Friday, April 29, 2011

The bottom line

Although I was grateful to be able to attend Easter morning mass at St. Vincent's this year, it was terribly disconcerting to have yet another lay homilist give a testimony.

I don't think these dear people fully understand the situation when they bow to pressure from parish leadership and agree to sermonize during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

I gleaned from the administrator's homily that no matter what 'storm' we are going through, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ will help us through it. I get that. In fact, I got that at countless Evangelical (and Pentecostal and Charismatic) church services in my past. So, on this very holy day of the liturgical calendar, I was somewhat shocked that the deacon called up a parishioner to give a personal testimony of healing.

This is where it gets tough. We all like to hear of Holy Spirit healing. It is a wonderful thing. But there is no provision for a lay person to give a homily or 'reflection' or a 'testimony'. Our parish and diocesan leadership is fond of giving a tortured interpretation of instruction from the Church as justification for lay preaching. See here and here and here and here for some formation about this subject. If you do a google search you will find plenty of info, both for and against lay homilies. In our parish I have yet to see an occasion for justifying this liturgical abuse.

This special type of abuse is one that the administrator is fond of committing, I suspect because using fellow parishioners makes it more difficult for those who are distressed by such abuses to make their feelings known.

One of the things that drew me as a Protestant to the Catholic mass, was the sacred liturgy. It was the full cross, the vertical, as well as the horizontal. Gradually, I began to enter into a deeper understanding and experience of worship. At times I felt as if I had never truly worshiped God outside of a mass. The depth and width and height of Christian worship was something I had not experienced at a non-Catholic church service.

I feel truly blessed to be able, as a Catholic, to enter fully into worship at mass. The 9-month period of RCIA, during which candidates and catechumens cannot receive the Eucharist, was so painful at times. As I became accustomed to the sacred rhythm and flow of the mass, the desire to receive our Lord was overwhelming at times. The mass builds to this apex.

Mass is primarily about worshiping God. He is the Reason we go to mass. We don't go there to be entertained or titillated. It is that holy time of the week in which we enter, along with the angels, into worship of Him. There is a spiritual balance to the mass that has its roots in the Hebrew worship of God in the Tabernacle, and its completion and fulfillment in the mass today. The infinite (God) and the finite (man) come together. Heaven comes down to earth.

When the divinely-authorized balance of the mass is disrupted by a breach of the liturgy, a spiritual discord, a false note jars the concentration. Suddenly, it's not so much about Him anymore. It's about us. And then it's a short step to noticing that person coughing and the fidgeting baby. And then our mind wanders and we're thinking of next week's work.

And that brings me to the bottom line. Nothing is so important or 'good' that it is worth taking our minds off worshiping God in the mass. The. Holy. Sacrifice. Of. The. Mass. God has provided us many ways to seek and find Him, and He is always with us. And it is a sacred privilege to worship Him in the mass as handed down to us from Holy Mother Church. Anything less is unworthy of Him.


  1. well said, Gretchen. You comment that "mass is primarily about worshiping God" reminded me of this recent article:
    which states
    "For my part, I am encouraged by the fact that the Catholic Church perceives no dichotomy between God-centered worship and meeting the needs of her members, which is why the Sacrifice of the Mass has always been the heart of Catholic liturgy."

  2. Very beautiful and all so true. I had to ask myself several times on Easter Sunday the
    holiest of days why in fact we once again had to
    listen to a lay person give the homily. There were many around me who also voice this same concern. It was such a beautiful Sunday with St. Vincents filled beyond capacity and then once again a lay homily. To think that she was also "healed" by a lay person at St. Marys 'healing service' was just quite a stretch. It seems quite sacrilegious to allow a 'service' like that to continue. I truly sympathize with here burden and said my own prayers for her. What I have to ask though is, doesnt she understand it is the prayers of many that were answered and had zero to do with a lay person pretending to heal her? I can only hope that the medical reports are left out of the pulpit in the future and lets save it for an appropriate time and place.

  3. This homily business is just another case of the DofR and the clergy picking and choosing which canons of the Code of Canon Law they are going to practice. And they accuse the laity of being "cafeteria Catholics". As for Easter at All Saints, it was another example of dismissing the role of the priest and puffing up that of the deacon and his ignoring Canon Law. Finally this member can no longer be associated with such hypocracy. I trust God understands I can no longer let Church be such an occasion of sin.