Monday, December 27
"Gather This In, Punk!"
Via the inimitible Fr. Sibley comes this hilarious gem of an article, "Dirty Harry Goes to Church" (if, like me, you haven't seen any Dirty Harry movies, insert John Wayne instead):
Moving past the “greeter,” Callahan is then hit with more contrived hugs than he would face at a Stuart Smalley-run support group. Attempting to avoid this barrage of groping, flabby, clutching arms belonging to people he doesn't know, but now is expected immediately to embrace, he tries to fade from view and take refuge against the wall. Unfortunately for him, he cannot hide because the floral arrangements in the narthex are so profuse that they make an FTD warehouse look like the Mojave Desert.While the author goes on to discuss the need for a liturgy where men can be men, I have to say, it's not just the guys who feel this way. I, too, have often found myself squirming in church for one reason or another. It may be that girl whom I've never seen before in my life but who still insists on wrapping both arms around me and squeezing firmly, despite my futilely outstretched hand at the Sign of Peace. Unless we've been aquainted for at least multiple weeks and have shared at least one meaningful conversation, I probably don't want to hug you. Nothing personal, but there is, quoth Qoheleth, "a time to be far from embraces."
Then there's that person who taps my arm insistently from the "Let us pray as our Savior taught us," straight up until the kingdom, the power and the glory--unless at some point I give up and hold hands with him. In any situation outside of the Lord's Prayer, this would be considered downright rude behavior for anyone over 3 years old, but apparenly something about the Pater Noster makes repetitive obnoxiousness rivaling that of Dr. Weston acceptable. (Extra points for catching the literary reference.) The only ones whom I might forgive for this offense are particularly attractive young men in their early 20's or so; others need not apply. So, until then, don't be surprised if I seem to have a chronic and particulary contagious-sounding cough, but only at Mass.
It's not just the touching that makes me squirm, either. Take, for instance, a recent weekend, when the deacon at the parish I was visiting decided to make some volunteers come up and hold up large pieces of tagboard listing his points while he strolled up the aisle a bit. Now, his homily might have made a decent talk in a different setting, but honestly, anything long enough that you're calling up volunteers--even aside from the problem of the volunteers ipso facto--is just plain too long to be going on during Mass. Give me 7-12 minutes on the readings, and then move on. I have heard some valuable things in long homilies (from the Pope, for example), but honestly, you have to be really good if you're going to hold my attention that long in the morning, and even better if I'm avoiding eye contact from fear of being volunteered for easel duty, or worse. It's not that I don't try to focus, but it just ain't going to happen for the entirety of your 25-minute discourse on some aspect of interpersonal relationships, most of which I could have gotten from an MSN article or two.
Also, banners with handprints or other types of felt/cotton/paper cut out shapes--these are for the hallway of the parochial school, not across the street in the sanctuary of the church. (I know they're both called St. Mary's; try not to get the two confused, though.) My basic criteria here, and really in all the above mentioned areas is, if it would look utterly ridiculous at the Vatican, I probably don't want to see it at Mass. Not that San Pietro hasn't suffered its share of that. (If anyone from the Vatican is reading this, I have 3 words: prendi nuovi paramenti. The polyester I saw at Sunday High Mass looked utterly ridiculous.)
Closing thought #1: I'm currently working on a theory that places cuteness as the root of all liturgical evil, but it still needs some tweaking. "Cuteness" covers hand-holding, felt banners, and homemade bread rather nicely, for example, but this isn't cute at all. Also, children's choirs singing polyphony might qualify as cute (I'm pretty sure I'll absolutely melt the first time I see one) but they definitely can't get lumped in under the same umbrella. Maybe there can be an out clause if something is cute but also beautiful? I'm still working on it.
Closing thought #2: I think I should start a support group for other women interested in "effectively eradicating the fu-fu funk of effeminized Christianity,"as the above article puts it. I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority on this one, at least as far as my gender is concerned, and it'd be nice to know I'm not the only one. Anyone who would enjoy discussing the meaning of the phrase "Say the black, do the red," and playing drinking games with 1968-1980 copies of Liturgical Arts Magazine is welcome to apply.