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Bear's Parish Doesn't Live Up to Substitute Priest's Expectations

We had a substitute priest while our resident priest attended his semi-weekly reunion at Collegeville.

Lest the Bear leave the impression our priest is bad, let him say the following. He is to the left of the Bear, but plays it straight, other than frequent references to ecumenism during homilies. These days, we could do a lot worse. And while the reunions aren't really semi-weekly, it does seem he's frequently off to St. John's or Louvain, Belgium (which the Bear understood had closed). One time the Bear's son met him in Seoul, Korea, the former being stationed there, and the latter attending a big ecumenism conference.

But the Bear digresses. This is really about Father Jim, our guest.

The Bear missed the first part of the Mass. Some old people behind him were loudly chit-chatting before Mass. (Since Catholics have few, if any, children anymore, the Bear proposes sticking talkative old folks in the cry room, although as gray as our parish is, it might be easier for everyone under the age of 75 to barricade themselves in the cry room and rename it the Silent Room You Can Pray In.) Anyway, the Bear temporarily removed himself to the parking lot for the safety of those around him, so he missed Father Jim's introduction. (The Bear is still working on patience and charity.)

The Bear was reliably informed that he had completed a six year missionary tour in Zambia. He kept trying to get us to act like Zambians by clapping his hands -- clap-clap-clap -- and swaying. "Oh, that wasn't a very enthusiastic amen!" he complained. "You can do better!" And, of course, having been put on the spot, most people did their best to please the guest priest.

The Bear hates to say it, but some priests seem to want the Mass to be about them. He suspects facing the people like a performer in front of an audience proves an irresistible temptation.

Then came the homily. It was high test Pope Francis. Father Jim really likes Pope Francis. "Christianity isn't about a bunch of rules and canon laws that put nooses around the necks of the people," he said. (Yes, he really did.) He illustrated it by Pope Francis washing the feet of Muslim women despite the rules calling for "men." We weren't supposed to pay much attention to rules like that. It wasn't about "how many rosaries you say," either, although he quickly added a Seinfeldesque, "not that there's anything wrong with that." We -- who are, after all, the sheep -- were supposed to go out and "smell like the sheep." Confusing (what else could we smell like?) but it had something to do with social justice.

The Bear was wearing his terrifying "Bear is not amused" face and evidently others in the audience were insufficiently responsive to his Father Pfleger act. "Come on, folks," he whined upon sitting down after his homily. "We're a joyful people, so you might show it!"

After Mass, he thanked us, and there was scattered applause. One thing the Bear can tell you from experience: if you put on a performance, people will naturally clap, if only out of politeness. (And sometimes throw fish, but that didn't happen, sadly, for the Bear was hungry.)

The Bear can't wait to get his priest back. And this is one of the big problems with the Novus Ordo Mass. It can be decent, but a different priest can make it a miserable experience. Which is why the Bear has to nail his foot to the floor in front of his favorite pew. And now he's going to have to find a new one of those, away from the garrulous old people.

Comments

  1. Sounds like our last visiting priest at Ye olde Novus Ordo church. He was happy clappy! I was playing the organ for the Mass and he asked me if I knew a certain piece of music WHILE he was giving me Communion!

    BTW love your name. If I was as clever a writer as you, I would be St Felix's Spider or St. Roche's Dog .

    Seattle kim

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  2. "Christianity isn't about a bunch of rules and canon laws that put nooses around the necks of the people," he said.

    What I find disconcerting beyond just the obvious laws vs. love false dilemma that is all the rage now, is that there is a sense in which what Father said is true and perhaps could be helpful to some people. It's true that Christianity is not *about* such things as if we simply exist and practice our faith so as to follow rules. What perhaps should have been pointed out by Father is that we express our love for God, in part, by our following of the rules. We wish to love and obey Him, to turn ourselves over to Him. This not actually bondage to the true disciple, but freedom. True disciples actually love to please God; the law of the love is their delight.

    I have sometimes wondered if this is what Pope Francis is trying to get at, that this is ultimately the type of reform he longs for. I do not think that is what he is achieving; quite the opposite. But I wonder at times if deep down this is what he means.

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  3. I don't know to what extent any Catholics honestly believe their faith is just following a bunch of rules, though. You certainly would not get the impression by reading devotional literature from before Vatican II. Pope Francis pretends he is the first Pope who has cared for the poor. There will be priests who will seize that "factoid" in their jaws and run with it. Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict was about washing the feet of guests, and seeing Christ in them, and how we are especially fortunate to serve the poor.

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    1. Oh, I think there are many who have fallen away from the practice of the faith because they saw in it nothing more than a bunch of rules. Now, whether that was the impression being given by those who formed them or whether they themselves never tried to go deeper, I am not sure.

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    2. Presumably true faith results in proper behavior, the converse seems equivalent to saying that a fruit is known by its tree, an inversion which is unfortunately held by many people.

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    3. "I think there are many who have fallen away from the practice of the faith because they saw in it nothing more than a bunch of rules."

      Undoubtedly. But in some cases, I do wonder if it isn't a case of false memories, in part. A mixed youthful experience of Catholicism became reconstructed as a grim rosary-clutching tale of horrors through the ministrations of priests and lay ministers in the Age of Aquarius, insisting that it had all been such horrors. Told it enough times by their betters, they came to believe it.

      In any event, I have seen enough evidence to know that the Church was hardly a bastion of traditionalism in many places in 1940's and 50's America. The rot had set in well before the Council. Affluence and increasingly overt modernism was taking its toll.

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    4. The 40s through 50s is the great untold story of Catholicism. I have often suspected that V2 could not have done so much damage against a sound structure. And to hear it told today, Catholicism consisted entirely of nuns beating children with rulers.

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    5. Bear, I think you may be right about the '40's and '50's. I went to Catholic grade school in the 40's; high school, Jesuit College, and Dominican novitiate in the 50's. Mostly the emphasis was on the rules and the use of rulers as mentioned above. There was little explanation of why the rules were a good thing. There was little love especially with the IHM nuns who didn't seem to like us kids very much. All of this makes the revolution of Vatican II more understandable. One thing I never forgot that pertains to this. Our Dominican director of novices said one day that he thought it was nearly impossible for anyone to commit a mortal sin. This astonished me. If that was the case, I thought, what is the point of all the rules, etc.

      What remains now, it seems to me, is to find a middle way between pre and post Vatican II.

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    6. I thought the Bear was disagreeing with the idea that Catholicism was all about the mean nuns prior to VII. Nonetheless, I think you're right that there needs to be some middle between pre and post VII.

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    7. Куда ты идёшь?,

      It's hard for me to discern what caused what on such a larger, abstract scale (that is, apart from looking at each individual, which is impossible given the mystery of their freedom). Scripture points to fact that people do walk away from Christ and the implication is that it is on them, while also holding that there is such a thing as scandalizing others, "causing" them to fall away.

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    8. Perhaps the children who were taught about rules (as children must be taught) were never given "meat" (St. Paul) as young adults and adults. But still, you can find film on YouTube of Father Peyton drawing a huge crown, complete with public officials, in San Francisco! For a rosary rally! And that was in the early 60s. Fulton Sheen had the most popular television program of his day, and it was for grownups! Hollywood produced decent entertainment, largely under pressure of a culturally vigorous Catholic Church. (The joke at the time was Hollywood was run by Jews, who sold Catholic teachings to Protestants.) So perhaps we shouldn't write of the Church of the 40s, 50s, and early 60s as a rotten tree ready to fall at the first wind from across the Rhine. The academics, the agitators, in short, the Modernists were ready to take their chance when they saw it, though. The Bear has to think it was mainly V2, and the clerical termites in our Catholic universities and seminaries who took full disadvantage of the confusion too attempt to destroy the Church. And just when you thought liberation theology was a relic of the past, it turns out we have a true believer as Pope!

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    9. Marcel, I agree; many roads lead to apostasy, but I'm not sure I agree with the Bear in this instance. Personally, I blame Americanism for a lot of what's wrong today, and I don't think that the Church in the US has ever put much effort into driving home that this is heresy, in the 20th century or whenever.

      I'm also sorry to hear that the Bear was subjected to clapping after Mass. I'm sure that at least one crucifix was present. *shudder*

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  4. We also have an occasional celebrant priest who wanders around the church during the homily, thanks the congregation for attending when they could be out playing golf, and inserts his personal political opinions into his closing remarks.

    We call him "the bishop".

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    1. Hysterical! Funniest comment!
      If he's short, and you're in the back, you can play 'Where's The Bishop?'.
      Almost as much fun as 'Where's The Tabernacle?'.

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    2. If we had a "Where's the Tabernacle" situation, we would at least be spared the sight of our bishop blithely sauntering past it in his homiletic perambulations, without even a nod of acknowledgment. It's actually quite horrifying.

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  5. My husband and I were once forced to sit in the cry room because there was no other place to sit-- a good thing-- and a little kid frowned at him and said "Hey you can't be in here. You are quiet." My husband gently replied that the music was so bad he was ready to cry. She thought about it and decided that was good enough.

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    1. sweet! out of the mouths of babes...

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  6. A typical modern priest who thinks Mass is for entertainment. No sense of the sacred or the worship of God. And the Church being just a buncha rules? Classic modernist thinking.

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  7. When they start worshipping the antichrist openly and by name, you might want to pry that nail from the floor. Just saying.

    Or you could do that a week before it happens. You know, like next week?

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    1. Unless he has misjudged you, counselor, you go to the very same Church as does the Bear. FSSP is as Catholic as the P-- well, you know what I mean. And the Bear is a four hour round trip to an FSSP mass, even were he inclined to remove his nail. The Bear will suffer with the Church and act as a franc-tireur. Normally, his Novus Ordo church is tolerable -- although the nail helps.

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  8. You haven't misjudged me, Bear. It is just too much for me to take. But then again, I am a mere man, and you are a bear. 'Nuff said.

    Michael Ortiz had the sense of it. I meant no offense.

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    1. Don't think twice. No offense taken. Unless we bolt for SSPX or some other Pope, we all have most of the same problems, whether our liturgy is sublime or banal. I think any solution is beyond man at this point. That's why, in the meantime, we just carry on according to our original orders.

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  9. Love the "high test Pope Francis" comment about the homily. Every time my husband and I have to go to a new church do to travel, we wonder about the Francis orientation we are likely to encounter. "Rules and canon laws...as nooses around peoples' necks," --come on, grow up! Priests like this pander to the juvenile, immature American notion held by so many that everyone has to be free to "do one's own thing, by one's own choice," whatever that is. We are in France for the summer as usual where we have a house in Provence in a small hamlet in a non-touristy valley given mostly to lavender farming. Over forty years I have gotten to know many people here and have experienced at close hand the pernicious effect of the anti-clerical, anti-marriage, pro-secular, pro-personal freedom ethos that is followed by so many in this area (and throughout France, I suppose, but I speak only of first-hand knowledge). I have known six women as friends who have abandoned family ties, spouses or companions, and even children, to live "free." Their current status is, to my mind, pitiable. Lonely, longing for companionship, very low on money, and willing to pick up with predatory men they meet at village feasts. What an ugly way to live. Back to the rules and canon law so despised by this benighted preacher. My husband and I, both Catholic, have been married for forty-three years and have three married Catholic children and seven Catholic grandchildren. We live by the laws and rules of the Church. Have they been restrictive of our freedom? Hardly! We have found grace and support from these holy laws and now can look back on a lifetime of fidelity to one another, moral and upright children who parent their own children with love and great care as we did, and we thank God for the Church who has truly been a mother to us. This priest has an infantile point of view and it is pernicious because he is encouraging the congregation to be as juvenile as he is just when people need encouragement to courageously live their married vows in spite of what the culture (and some very stupid bishops) tells them about striking out for personal self-fulfillment. He is preaching selfishness. He is deaf, dumb and blind as a Catholic. Ignore him. As for those babbling old folks--they should know better. I would ask them to talk outside. If they act like children, treat them like children. But I am a former school teacher of many years, and am used to disciplining the errant. Bon courage!

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    1. "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

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