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.