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Monday, January 11, 2010

The Talk Show Mass - The Response

The drama continues....(The "Talk Show Mass" post is here and my email to the parish's pastor is here)

On Saturday morning, I emailed the pastor my account of the 'Talk Show Mass' from 1/3/10. I wasn't expecting an immediate response from him, figuring it would come early this week (if at all). On a whim, I called the parish office and asked who was scheduled to preside at that same Mass on Sunday (yesterday), and the receptionist said, "Fr Pastor is saying Mass." I thought to myself, well, then we'll go to that Mass because I know he is a solid priest and the Mass will be celebrated properly and reverently.

And it was. A beautiful Mass, with a thought-provoking homily devoid of any laic interference.

And then....

And then came The Response.

It happened just prior to the end of Mass, immediately after the announcements: the pastor strode to the ambo and spake thusly:

"My primary care physician is Filipino, and she said that in the Philippines, they don't celebrate Christmas like we do in America - no tree with lots of presents underneath, stuff like that. No, what happens there is that the children go from home to home, and perhaps get a piece of candy, or a cookie. And people have what we would call 'open houses' - folks would visit, tell stories and perhaps sing songs together.

"And so when Fr X (who is Filipino, btw) had the children come up before the creche last Sunday and sing a song, he was sharing a bit of his culture. When he asked folks to come up and talk a bit about their Christmas, he was sharing his way of celebrating Christmas. And when he sang the carol at the end of Mass, he was giving you, in his own small way, a Christmas present. This is his way of trying to recreate here in Michigan his tradition of celebrating Christmas.

"Now I mention all this because I received an email from someone about this, complaining about what had happened [audible gasp from numerous people in congregation, as well as a few *tsk tsk's* and *tut tut's*], but let me just say these were not liturgical abuses. Fr X is a great priest who is very helpful - he comes out here every week, and has done so for 15 years, driving more than 50 miles one way. He is a great help to me.

"And you know, maybe you all could learn a song so that next year you can give Fr X a present too."

Needless to say I was surprised that he would publicly talk about the email. Perhaps he didn't think the sender - little ol' me - would be there.

Oh! And at the end of Mass, after the recessional hymn was sung, a bunch of the congregants applauded the music group! Younger Son of LarryD asked me afterward why they did that - I said it could have been to show "support" for Fr X, even though he wasn't there, and for the pastor. I also think they wanted to show that closed-minded party-pooper email-sender what true charity is all about. Yeah, that showed me all right!

So let's look at the response, which didn't deal with the events at all. First there's the appeal to Cultural Diversity: it's wrong to judge other people's traditions just because they're different. And there's also the appeal to Personal Character: Fr X is making a great sacrifice coming here every week, and he's a great asset to the parish, and he's trying to create a bit of Philippines - his home - here in Michigan. At which point everyone is supposed to say "awwwwww" and nod approvingly and compassionately. And then comes the slam against the Closed-Minded Purist: there were no liturgical abuses. You're making a big deal about something kind and nice and thoughtful, so stop it already!

Here's the thing. I think learning about the way other cultures celebrate Christmas and any other holy day is great. I'm all for it. But...

The Mass was not the place for it, which was my point. There are no provisions for his actions in any Church document or rubric or liturgical instruction. I know it's not in the Sacramentary. I didn't impugn Fr X's character or say that he is a bad person. Now that I know what his motivation was for including those elements during the Mass, I think it's even a worse abuse. Because I highly doubt the Mass in the Philippines includes the things he did.

So what's next. I'm going to wait a couple days to see if the pastor personally responds to my email. If he doesn't, I'll write him again, telling him I was at the Mass, and that I wasn't satisfied with his reply and go from there.