September 3-5, 2001
volume 12, no. 148

Sustaining the Outrage    part two

By Michael J. Matt, Editor, The Remnant

Reprinted from The Remnant Newspaper with permission

    Confident that I would need no more directions on how exactly to locate a confessor, the lady flashed a half-pitying sort of smile in my direction and then walked across the "worship space," apparently without even a thought of genuflecting (that's just not done any more…it's so medieval). She joined a friend, who, I now noticed had been standing just to the left of the "butcher's block" there in the "worship space." He was a tall fellow, about forty years old, and, judging by the guitar which he wore around his neck, I concluded that he must be the lead cantor. I realized then that I had interrupted "choir" practice. The woman who had opened the door for me was now standing next to the guitar player, who, quite unexpectedly, shouted out: "Two, three, four…"

    And then it began…the staggeringly unsacred music of the Novus Ordo Missae. Strumming feverishly, the man shouted out his lyrics like one who'd idolized John Lennon or some such character all of his life and now, in the waning years of his failing career, was coming to the realization that this little church was about the closest to the concert stage he'd ever get. I'd say he had a penchant for butchering his lyrics with a kind of severity that was rather startling.

    At some point, the middle-aged woman jumped into the act, warbling her descants at a decibel level that, I felt sure, would have shattered stained glass…had there been any in the vicinity. Bless them, these two were quite a pair.

    Consider the scene: There was I, the only person in the pews of the tiny church, on my knees trying to pray. And there, only a few feet in front of me, two-thirds of a kind of Peter, Paul and Mary on Prozac act was working itself into a veritable jam session right there in the "worship space." All that was missing were a few hippies and a crackling campfire.

    I tried to pray, truly I did. But what was the point! This appalling scene went on and on. There was no sign that they were even aware of my presence, let alone that I might actually be experiencing some difficulty in trying to pray over the din.

    All at once, a tambourine came out as if from nowhere. They were really getting wound up now. The guitar should have been smoking from the almost frantic double and triple strumming to which it was being subjected; the tambourine chinked and clanked with such exuberance that I felt confident that it could well have given a healthy two-year-old an instant migraine. How that little church was being filled with a "joyful noise"! I wanted to run. I would have paid good money for a set of earplugs.

    I went from distraction, to annoyance, to an almost bemused disbelief in the space of only a few moments. And, maybe it was just me, but I seemed to detect on the faces of these two Dr. Seuss-goes-to-Woodstock "cantors" that look of fiery zeal that one associates with the Pentecostal revivalists. It says: "If you don't like what you're hearing, man, then there's something wrong with you 'cause we're doing the Lord's work here!" It was right on the verge of being genuinely aggressive.

    What they were doing was, to them anyway, of vital importance, I'm sure. It necessarily took precedence over everything else, including, quite obviously, another man's rather quaint desire to pray in church. It was at that point that I began to grow a little angry. The New Order mentality is so utterly rude, I thought. It is so callously offensive in its drive to stomp on everything others hold sacred, all in the name of cramming whatever is "hip" and "progressive" (according to them) down people's throats. I was trying to pray, and here were these two would-be pop stars belting out tawdry tunes like a couple of wayward adolescents who stumbled upon a hot mike during the band's coffee break at a wedding reception. I later checked the bulletin; sure enough, "Reconciliation" was scheduled to be held on Saturday afternoons between 3:30 and 4:15. In other words, this jamboree presumably went on every Saturday during "reconciliation time."

    Why on earth should it be that, on one of the only two remaining days when the church isn't locked, this ungodly wingding practice was scheduled to coincide with the very time when people might be trying to pray and confess their sins? What else can one call something like this except boorish and rude at best, and downright demonic at worst? Between the tabernacle and me, I had Mama Cass and Papa John in full voice to contend with. And, yet, from what I've been told, this goes on every Saturday afternoon, all around the St. Paul/Minneapolis Archdiocese.

The Little Innovations

    It's a comparatively small thing, I realize, but ever since this revolution landed, it has been the little things that have served to signify much larger effrontery to the Catholic heart. The table, for example, replacing the altar for the celebration of the Mass (this signified, as the Protestant "reformers" all vigorously advocated, the substitution of "meal" for "sacrifice"; the mistranslation of pro multis from "for many" to "for all" at the very heart of the New Mass (this signified the advance of the heresy of our day-universal salvation); the priest facing the people rather than God in the tabernacle (this signified that the Mass was to become more man-centered, whereby the priest would no longer lead the people in worshipping God at the altar, but would now turn around in order to become the presider or the emcee at the "communal meal"…with his back to God)-all of these seemingly small aberrations turned out to be, as we all now know, tremendously significant departures from sacred tradition. By comparison, disrupting the Saturday confession tradition is a little thing, but could it not also be indicative of a significant affront? Could it not signal the advent of a concerted effort to diminish respect for the Real Presence by trotting out pop musicians and turning the sanctuary into a stage during the one moment when people might be trying to put themselves back into the state of grace. Rather than affording special time and holy silence for sinners to repent, the new breed now introduces an endless array of heinous distractions that would cause a saint to lose patience.

    Call it coincidence if you will, but I think it's more than that. Could it not be that these things are carefully calculated? The devil is hard at work inside the Church today, especially where seemingly little things are concerned. He's turning everything upside down. He's robbing us of even the slightest chances to think, to contemplate, to repent and to pray. The New Mass is no exception to this. It's become a veritable talent show, whereby performers warble silly ditties during the most sacred parts of the Mass; gaggles of laywomen pack the "worship space" in order to engage in every manner of distracting activities; people gather before Mass for the "Gathering Rite" where conversation replaces contemplation and prayer; and-most importantly-the congregation is expected to "participate" in lock step with a program that was once as bizarre as it is now commonplace. They sing almost constantly, they shake hands, they link arms, they recite poetry in unison, they stand throughout the Consecration, they sometimes even dance in the aisles…anything to keep the mind distracted from the real reason that Christ founded His Church-to enable souls to be saved despite the temptations and distractions of a sinful world. Some Catholic churchmen today-just like their Protestant counterparts 500 years ago-seem to be putting all of their energies towards transforming the Christian religion into something which has as its singular aim to make people "feel good about themselves," "decrease negativity" and "have a good time." The New Mass has become all about that sort of thing. And sacrifice? Sin? Confession? Repentance? Hell? Too "scary"! Not entertaining! No place for these in the new Church.

THURSDAY: Part Three of Sustaining the Outrage

For the first part of this article, see Part One

September 3-5, 2001
volume 12, no. 148
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