Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Recently, I dreamt that I was caught up in an unusual weekday "children's liturgy" with clowns and puppets. The pews moved like bumper cars! I fought the impulse to leave in order to see what other shenanigans might occur.

Who could have guessed how premonitory the dream was.1

Yesterday evening, I experienced an upsetting service offered by a priest from the next town. His rushed homily was wholly Marian. He began with the story of the coronation of Pope Benedict XV2, whose Italian name he also gave. Owing to his relative young age, the cardinal's mother attended. He allowed her to kiss his fisherman's ring but she ordered him to kiss her wedding ring first for, without that one, he wouldn't have the other.

Amid all that pompous Catholicism was a story about mothers for Mother's Day. Ah. Still, the context put me on guard.

Next, in promoting daily rosary recitation, he quoted a popular bumper sticker.

But the worst offense, in my opinion, was his leading the congregation in a recitation of the "Hail Mary" after the intercessions. To my mind, this is a mixing of devotion with liturgy3 which I've encountered before. Anyway, I didn't participate in the prayer but remained silent.

Afterwards, I approached the priest as he greeted exiting congregants in the vestibule and, under the interested gaze of the deacon, asked the priest to bless my rosary. He did so elegantly. Later, my memory suggested this rosary had already been blessed, years ago on retreat at a Jesuit house which had the privilege of granting papal blessings. But maybe that blessing wore off when that pope died and needed renewing for I've received very little blessing from praying on this particular set of beads.

I contacted my friend who's in this priest's parish and she gets on quite well with him. He just came across as, well, being consistent with the latest push in the diocese to accentuate Catholic distinctives and identity. While I don't discount those unique aspects of Catholicism, I'm not interested in those things being the sole focus of the practice of the faith. Especially in the context of liturgy. Ironically, he referenced a pope who penned an encyclical lamenting the poor state of Christian preaching (Humani Generis Redemptionem) and encouraged the preaching of the Gospel.

1 But I don't believe in premonitions.
2 Yes, 15.
3 This question was answered at EWTN a number of years ago: "The general tendency of the Vatican II reforms was to separate devotional prayers from the liturgical action itself ... the people are free to offer their own personal devotional prayers during the Mass, though not out loud, of course. So, ... it is not contrary to the liturgy, per se, though the reform tends against it."

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