Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dominus vobiscum, 2.0

...this time with teenagers!

Last weekend we brought our Confirmation class to the Oratory for Latin Mass, and then on a tour of our diocesan cathedral. Both where beautiful experiences and I really hope we can repeat the trip next year. But here are some of the highlights, from my perspective.

A few days before our trip, I called the rector of the Oratory, a priest of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, to warn him that 22 teenagers who had never seen the Extraordinary Form before would be descending upon his parish. He kindly offered to speak with them before Mass, which was fantastic. My favorite question of the ones the kids asked was, "Why are you wearing that?" They'd never seen a priest in a cassock before. With great grace the canon explained the basics of formal clerical dress.

During the Mass, as I expected, some of the kids were clearly just sitting there like lumps on logs, bored out of their skulls. But they behave the exact same way at our Novus Ordo Mass, so that behavior had nothing to do with their location or the language of the liturgy. My 11th grade English teacher always told us, "only the boring are bored." However, there were a handful of kids - the stereotypical "good Church kid" types - who were rapt with attention almost the whole time. I'd given the class a primer on what to expect- how to follow along in the missal if they wanted, how to receive in the on the tongue, etc., and even if they didn't know exactly what was going on, they were keyed in.

Several of the kids commented, "they sure have a lot of altar boys." There were five that day, fewer than I've seen at other high Masses, but still more than we ever have at our parish.

And, finally, a brief glimpse into the teen male psyche! Ah!

As I'd explained to the kids, most people who attend the Extraordinary Form take the importance of the occasion and the value of modesty very seriously. All the kids had to sign - and have a parent sign - a very detailed dress code specifying no jeans, sweatshirts, bare shoulders, skirts about the knee, etc. I made all the girls little lace chapel veils so they would blend in with everyone else. I was proud that almost all our students were dressed incredibly well; modest, but sharp; fashionable, but not attention-seeking. They fit right in with the crowd at Latin Mass.


I was seated behind a row of my male teens, all of them good guys who were trying - so far as I could tell - to really try and figure out what was going on and follow along. About halfway through Mass, a young lady from the pew a few rows up had to leave for a few minutes. She was exceptionally beautiful, and young, and in a very nice, fancy dress, but one that came far above her knees, and she sashayed along in three-plus-inch stilettos that echoed in the quiet church.

Now, I feel uncharitable just writing that. But here's what happened.

The boys, who up until that point had been alternately looking at their missals or following the priest's actions at the front of the church, all turned their heads sharply and followed her exit from the building. If their spines had allowed I'm sure their heads would have gone all the way around. After she was gone, the turned back toward the front, but it took a good few minutes before I noticed them turning missal pages again, or looking forward at the actions of the priest.


Now, obviously, this young woman may not have any idea how her behavior and dress affected these teenage boys. But if nothing else, she was a blatant example of the importance of modesty in our dress, especially in a church setting. Not only do we owe Jesus respect, and ourselves respect, but we need to help guard our brothers. Part of me wanted to find that young woman after Mass, compliment her on her lovely dress, and nicely suggest that she add some tights or leggings under it, or explain what I saw.

If nothing else, it was a stark reminder that we profoundly impact others in the Body of Christ, in our actions, dress, words, and choices. We need to make sure that our decisions are not just "do I feel good doing this?" but "does it point to Goodness/Beauty/Truth in some way?"

And coming up next: reflections on teens + cathedral and an understanding of beauty...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ah, the convenience of hypocrisy!

As usual, Joe over at Shameless Popery (one of the best apologetics blogs I've read) had a great post up the other day.

There's not much more to say beyond that. Either an unborn child is a human person worth of life, dignity, and respect, or it isn't. There is no middle ground.

Our Lady of Good Help, pray for us!

Monday, December 5, 2011

So Much for Relevance

Not being alive during the tumultous period just after the Second Vatican Council has its perks.

I mean, for me, a baby Catholic who's only been going to Mass since 2006, tales of clown masses, Pizza Eucharist and liturgical dance are as foreign to me as the Abominable Snowman or Sasquatch; unbelievable horrors I've heard about but never seen with my own eyes. (And thank goodness)

But while those vestiges of Sacrosanctum Concilium misinterpretation are almost gone, a few remain. No, I'm not talking about hand-holding during the Our Father, though I am thrilled it's on its way out.

Much worse, I'd argue, is the idea that the Mass is something we do, something that ought to entertain, something that is about us. This is a postmodern, mega-church mindset, and while such a mindset is not necessarily bad, is isn't appropriate in a Catholic liturgy. The liturgy is about God.

Jimmy Fallon did an NPR interview the other day during which he mentioned his Catholic upbringing. As a child he loved elements of the Mass now considered old-school: bells, incense, his special job as an altar boy. In the interview, Fallon mentioned that he recently went back to church but found it off-putting:

GROSS: Do you still go to church?

Mr. FALLON: I don’t go to – I tried to go back. When I was out in L.A. and I was kind of struggling for a bit. I went to church for a while, but it’s kind of, it’s gotten gigantic now for me. It’s like too… There’s a band. There’s a band there now, and you got to, you have to hold hands with people through the whole Mass now, and I don’t like doing that. You know, I mean, it used to be the shaking hands piece was the only time you touched each other.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. FALLON: Now, I’m holding hand – now I’m lifting people. Like Simba.


Mr. FALLON: I’m holding them (Singing) ha nah hey nah ho.

(Speaking) I’m doing too much. I don’t want – there’s Frisbees being thrown, there’s beach balls going around, people waving lighters, and I go, ‘This is too much for me.’ I want the old way. I want to hang out with the, you know, with the nuns, you know, that was my favorite type of Mass, and the grotto, and just like straight up, just Mass Mass.

Notice that? Things that are supposed to make Mass more "relevant and accessible" to hip young adults like Fallon - like having a cool worship band, holding hands all the time, using gimmicks - didn't speak to him. And you know what? I don't blame him.

We don't need gimmicks to make the Mass relevant. It's already relevant for what it is. Jesus is always relevant, and His Church will endure forever.

Bring on the smells and bells. The hip music and social hour can wait outside, thank you.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

We the Young Fogeys

My nickname around my office is Pollyanna. I'm sunny and optimistic by nature, but sometimes I think that kind of attitude is certainly called for.

Lately, I've been quite encouraged by the beautiful, patient witness of several of my Facebook friends concerning a certain article and video that are going viral around the Internet. Not being from the house of Gryffindor myself, I'm a bit of a mouse when it comes to engaging others in debate about such things and have mostly kept to the sidelines. But seeing my friends, in all their critical-thinking and patient-and-loving glory respond to people with whom they vehemently disagree but still love and respect, has been uplifting. The West is not dead yet.

In addition, I reflect on the other ways I see fellow young Catholics standing up for their faith and their Church.

For example, among all the hulaballo about the New Roman, Missal, the comboxes of the Catholic blogosphere sometimes resemble a warzone. But into the fray stomps Marc, all of 18 years old, and offers this beautiful solution instead. Sure, he's snarky when snarky is called for. But I love his blog because it gives me such hope for the future.

Remember the Harvard valedictorian who entered the Dominican Sisters of Mary last fall?

She's one of a steady stream of talented, educated, and dedicated young men and women entering consecrated life.

At the same time, we young laity seem to be stepping it up, not content to let the world around us crumble to an amoral wasteland for our children to inherit. Using techniques Pope Paul VI could have never imagined, the New Media will be a huge force in the coming renewal of the Church. (Encouragement examples: here, here, and here)

It can be easy - too easy -- to become discouraged. Parishes are still closing, sometimes at an alarming rate. Yes, there's a priest shortage. Yes, most Catholic young people are cohabitating and contracepting at a rate equal to their secular peers. Yes, fallen-away Catholics represent the largest religious demographic in the country. But amid all that bad news, we must remember there is always hope. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Holy Church he founded will certainly go through ups and downs along the way, but the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

And with your spirit!

It's been a few days since the implementation of the Missal so I've had a bit of time to collect my thoughts.

Since a large part of my job is teaching, for the last several months I've been looking at the Missal from an education standpoint: it provided a teachable moment to educated families and youth about the Mass, and even those who have been "Catholic their whole life" needed to learn something new. My coworkers and I provided handouts, powerpoints, special sessions, videos, and email updates in our preparation. We did everything we possibly could to make sure our families knew what was coming and why.

Now that it's here, I can let go and simply enjoy it.

Before I loved the new Missal because it was a teachable moment, another very visible sign of how seriously Pope Benedict takes the renewal of the liturgy, and a chance to "freshen up" how we see the Holy Mass.

Now I love the new Missal for all those reasons, but mostly I love it because it is beautiful. It is fresh. There were hiccups along the way, of course; I'm sure it'll take most people the better part of a year before "and with your spirit" is our reflexive answer to "the Lord be with you." But the depth of the prayers, especially during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, is amazing.

I've only been Catholic for four years, but I already had most of the prayers of Mass memorized. But now I get to listen anew, and delve into the beautiful language with brand new ears.

Is the language more formal and complicated? Of course. Is that bad? Of course not. Formal language is required for that which is important. When the Supreme Court is called into session, the marshal says, "Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court!" Despite the fact that nobody ever uses "Oyez" during their every-day speech, it's still appropriate. It's 2011, but this traditional formula hasn't yet been replaced with "Hey! Can y'all listen up? These guys are important, ok?"

Might it sound silly? Perhaps a bit. But it conveys the seriousness of the occassion: a meeting of the highest court in the country.

How much more reverence and seriousness ought we bring to the celebration of the Holy Mass?

Something I dislike about the Missal is the way it has brought into sharp relief the various (and often opposing) views about the purposes and attitudes people have about the Liturgy. The comboxes of the blogosphere and the Catholic news outlets (and secular news in some cases) were full to bursting with angry comments from both "sides" of the argument. Ad hominum attacks, misquotes of Sacrosanctum Concilium, sweeping generalizations, and awful rhetoric gave me such a headache that I threw up my hands and refused to read comments at all.

But still I see hope. The Missal is beautiful. Much of the Church is young and orthodox. It's a good time to be Catholic.

Deo gratias!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Only One Thing is Needed

It's a crazy-busy time of year. For most people, things are crazy-busy because their kids are in 3,195 Christmas events and they have presents to buy and fancy Christmas foods to make. For me, none of those things are an issue. I don't have a husband or kids I need to shuttle around. My family is skipping Christmas presents this year because we're all flying to France to visit my sister. And so the fancy food preparation is also unnecessary because I don't think they let you bring a honey baked ham on trans-Atlantic flights.

But things are busy with work! Pretty much every summer activity my students will be doing- youth conference, service trip, faith camp, and Lifest - has registration due incredibly soon, so I'm doing one of my least favorite aspects of my job: paperwork. Ugh. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! Soon it'll be back to actual teaching and chilling with teenagers, which is far more fun than filling in health forms.

My brilliant spiritual director recently cautioned me to not make an idol of busy-ness. In our culture we associate "being busy" with "being important." But Christ calls us to be humble. Christ calls us to serve. Being busy is well and good, when it's for the glory of God, but is not an end unto itself. My Martha-ish tendencies manifest in the worst way when my to-do list is long. Prayer life suffers. Old habits creep in. Not good.

"...The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." Luke 10:41-42

Another tendency of our modern culture is equate importance with doing 'big stuff.' We see the politician or executive who deals with multi-million dollar budgets and think what he does is superior to the stay-at-home mom who can feed a family of six with $100 a week. We might look at the activist who raises awareness of a human rights abuse and think his life is more heroic than a dad who works 60 hours a week at minimum wage to provide for his family.

I have a great love for St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, who taught that by living our life to the fullness of our vocation, striving for holiness in little things, and keeping focused on Christ, we can become saints.

"Persevere in the exact fulfilment of the obligations of the moment. That work — humble, monotonous, small — is prayer expressed in action that prepares you to receive the grace of the other work — great and wide and deep — of which you dream."
-The Way, no. 825.

(other than one tiny objection - using Myanmar instead of Burma - I freaking love that song)

So I will try to refocus this weekend on the "the one thing that is needed:" pursuing Christ and falling in back in love with Him.

Deo omnis gloria!

Friday, September 16, 2011

It's Friday, Friday....

Whoa, my blogging has really lapsed. Here's an attempt to get back on the bandwagon!
Thanks to Jen, our weekly hostess!

Like everyone else who's read/reviewed it, I *adored* Brandon Vogt's new book The Church and New Media. I wrote a full review for our diocesan young adult newsletter, which I may post later, but here's the short version: it's excellent. Not only were all the contributers' essays great, but Brandon added great supplementary content too, including a glossary of Web 2.0 terms and a list of online resources. I wish everyone in Church leadership would read New Media, especially Marcel LeJeune's excellent piece on young adult ministry and the Internet.

In more news of fabulous young Catholics, Marc Barnes of the Bad Catholic Blog is making me chuckle a lot these days. For someone who's only 18, this kid has got spunk, insight, and wit.

I've finally been let into the beta group for Pottermore. It's awesome. I haven't done my Sorting yet though, since I'm waiting for a few friends to catch up so we can all Sort together. Very excited to see what House I'll get. I've fancied myself a Ravenclaw almost my whole Potter-reading life, but many friends have predicted Hufflepuff for me. I'll soon find out!

Next on my to-read list is Matt Swain's Prayer in the Digital Age. I quickly tore through the first two chapters before pulling myself back to work, but they were great chapters! Looking forward to the rest of it.

My sister Katie is in France! She left on Tuesday night and is all settled with her host family in Paris. It's odd to think that I won't see her again until Christmas; usually I visit her at school at least twice a month. I miss her already, but she will love her study abroad!

Our high school youth ministry leaders are going on retreat this weekend. I'm very excited for them; we are meeting up with youth from other parishes around the diocese to do some leadership and team building as well as lots of prayer time. I'm giving a talk about discipleship and the centrality of the Eucharist. I'm not nervous about it, but I do need to pray more to prepare!