Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Boring Catholic Mass: Fr. Hollowell

Fr. John Hollowell is not afraid to tell the world that “the Catholic Mass is boring.” And he assures us that this is a good thing. That may sound odd, but he makes a very good point.
What he actually means is that the Mass is not entertaining.

I’ve embedded his homily below, and have summarized it and added my own thoughts.

Fr. Hollowell notes that society places a very high value on entertainment. It’s part of the “all about me” culture. We’re supposed to always be entertained. Purveyors of information have to find an entertaining way to present that information, or it will be ignored. If we aren’t entertained, we are bored, and we’ll just walk away.

Fr. Hollowell also makes the point that most people who leave the Catholic Church do so because of the homilies or the music. If the homilies are bad (read, “not entertaining”), they are not being “fed”, and so they leave. Ditto, when the music is bad (read, “not entertaining”…and usually “not secular enough”).  What these folks generally mean is that their emotions are not aroused and they aren’t made to “feel good”.

I think Fr. Hollowell is right. People are looking for an emotional high at Mass, because they’ve been led to believe that this is what “church” is supposed to be. And if they don’t get the spiritual high, they look elsewhere for their “fix”. And that’s what it is, really.  I know; I’ve been there.  In the Protestant Pentecostal circles I ran in prior to my conversion to Catholicism, there was a not-so-subtle message that you had to be inspired to raise your hands and wave them in the air, fall down in ecstasy, speak loudly in tongues (or loudly interpret someone else’s “message”), and dance in the aisles, or you were spiritually constipated. A church that didn’t involve such things was deficient, not spirit-filled.

The main point of Fr. Hollowell’s homily is summed up as he quotes a line from the hymn Tantum Ergo:

Praestet fides supplementum
Sensuum defectui

Which is to say, basically: May our faith supply what our senses fail to grasp.”

As Father points out, we should not even hope to understand what happens at Mass. That God Himself comes down to us at the behest of a priest who stands at the altar in persona Christi, and allows Himself to be physically consumed by us, thereby becoming one with us…well, all of that is just unbelievable. Faith is a major requirement.

And you can’t see that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. The host looks the same before and after consecration. Transubstantiation is a mystery that we cannot fathom, even if we have some words to describe it.

The effects of the Mass on our souls are also not always tangible. As Father points out, there may be times when we “feel” something. But feelings are fleeting and unreliable. The important thing is that we know what is happening at Mass; that we ponder the mystery; that we simply receive Our Lord in Holy Communion, knowing that He is present; that we worship God in the liturgy as He has instructed us.

It takes a great amount of faith to be a faithful Catholic.

Funny, one of the favorite songs we sang in my former Pentecostal church was “We walk by faith”. I don’t remember all of the lyrics, but it was a constant theme: we walk by faith and not by sight.

Well, where is that more true than in the Catholic Church?

Our faith is not based on sight! We don’t generally have manifestations of God’s power in the form of angel feathers falling from the ceiling, or people’s dental fillings turning to gold. This, I fear, is a weakness of the Catholic “charismatic” movement; people are turning from faith in the unseen to the seeking of consolations manifested in the physical world.

But we have an even greater miracle at every single (valid) Mass – a miracle that eclipses every other miracle: the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ!

You can’t see it. Catholics walk by faith, not by sight.

Praestet fides supplementum
Sensuum defectui

Be sure to check out Fr. Hollowell's blog On This Rock, as well as his second blog, I Have a Say. He is also spearheading the effort to produce a documentary film ("Unnatural Law?") to reveal the truth about homosexuality. He's on Face Book and Twitter, too - see his blog for more info on those
Here's his homily:


  1. Oh I remeber those days Dr. Jay : yep all caught up in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, an emotional HIGH indeed ...and I too attended a non demonational church , went to classes there, even tried out for there music ministry and was turned down and went was re baptized by submersion (that's a no no folks) oh yes the Mass is boring , thanks be to God but as I attend St. Francis de Sales Oratory and the Tradional Latin Mass I am in awe, it is majestic and I am transport to Heaven and Heaven and Earth touch , then I filled with HIS PRESENCE and I am alive! Thanks be to Goid!

  2. God delivered me from all that MADNESS and insanity , I rejoice !
    I want to WORSHIP my God and I longer need to "feel good" I need to be converted DAILY , as I prepare for ETERNITY! That's what matters NOW dear friends ..nothing but GOD ALONE!

  3. I know exactly what you mean, Jeannie!


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