Saturday, November 26, 2011

My husband says I'm obsessed. He's probably right.

I'm back from the First Sunday of Advent, experiencing the revised Roman Catholic liturgy for the first time. My main reaction is frustration that maybe about half the congregation appears even aware of some sort of change. About half are referencing the sheets, holding them in their hands. A few others are, like myself, holding a newsprint missal because no reasonably-priced Catholic publisher has released their offering yet. The rest don't seem to notice that they are no longer saying the right words.

The cantor did not pronounce "eleison" correctly. How could she, when she's so young, she's never heard it sung before1. Again, more frustration because I love a well-done Kyrie. I panicked when we appeared to skip the Gloria, suspecting that the priest thought the changes too much for us! But then I realized omitting it is prescribed during Advent.

Myself, I messed up the Creed, despite holding the missal inches from my face. I was following along, but a rubric appears between a couple of lines in the middle of the text and, as I read that direction silently to myself, I missed following the next line. Instead, I began on auto-pilot, "by the power of the Holy Spirit," before my eyes caught up again with the text.

The changes in the eucharistic prayer appeared even more drastic than they are because my pastor habitually uses one of the two "Reconciliation" prayers during Advent, which aren't very familiar anyway. The priest has always self-edited on the fly, with varying degrees of success, exchanging masculine pronouns for inclusive language wherever necessary. So it's fun to see how he modifies the revised prayer. I've never heard him refer to Mary as "Mother of God," much less now "glorious."2

The so-called "clunky" phraseology characteristic of Latin syntax, in which a prayer's main thought is interrupted almost from the get-go by a subordinate clause, reminds me of the prattle of an excited, tongue-tied child. I'm not sure this is the intended effect.

The disposable, annual missal includes the present pope's name, "Benedict," instead of the customary, generic "N." A first, no doubt.

As I approached for communion, I noticed that my fingertips were dirty from using the inexpensive, newsprint missal. The fresh print had rubbed off. How diligently I had tried to obtain a better quality book for myself before Sunday! I hesitated, then, to receive communion in my hand and so, was struck by the irony of it. "Hadn't traditionalists predicted the new liturgy would move us to a deeper reverence for the eucharist. But for such a reason as this?" I told myself it couldn't be helped.

I'm in the habit of tidying up the choir loft where we sit after everyone leaves. What used to be a quick, simple task has sprawled into something almost out of control, as I separate liturgical cheat sheets from church bulletins mindlessly mixed into the stack. And the presence of loose papers isn't ending anytime soon.

My prediction is the new liturgical words will not promote greater participation, no matter how reverent those words are perceived to be. In fact, reverence is considered pretentious, and Catholic laypeople shun pretense. Instead, as more people realize the old responses won't wash anymore, they'll simply stop responding. They'll close their mouths altogether and not bother learning the new words. So those altar servers better start speaking up!

UPDATED 12/9/2011: I've attended now five of these new liturgies, three Sundays, one weekday and the Immaculate Conception holy day. We've managed to say the Creed only once, on that first Sunday of Advent. On the second Sunday, a prolonged homily addressed to the confirmandi caused the Creed to be omitted. It was skipped at the weekday service, of course and, inexplicably, at the solemnity. I expect the Creed will not be routinely omitted, as it was, I recall, at St. Anselm's in Wayside under Fr. Bob.

At Bible study last night, a friend asked me what "prevenient" means. I told him. He said the word appeared in the offertory prayers for the Immaculate Conception liturgy and even the priest stumbled over the word. I don't actually remember hearing the word myself. My friend had gone home and looked up the word in the dictionary, having never heard it before and was surprised I knew the word. I told him "pre" means "before" and "venient" means "coming," like "vent" in "Advent." I know the word simply from having studied Wesleyanism ("prevenient grace" - Wiki).

1 I've been again since and she's been corrected by someone, singing it properly now.
2 However, at the Immaculate Conception liturgy - he struggles the most on the Marian holy days - he acknowledged Mary's intercession on our behalf.

Comparison of Immaculate Conception prayers
Click to enlarge

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Neither of my regular Bible studies were meeting today so I stopped by the Presbyterian church in town for their mid-morning study with the pastor. I had been reminded of it on Sunday morning when I attended their worship in anticipation of the evening ecumenical prayer service. I'm quite sure I did exactly the same trifecta last year at this time.

It's a comfortable group, only one person I didn't recognize from last time. The first 30 minutes was spent in chit-chat and housekeeping, especially transferring the money collected at the ecumenical prayer service to the one who would purchase the food cards.

Catholics and Catholicism came up rather frequently and without warning. One lady noted that she's heard the Catholics are changing their "form," by which I think she meant liturgy. Another lady talked about gender issues and the suppression of women in Christianity beginning, she supposed, with the Catholic church in the Middle Ages.
There were books kept out of the Bible about women, like Judith. Of course, God told them which books to put in the Bible.
That's what she said.

The pastor showed me a picture of his grandson and I told him he was lucky to have such a cute grandson. He echoed back that he's lucky but it seemed to stick in his craw. I could have as easily said "blessed" but that seems so trite among Christians. I wanted what I said to effect him.

There were some other housekeeping issues discussed, enough to cure me of any desire to know the inner workings of my own parish, thank you very much.

The one lady, Suzie - so says her license plate - is the former Catholic who came in like a ball of fire to tell about a funny video by Sr. Mary Pat.1 I resisted the temptation to correct her when she fumbled for the routine's proper title, referring to it as "Night Sunday School" and "Nighttime Catholicism." I didn't want to appear to be too familiar with the program. She had, apparently, emailed the video's link to the pastor and some other people in the Bible study. She explained it to me and others who didn't have email. She wondered aloud whether she should forward the link to my pastor, Fr. Mike, but her pastor said he's probably already seen it.
Not that he wouldn't appreciate it.
She seemed to be still a little high from the ecumenical prayer service in which there were so many Catholics "in da' house."

We got to Genesis eventually and the reverend allowed me to read verses 26 and 27. I had the proper version with me this time, the NRSV. He distributed the entry for Genesis in the "Oxford Guide to the Bible," except they called it the Oxford Companion. I almost acknowledged having that book at home but wasn't real sure about it. Turns out, I do have it.

We talked about the first person plural, "our," and what it means to be made in God's image. We went on to chapter 2 and talked about dietary issues. The grown children of several of the participants were vegetarians, looking ahead to another meatless Thanksgiving. We talked about the significance of the sabbath rest and the pastor said that his professional journals encourage him to pick another day during the week for rest. They remembered how blue laws used to be when they were younger: Sunday was a day at home without options. They talked about how chains were drawn across the roads leading to the Methodist town of Ocean Grove. One couldn't drive in Ocean Grove on Sunday. Asbury Park was also mentioned and the pastor noted that "Asbury" is a well-known Methodist name - Asbury Theological Seminary - so he supposed the Methodists had also founded that town. I should have been the one to think of that connection! Cokesbury I would have got!

The pastor read a footnote from the book he had shared with us that he's enjoying at the moment about how when polled people overstate how often they attend church on Sunday. Even though they report about 30% attendance, actual attendance is about half that. Someone worked the numbers out for the town - about 8,000 inhabitants and they draw a weekly Sunday attenance of 70 people. So, the question was raised whether most town folks were going to St. Joseph's on Sunday? What's their weekend turnout like? I said nothing.

However, when the pastor speculated that Fr. MIke offered five weekend masses, I told him three. When he said 6500 families, I said 4,000. When they asked how many actually show up on Sunday, I gestured towards the reference book and said, "A quarter." And I kicked myself all the way to the car for taking the bait. They're designed to sniff people out. It's what they do. As if my name doesn't give it away. Just as well, I don't foresee any occasion to go back.

1 It seems to be Maripat, one word. Part of the humor, I suppose.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I cut back on computer usage but the debilitating pain in my arm and shoulder persisted. What's the cause? Only after swimming twice in one day did I realize the pain comes from how I turn in the pool. I can't flip turn, so I used my right arm to hoist my legs to the wall for push off. Too much. I've switched now to using both arms and the pain has lessened significantly.

I recently increased the length of time I swim from 70 minutes to 80 minutes. What I noticed about adding time is it isn't added in the middle when I still feel good. No, the added time necessarily comes at the end of the workout when I'd rather quit. But after a couple of weeks of swimming the extra ten minutes, I've gotten used to it.

I'm also attempting to change my breathing pattern. I presently breathe every third stoke which has the added benefit of working the kinks out of my neck. But some mornings the kinks don't work out no matter what, so I breathe every fifth stoke. I can do this for only about 15 minutes / 10 laps. I pull stronger on non-breath strokes. I equate this to 100 m hurdles technique, 3-step vs. 5-step1, except the numbers are inverted. Breathing every fifth stroke is preferred but I need to work up to it.

Beginning Tuesday, the swim team takes over the pool from 5 am to 6 am, the principle time I go each weekday, until February. I joined another pool in the meantime which doesn't open until 6 am. The other pool is geographically closer to my house but the later opening still means less time overall. I'll have to see how it goes. Most days I can swim after I've taken the kids to school.

1 I have never ran hurdles, neither have I ever swam competitively.