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December 2022

A Mass that Looks Like A Mass in a Church that Looks Like a Church




As I have said many times, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a reverent Novus Ordo Mass. There is also nothing wrong with a three-legged ballerina, but how often do you see one?

People who live up north, in cities with large Catholic populations, tell me that they don't have a problem finding a reverent N.O. Mass. That's great for them. But should it be the case that your ability to find a reverent Mass has everything to do with where you live?

I'm a convert and this is my 29th year as a Catholic. I have lived the bulk of those years in Los Angeles and Orlando. Both are places where a reverent N.O. Mass cannot be found. Trust me, I have put a lot of miles on cars in an effort to find, as I always said, "A Mass that looks like a Mass in a church that looks like a church."

St. James Cathedral in Orlando can be counted on for a reverent Mass, but there were years where it couldn't be counted on for a priest that anyone could understand. We gave up on it because our son was young and we were afraid he would be bored, plus we wanted him to be able to understand the homilies and learn from them. The Cathedral now has excellent priests and their Mass is a reverent as a N.O. Mass can be. We would be going to Mass there, had we not found a home elsewhere.

Our oldest kids were raised at a big fancy parish in the wealthiest area of Orlando. As they were growing up, we had a priest who liked to throw a lot of ad lib into the Eucharistic prayer, which drove me nuts. It was all very happy-clappy and, as is the case with most modern N.O. parishes, there was no pressure on anyone to do anything. God was cool with whatever.  Our oldest kids learned nothing about the faith.  I remember one night we asked our son Brian where he was going and he said, "Religious Ed, otherwise known as bowling." So yes, I think there's a cause and effect thing there.

Yes, we tried to teach them what the Church teaches and why it was important, but we are SO out-numbered by teachers who were making secular humanists out of them. This is why it is important for the Church to teach the faith. Otherwise, Catholicism just looks like some kind of lunacy that their parents cooked up. We got a lot of "no one believes what you guys believe." And the Church was not putting up any argument with that.

The following things happened to us while we were members there: (1) a priest made the congregation sing "Jesus Christ is Coming to Town." (2) a different priest made us sing "If You're Happy and You Know It." The entire thing. (3) a third priest made us turn to the person next to us and say, "Hello, Sweet Pumpkin." (3) yet another priest used to sing songs he had written in the middle of the homily, and tell us where we could get his CD's. (4) another priest, who was the pastor at the time, introduced -- at the end of Mass, so right after communion -- a teenage girl with long, stringy blonde hair, who came to the front with her acoustic guitar and sang a song about the security code to the Adoration chapel, to the tune of "Sunshine on My Shoulders." (Yes, we went through a lot of priests. Each one worse than the one before.) We put up with all of this for years because it was the church closest to our house, which was my only hope of getting there on time. My husband is a lovely man, but they don't call him "the late Chris Walker" for nothing.)

There was no praying to be had at the swanky modern parish. Before Mass, everyone talked to keep from being bored. Lots of conversations about which section of the parking lot had been the most crowded, lunch or dinner plans (depending on with Mass we went to), and a LOT of talk about kids' sports. During communion, the choir (which came with drums and a cowbell) sang loudly. Depending on the Mass, the music was either taken from "praise and worship" Christian radio or the St. Louis Jesuits. I would wake up on Sunday mornings knowing that Mass was going to make me furious and dreading going to church. This went on for years.

Full disclosure: my husband and I liked going to 5 pm Mass because we are night owls and retired (sort of) and don't like getting up early. That was "youth Mass." ( Can I just say there is a reason Jesus didn't choose 12 adolescents?) Our son loved the Mass because all of his friends were there, and because he became very active in the youth ministry. So we continued to put up with it because of him. We rarely heard anything heretical from the pulpit, and when we did, we pointed it out to him. We were blessed with two years of an incredibly good and reverent associate pastor. But the bishop found out that the associate pastor was holding extra nights for Adoration and sometimes -- egads -- saying Mass Ad Orietum for the teenagers. The teenagers both loved and requested it, but this could not stand. The good priest got shipped off to the outskirts of town and the bishop installed his favorite priest in his place. That priest had only been ordained for a couple of years, but he became pastor in record time. And he is Fr. Happy-Clappy on steroids.

Our son graduated from high school and went off to college. We kept going to the same Mass out of habit (and because we could sleep in.) But Fr. Happy-Clappy was dropping in a lot of things that were against Church teaching. Even though we knew better and we were no longer in charge of impressionable young minds, it bothered us. More than that, the lack of reverence was really weighing on us -- perhaps convicting us -- and one Sunday we hit the point where we just couldn't take another minute of it.

We toyed with the idea of going to the TLM parish one town over, but in an effort to give Mass in English one more shot, we decided to try the Anglican Ordinariate. I knew exactly one thing about the Anglican Ordinariate parish: they were the only Catholic Church in Orlando that did not close their doors during Covid. We figured that was a very good sign.

And so we walked through the doors of Incarnation Catholic Church and were greeted by the smell of incense and candle wax. The church was full and everyone was on their knees, praying. NO ONE was talking. The men were dressed in suits and the women were wearing dresses and prayer veils. It was like we had gone through a portal and ended up in the early 1960's. My husband said it was just like the Mass he had served as an altar boy.

We have now been there for over a year. I wake up on Sunday mornings thrilled that it's Sunday. I leave the Mass feeling like I am ready for whatever the world wants to throw at me. It has been a great year because our spirits have been fed and our priorities are straight. (By now God must be really tired of hearing me thank him for answering my prayer: Mass that looks like Mass in a church that looks like a church.) We are finally able to worship with people who pay God the respect He deserves!

The priest at Incarnation is Fr. "Doc" Holiday. He is a former Marine and a former cop. He used to be on the Orlando SWAT team. And Fr. Holiday -- as the kids say -- he don't play. Don't get me wrong. He has a great sense of humor and his homilies are highly entertaining. But he is not there to "accompany" us. He is there to set us straight.

You will be hearing about all of this in the blog's future. My husband and I feel like we have found an oasis where we can ride out the storm. (That is, until Pope Francis has finished destroying the TLM and turns his attention to the Ordinariate, lest any reverence for God remain on the planet.) Yeah, I've got some things to say about the so-called Holy Father, too.

As I discovered the last time I tried blogging, writing about the Church is like putting a "Kick Me" sign around your neck. Actually, these days, it's more like a "Cancel Me" or even a "Kill Me" sign around your neck. (George Neumayr reported that he got a lot of death threats.) The difference between last time and this time is that I'm old now. What one loses in physical ability is made up for in the freedom of not giving a damn what anyone thinks of you. I wouldn't be young again if you paid me. So kick me, cancel me, kill me, whatever. There's a lot to be said for martyrdom, either white or red. That's one way I could make up for my misspent youth.

The Church is in horrible shape. Someone has to stand up for Her. I volunteer as tribute.

I'm Back, Sort Of...

Woman-checking-water-swimming-pool-260nw-1653387460I would like to re-join the blogging world, but I am approaching it like I approach a cold pool. I'll put a foot in and see how it feels. Once the foot is not freezing, I'll put my leg in up to the knee. You get the picture.

I just spent a little over two years writing a book for Ignatius Press. The working title is "The Sound of Silence" and it is a memoir of my friendship with Fr. Paul Mankowski, SJ, of happy memory. The book is full of emails that passed between us and we both did love a good rant, so I should have a lot of ranting out of my system, but it doesn't work that way. I won't live long enough to have all of the ranting out of my system. St. John the Baptist did a lot of ranting. For that matter, so did Jesus.

There is plenty to rant about these days. The world is a cesspool and the Church doesn't seem to be much better. Many of the things that I loved are now gone from the world: manners, logic, and a love for the Truth. I used to say that we were living in a post-Truth society, but we have now reached the point where we are living in an anti-truth society. The things that used to comfort me are gone: book stores are gone, movies are all horrible, and now the president is coming for my gas stove. These are not hard times. These are INSANE times. We have a president who hates the country and a pope who hates Catholicism. How is a normal person to live in times such as these? That is what I'm working my way through right now. I wish I could go back in time, but no one has invented a time machine yet. (To my knowledge.) 

Flannery O'Connor said it perfectly in Wiseblood: "“Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it.” I have been finding ways to get away from it. I will be blogging about those in the days to come.