Attending a Parody Mass in the Spirit of Vatican II
I attended a Parody Mass yesterday afternoon. And while something that is a “parody” is usually done for comic effect, I left the Mass quite saddened.
What is a “Parody Mass”? While every Catholic should know what the “Mass” is, it’s clear that there are large numbers of Catholics and more than a few priests who actually don’t know what the”Mass” means (and why some 50+% of men are “bored in the Mass” and “don’t get anything out of the Mass”: if you understand the Mass, boredom is not really possible). From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1324-1332):
The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.”
“The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit.”
Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.
In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking.”
The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament is expressed in the different names we give it. Each name evokes certain aspects of it. It is called:
Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving to God. The Greek words eucharistein and eulogies recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim – especially during a meal – God’s works: creation, redemption, and sanctification.
The Lord’s Supper, because of its connection with the supper which the Lord took with his disciples on the eve of his Passion and because it anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem.
The Breaking of Bread, because Jesus used this rite, part of a Jewish meal, when as master of the table he blessed and distributed the bread, above all at the Last Supper. It is by this action that his disciples will recognize him after his Resurrection, and it is this expression that the first Christians will use to designate their Eucharistic assemblies; by doing so they signified that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and form but one body in him.
The Eucharistic assembly (synaxis), because the Eucharist is celebrated amid the assembly of the faithful, the visible expression of the Church.
The memorial of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection.
The Holy Sacrifice, because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church’s offering. The terms holy sacrifice of the Mass, “sacrifice of praise,” spiritual sacrifice, pure and holy sacrifice are also used, since it completes and surpasses all the sacrifices of the Old Covenant.
The Holy and Divine Liturgy, because the Church’s whole liturgy finds its center and most intense expression in the celebration of this sacrament; in the same sense we also call its celebration the Sacred Mysteries. We speak of the Most Blessed Sacrament because it is the Sacrament of sacraments. The Eucharistic species reserved in the tabernacle are designated by this same name.
Holy Communion, because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body. We also call it: the holy things (ta hagia; sancta)– the first meaning of the phrase “communion of saints” in the Apostles’ Creed – the bread of angels, bread from heaven, medicine of immortality, viaticum. . . .
Holy Mass (Missa), because the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending forth (missio) of the faithful, so that they may fulfill God’s will in their daily lives.
Turning to the modern definition of word “parody”, it is “an imitation of the style of a particular genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect” or “an imitation or a version of something that falls short of the real thing; a travesty”. “Parody” comes from the Greek parōidia, meaning “burlesque poem”. Parody is mockery.
Of note: some of those reading this have studied the history of the Liturgy and know that there was a liturgical style in the 16th and 17th centuries that was called “Parody Masses”. These Masses were called “parodies” not because of their farcical or comical approach, but because of the types of melodic material and the use of multiple “voices” in the music. The Council of Trent, however, did find the parody masses objectionable, saying :
“All things should indeed be so ordered that the (church) Mass. . . reach tranquility into the ears and hearts of those who hear them, when everything is executed clearly and at the right speed. In the case of those Masses which are celebrated with singing and organ, let nothing profane be intermingled, but only hymns and divine praises. The whole plan of singing. . . should be constituted not to give empty pleasure to the ear, but in such a way that the words be clearly understood by all. . . They shall also banish from church all music that contains, whether in the singing or in the organ playing, things that are lascivious or impure.”
Amen. I shudder to think what those who were at Trent might of thought of the modern “Parody Mass”.
Turning to the the experience of the “Parody Mass” I attended yesterday afternoon, here are some observations:
- The Mass started at 4:30 pm on Saturday afternoon. While a “Vigil Mass” is allowed by the Church and starts on the evening before the Sabbath or a Holy Day, 4:30 p.m. is certainly a stretch in terms of calling it “evening”. The 4:30 start time itself, beginning with the sun still prominently in the sky, does not suggest “evening” (meaning “the period at the end of the day, usually about 6 p.m. until bedtime”). At the St. Peter’s in Rome, the earliest a Vigil Mass starts is 5 p.m. 4:30 p.m. is not a Vigil Mass, no matter what the local priest might say.
- Approaching the large suburban parish parking lot, it was clear that something was definitely amiss. People were strolling in, wearing the clothes in which they had been just earlier raking the leaves or lounging on the couch watching college football. For example, one rather large man was wearing an under-sized football jersey and with cotton athletic shorts (and I do mean “short”), exposing his hairy legs bare down to the dark socks and basketball shoes. He arrived in a late model car, so it seemed clear that he was not wearing his “Sunday best”, let alone his “Saturday afternoon best”. It was not an encouraging sign.
- It was also not an encouraging sign to see the architecture of the outside of the parish. There is no way to sugar coat this: the parish architecture was simply ugly. It was perhaps designed in the “spirit of Vatican II”, which always means “Not in the spirit of Vatican II”, having little “spirit” and no “Vatican II”. Built in the 1960’s, according to the parish’s website the architecture was intended to be “welcoming”. What? Why should a parish where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is re-presented have it’s primary purpose to be “welcoming”? As an alternative, what about “inspiring awe of God”, “Divinely uplifting” or even “not mediocre”? It was a tall brick building with tan/white bricks, with few structural design features which suggested that it even was a parish. On the outside of wall was a line drawing of a holy figure, perhaps drawn by a second-grader with a steady hand. It was cartoonish.
- After entering the parish, there was a very high “shirts with lettering on them” ratio on for the men; I’d say at least 20% of the men wore t-shirts or sweatshirts with high school, college or professional sports teams names and logos. Other men wore plaid flannel or causal shirts. No man from the Church was wearing a suit or tie.
- Women were dressed only slightly better (though there were more than a few wearing jerseys). There a minority of the women wearing clothing that was approaching one’s Sunday…er…Saturday afternoon best, but I didn’t see one dress. Most were dressed as if they were going to a flea market. Its important to again say, the cars in the lot were driven by people with sufficient money to own clothes appropriate for approaching the King of the Universe. They simply didn’t care to present themselves to Him in a respectful way.
- The inside architecture of the “parish” was similarly dismal to the outside. There were stained glass windows now apparent, also designed with a minimalist style, with minimal detail, minimal skill and minimal beauty. Nothing about the glass was inspiring. It had not occurred to me that stained glass could be ugly, but I’ve changed my mind.
- The front of the parish (I hesitate to use “altar”) had the same dingy tan/white brick, with a strange medium-brown stained oak structure in the center that looked like a poorly designed 1970’s outdoor public park enclosure. In fact, the wood looked like the clunky “oak” furniture that was popular in the 1970’s.
- On one side of the altar, up on the wall was an absolutely beautiful statue of Our Lady, the only thing in the parish that most could call beautiful. It was as if Our Lady stood as a testament to what her Son deserved, perhaps praying for the day when a priest with a love for her Son would offer Him an altar worthy of Him. On the other side of the altar, on a pedestal of equal size and position of Our Lady, was a huge fake potted plant with an autumn arrangement. No kidding. Perhaps that pedestal was where a statue of St. Joseph once stood before the “in the Spirit of Vatican II” feministas feminized the parish. St. Joseph, pray for us.
- At the center was a Crucifix, apparently carved by a wood-carving disciple of Grandma Moses in the primitive style, distorting our handsome Lord to look like some pagan sacrifice. The “crucifix” was finished with the same medium dark brown stain to match the outdoor shelter styled altar furniture. Our Lord can never be ugly, only caricatures of Him.
- There was a tabernacle that could be found if one was prepared to squint. Nothing special. Nothing dignified. Nothing that would suggest that the Greatest Power that Could Ever Be resided there.
- Right before the Mass, large numbers of people streamed in, perhaps anxious to get a seat; the place was very full. Perhaps they felt welcomed. Good for them. The crowd was mostly people who had probably been attending the parish for many years and had matured and marinated in the heyday of the “spirit of Vatican II”. Again, the people were dressed as if they were attending a Saturday matinee at the local multiplex, as opposed to the re-presentation of the greatest and bloodiest sacrifice in human history.
- The elderly priest walked around the aisles, carrying the processional Cross, repeatedly pounding it on the floor, evidently to draw attention to himself as he laughed and spoke to people in his “audience”. It was sadly and profoundly irreverent to see a priest act like a buffoon dressed in vestments before the Holy Mass. May Christ have mercy on him.
- The piano music began, with a well-meaning but not well-rehearsed man singing a syrupy “warm up” show-tune with vaguely religious themes that one might hear a lounge singer singing at a just off the Interstate hotel lounge. Like the man playing the piano (who played quite well), the “cantor” was dressed down, wearing, I believe, an Under Armor sweat shirt.
- When 4:30 hit, the “mass” started with a “Jesus loves everybody” song. It, like all the music throughout the Mass, could have been from a small town high school musical from the 1970’s; syrupy melodies, cliches of sacred ideas from scripture, dumbed down to the level of the profane. It was highly feminized and infantilized; it sounded like music that pre-schoolers might sing. Again; the music was not just sugary, but ugly. Not beautiful, sacred or inspiring in any sense. Most of the men were perhaps too embarrassed to sing.
- The “in the Spirit of Vatican II” priest had longish white hair and wore “hipster” glasses and was in his 70’s, a priest who had come to his vocation during the “Spirit of Vatican II” days. But despite his age, he had the vigor to conduct the Liturgy at a full on gallop. He “speed talked” his way through his parts and rushed the audience through the Confession of Faith, the Creed and the Our Father. The Mass started at 4:30 p.m. sharp and the parish was completely cleared of some 400 people by 5:13 p.m. Remarkably, the priest made at least one comment about how proud he was that the Mass was done rapidly, much faster than one of the nearby parishes.
- In terms of the Homily, consider this from the Catechism: “Therefore, the study of the sacred page should be the very soul of sacred theology. The ministry of the Word, too – pastoral preaching, catechetics and all forms of Christian instruction, among which the liturgical homily should hold pride of place – is healthily nourished and thrives in holiness through the Word of Scripture” (CCC 132). My only comment about the homily given by the priest compared to CCC 132: “Not.” Rather than imparting some inspiration for Holiness, the priest played for laughs. There were a few during his 4 minute homily.
- The Eucharistic Liturgy was like a forced march, moving so quickly as to fatigue and distract. The people hurriedly cued up like a bus cue and received the “Body of Christ”, the Eternal King as if they were grabbing a potato chip from the buffet line. Few bowed before receiving the Eucharist in their hands. The lack of recognition of the miracle they were participating in was heart-breaking. Perhaps most were focused on racing out of the parking lot to still hit “happy hour” at the buffet after snacking on a Catholic appetizer.
This “Parody Mass” had a number of elements that would make it a candidate for a Saturday Night Live skit. All it needed was a little more exaggeration, a few trashy sexual innuendoes and a personal attack on a conservative and it could easily been seen on an upcoming SNL. The Mass moved at such a rapid clip, there wouldn’t need to be much cut out to fit the time parameters.
As I left the parish, I was saddened that what Our Lord and Savior endured for our Salvation was approached with such casual disrespect. After sleeping on it, I awoke with a heavy heart, that so many people have been so misled by priests who seem to care more about being “welcoming” and liked, than to feed the sacred food of Christ’s Body and Blood to the flock with the reverence and awe the Holy Eucharist demands.
“In the Spirit of Vatican II” in this case was I suspect an evil spirit, one that diminishes or distracts from the True Presence of Our Lord.
These observations of this parody Mass as offered by this confused “in the Spirit of Vatican II” priest are cold and harsh, but accurate. This parody Mass was not humorous, but tragic. It is important to remember, that despite how much a sacrilegious priest’s actions and words might distract the flock from the uncompromising dignity of Christ, the Grace in the Eucharist remains for those who are prepared to receive it in a worthy and grateful manner.
Catholic men of good will; let us get on our knees and pray for every bishop and priest and for the whole people of God, that they might approach the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist with the greatest reverence and awe possible. Pray, do penance, begging Christ to forgive all of us, and especially those who profane His Eucharist.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.