diocese, and often at least a few of them are willing to travel to the Cathedral. The diocese even boasts a couple of instituted lectors; it would have been great to have used their services rather than using female readers for the first two readings.

Below: case in point. Is it just me? (Some will say yes, but others will agree with me.) Here we have the deacon reading the Gospel, flanked by three young women. There is just something inherently wrong with this picture!

Again, I know that  the people at the Cathedral worked hard to make everything go smoothly and reverently, and I appreciate that. Still, I would also appreciate it if they would be open to making the Mass(es) of the Cathedral even more closely aligned with the rubrics and the traditions of the Church. 

The Cathedral is, after all, the mother church of the diocese, and should set the highest standard for liturgical excellence!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please be courteous and concise.