My parish is trying to raise a huge amount of money for a reconstruction project to fix the numerous problems with our parish; things from electrical, air conditioning, water damage, and design issues. It is amazing to see the amount of time and effort going into this project. We have all been requested repeatedly to ‘pledge’ a monthly gift for the next 3 years in order to get this problem solved. I just want to say that the word ‘pledge’ is theirs and not mine. For I signed up and pledged a nice amount to this endeavor before I had a change of heart and mind on this. So for reasons of conscience, I have de-pledged my gift which is what I consider it; not a solemn vow or pledge to fulfill. I hate when they use such words for it causes people to think that they are tied into their gift giving under pain of sin should they have a change of heart or mind.
Why did I have this change of heart and mind you might wonder? The reason is simple. A parish is simply a building that has no significance at all without the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in a solemn and respectful ceremony. If that is not happening we have a far more urgent ‘reconstruction project’ that needs restoration far more than the building. These problems need be remedied prior to the work of the masons, carpenters and other workmen needed to fix the brick and mortar. For any Church building should only take second place to the reconstruction of a Mass that has lost its former dignity and solemnity.
As it is, the Mass, as it has evolved over the years that I have been a member of this parish has fallen into great disrepair; novel changes have entered in and each new pastor has ‘grandfathered’ these changes into his own new and novel changes which are, of course, added to the previous novelties. Changes such as the placement of things on the sanctuary, the movement to receive under both kinds, the impossibility of receiving on the tongue while kneeling (altar rails were demolished years before I even came to this parish), the introduction of extraordinary ministers (including women) , girl altar servers, lay lectors (including women), cantors who sing from the sanctuary rather than apart from the holy space, bilingual Masses and sappy, silly music to accompany the Sacrifice of the Mass are just a few of the many things that need immediate attention. Without concern at all for these things then what is the point of a beautiful parish with a Liturgy that leaves one empty after the Rite is over? I often think that I might have gotten the same benefit had I simply stayed at home rather than attend a predominantly happy, clappy, egalitarian get-together which has become the norm.
Now this is not to say that some of the parish priests of the past were not devout men who meant well and were likable on a personal level. But as priests they were rather weak or more appropriately effete in their reluctance to deal with issues that should never have been allowed to remain unchanged. So like our deteriorating building our Mass too has suffered the same and perhaps a more significant deterioration; slowly, just as the building’s deterioration has been a long and steady process.
What can we do about it? I really do not have an answer unless it is the withholding of funds from the parish until such a time that the Mass is fully restored to its majesty; and that is precisely what I am doing even though my small individual protest will amount to no more than a speck of dust which falls lightly to the floor and disappears from view. If I were a super-major financial supporter of the parish then it might not be so easily dismissed but as it is, I fear that I only satisfy my own conscience and rectify nothing.
Not being an activist, nor is my advanced age an asset for such things, there is no way that I can even dream of organizing a sizable protest to fix what needs fixing and then move on to the restoration of the building which does need attention. So mine is but a lonely voice, crying out in the wilderness so-to-speak, which is unlikely to have any effect whatever on those things that I find essential in a Catholic parish. And so my emails to my priest, my few candid remarks to him after Mass have not netted me or the Church any satisfaction or noticeable changes for the better.
I am beginning to feel as though I am a passenger on a long treacherous voyage. On this sea voyage, I have watched, in just a few short years, the sailors being replaced by its passengers to run the ship and set its course; and of course the passengers in these new positions of importance are thrilled and excited and have no intention to give the ship back to the Captain or the trained sailors. In fact the new rank and file of sailors, which are now few, have not even learned basic seamanship it seems, so they are as reluctant to change as are the passengers of this floundering vessel. One can only pray for fair skies, calm seas, a favorable wind and current, as there is nobody on board it seems that cares a bit where we are going or if we are sailing into a typhoon or about to go aground. The vessel is in need of repair but the real appointed crew and their knowledge of seamanship and their leadership are far more important than painting the hull so it looks nice and letting everyone have a turn at the wheel in the spirit of egalitarianism. And all the while we continue to navigate into the unknown darkness of a troubled sea and we sing and dance and make merry.