Friday, December 4, 2009

Silly Things from the 1960's and 70's that Still Haunt Us Today

Reading and posting some of the comments that people send to me cause me to reflect on my upbringing in the Church and my formation in the seminary during the late 1970's. First, despite what I write below, I loved the seminary and the four years I spent at St. Mary's in Baltimore were the best years of my life and helped me to grow as a Catholic and into a priest. So let that be said! The silliness I experienced growing up and yes in the seminary made me study the Vatican II documents even more seriously to make sure that the Church really hadn't gone to hell in a hand bag. And reading the Vatican II documents actually proves this.

What I despised in my post-Vatican II parish in Augusta:

1. First what I loved in the early 1960's was my pastor's dedication to doing the Tridentine Mass properly. He was a stickler for detail and he trained the altar boys very well. He had a good choir that did the Latin properly. Shortly after Vatican II, choirs were deemed useless except if it was a folk group led by strumming guitars. I hated it! The music was vapid and even now when I hear "Day by Day", I want to throw up. Even as a dumb teenager I knew this stuff was crap! As well, choirs or folk groups were moved to the front adding the aspect of entertainment which was not present when singing was behind the congregation. I continue to feel it to be an impoverishment of the Liturgy for the choir to face the congregation during singing. Only the Anglican or monastic model of the choir in front of the congregation but facing each other should have ever been allowed. As well, the revised liturgy far from being done nicely, was sloppy, altar boys poorly trained, decorations abysmal, burlap and felt banners horrible. Lectors were poorly trained, selected at random, unrehearsed and dressed too casually. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion were the same and not trained in the fine art of movement and reverence. Some of them had checkered reputations in the parish!

2. We had some associate priests who would yell at the congregation during a very ill-prepared and impromptu homily. As a teenager I thought that was ridiculous, but I don't think this had anything to do with Vatican II, just stupid priests. They came both before and after Vatican II.

3. Moving the tabernacle to the side altar under Mary's statue. The first Sunday as a teenager that I saw this, I thought, and if you will pardon my French, "What the Hell?" I said it to myself, I heard my father say it out loud! Even as a teenager, when I saw the priest now sitting directly in front of us behind the altar but staring at us, I thought, who does he think he is? Shouldn't Jesus get top billing? And in the vacant Church to have the priest's presiding Chair dead center and the tabernacle off to the side actually made my stomach turn! That's a teenager's perspective who was brought up to respect the Most Blessed Sacrament. Chairs, no matter how symbolic, are not higher in character than the reserved Most Blessed Sacrament. Let's face it, Mass is celebrated in churches maybe a half hour everyday except Sunday. If the Church is open, it is open for prayer and adoration. Why wouldn't the tabernacle be in the most conspicuous place possible for the majority of the time that the church is open which is not for Mass but for devotions and prayer?

4. As I recall, my mother felt very uncomfortable with the priest staring at the congregation during Mass. I remember hearing my mother yakking in Italian on the phone with her Italian friends, "I think he's looking at all the pretty women during Mass!" Often she forgot that I understood her Italian fluently (although my spoken Italian suffers). And with Italian, her voice inflections made it sound even more salacious that it would have sounded in English! But I digress, I was shocked that she would say this and thought she was over-reacting, but you know when you put a candy jar in front of a small kid and then expect him not to take some, you are pretty naive. Keep in mind that in later "wreckovations" of our churches, pews which had "modesty skirts" frontals with kneelers which also hid the sitting legs of people were removed in favor of free standing chairs. Are we shocked that some priests might have wandering eyes?

5. When I first came here to St. Joseph in Macon, our Church was closed for "restoration", not wreckovation. We met in the social hall, the church's basement. It was July and the fad for girls' attire was short, shorts, and tank tops which showed the bare midriff. Actually, all "blouses" at that time allowed for the midriff to be shown. I saw many of our girls wearing these at Mass and some of them staffed our nursery wearing these. I wondered why only the young fathers of children in the nursery were picking up their children and "staring" at our young nursery workers in skimpy attire. When I wrote a complaint about this in the bulletin and asked that modesty in dress be observed in the church, I actually had anonymous letters sent to me chastising me for criticizing the dress of these teenagers and that I should be grateful that they were at Mass! I was also criticized for not condemning the men who were the perpetrators of staring at these young girls. How naive were this anonymous writers. Should we "sexually" distract each other at Mass by our immodest dress. Should we tempt people who really don't want to be tempted at Mass by immodest dress? I report, you decide! I'm not a prude, but lets face it, beach attire is appropriate on the beach, exercise attire is appropriate in the gym. The Church requires appropriate dress too! And yes, human bodies, male or female should be covered out of respect for not only our Lord and God, but for one another. None of us should intentionally strive to be an occasion of sin for someone else, no matter if the other shouldn't be looking to begin with.

6. Dumbing down of ritual and language--we know what happened there. Yikes.

7. Out right disobedience by clergy and religious--this is perhaps the greatest evil that has afflicted the post Vatican II Church, but don't blame that on Vatican II, blame it on poor leadership.

8. Add you own comments and silly experiences.


Robert Kumpel said...

LIturgical Dance.

Can you picture Mary and the Apostles dancing at the foot of the cross?


-Brian said...

Yes...not silly for me, it was actually catastrophic and is worth a comment. Between 1964 and 1970 my mom died (cancer), my grandma died (she lived with us), my dog died, my father died (cancer); and, as an altar boy and seminarian candidtate I percieved that my church died; and so, my faith died.

For me, the U.S. response of "turning around", "rock & roll music", english vernacular (for me at that tme the language of truth was the language of God?!), and the profound public loss of the sacred was a death knell.

It took 12 (interesting number)years to come around.

When the Author of Life instrumented me in the birth of my first born...a switch clicked and I found my faith (which had never died).

I was evangelized and catechized in the North and South Pacific, Indochina, North Africa, and the Middle East (80's-90's). They say I have served well since.

Its rather imposing to say, but I've found that I'm not alone in percieving the sense of mortal jeopardy that emerged in that time. Please forgive me for presenting an un-silly and morose tone; however, the 60's was a morose time for me, and the Vatican II changes revealed the church to me as if it was a morose joke.

When I confronted my priests and religious about my crisis they lacked the wherewithal to provide my ears with solutions. It seemed like everyone lacked wherewithal.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

No I can't! But this comment shows how far liturgists strayed from the true meaning of the Mass, especially its renewal of the one Sacrifice of Christ. When it just became a "resurrection" meal then sure, dance all you want. But we celebrate the Sacrifice of Christ out of an awareness that our sins placed Jesus on the Cross and the only way he could have been killed was by His willingness to take our humanity into His divinity and to take every sin ever committed, past, present and to come on His Body as He hung on the Cross. The Mass re-enacts this in an "unbloody" way. To dance at this is truly dumbfounding. That's why Liturgist knew they had to change the meaning of the purpose of the Mass from sacrifice to a joyful community meal. It's a nice sentiment but it is not Catholic!

Gene said...

I have actually chosen not to receive when actually intending to after noticing, repeatedly and with too much delight, the revealing dress of a young woman sitting near me. Although lustful thoughts are among my favorite sins, Mass is no place for them.

Templar said...

Things from the 70s I'd like to see changed:

1) Priests facing the wrong direction as if they were on a stage and we were the audience to be entertained.

2) Communion in the hand.

3) Extraordinary Ministers of Communion (during Mass)

4) The removal of Altar Rails

5) Hidden Tabernacles.

6) Plain vestments.

7) Auditorium style "worship spaces"

8) Wishy-washy Catechism.

9) Lack of Confession before, during and after masses.

10) OCP Hymnals

Apologies in advance if any of this comes off as snarky.

Gene said...

I would especially like to see Communion in the hand gone, as well as extraordinary ministers of Communion. Church in the round is insulting and should never have been allowed. Yes, bring back altar rails and more opportunities for Confession.

Dan said...

Parishioners are always going to have a hard time bringing the proper reverence to the Mass so long as the other six days of the week are spent wallowing in the garbage that passes for "culture."

I personally find it a totally awesome & mystical experience to hold my Lord in my hands. I don't have a problem with the vernacular Mass either, as I kind of view Latin as being once a vernacular language.

I think that what has been lost is any sort of really good education of Catholics - both young and old.

Anonymous said...

Father wrote:

"The music was vapid and even now when I hear "Day by Day", I want to throw up."


The people who criticized you for condemning the skimpy attire, do not understnad that the Mass is no casual event. If every head in heaven and on earth are required to kneel and bow at the mention of HIS holy name, imagine how reverent we shoud react while in His actual presence (at Mass).


Anonymous said...

Blogger Robert Kumpel said...

1) The "folk" Mass isn't folk. Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger wouldn't be seen within a mile of the insipid songs we've been conditioned to suffer through. It's flavorless guitar-strumming pop. Some songs, like "Anthem" have lyrics that are downright inane. I grew up loving all kinds of music. I confused my parents because they would hear Led Zeppelin one minute and Mozart the next coming from my room. But I expected something different when I went to Mass and the pandering to young people" was so obvious when these new songs came along just bred contempt on my part. I looked upon the folk Mass with resentment. It's ridiculous to try to take something as Holy, dignified and timeless as the Mass and force it into an era-specific template to make it "relevant". Even more sickening was hearing the folk Mass tunes being churned out on the organ with a "song leader" belting them out in flat tones. Now many churches even use the "that's entertainment" approach by insisting that the choir, or folk group or organist be up front, next to the altar. No thanks.

2) The more sophisticated homilists get, the more boring the homily. I know it's gotta be tough to write homilies every week, but some priests seem to be trying to give us some "special new insight" about some esoteric theme from the readings when simply affirming what we believe will often do the job. One priest would make no pretense about preparing a homily. Instead HE WOULD BRING A NEWSPAPER, READ OUT A FEW HEADLINES TO US AND COMMENT ON THEM! Weekday Masses at least offer the relief of no homilies or music.

3) I never got the "tabernacle" competing with the Mass or "static"/"active" Presence of Christ stuff. I also cringe when I hear priests called the "presider".

4) I have sometimes been an offender in the area of dress, but some of the stuff I have seen people wear to Mass these days is downright offensive. At one parish, I saw a young fellow wearing a t-shirt with a sexually explicit pun printed on it. I politely took him aside after Mass and he said, "What's the big deal"?

5) Yes, clerical and religious disobedience have been more damaging to us than anything else. We don't do as we're taught, we follow the examples we see set before us. If the leaders are taking the easy way out, we automatically figure that it's OK for us to do it.

6) Latin and its ancient ritual are beautiful and timeless. The language assures no deviations from fidelity and the ritual insures that we know what the Mass truly is, a propitiatory sacrifice. I still don't understand the almost visceral hatred so many Catholics have for this stuff--especially older Catholics who were better taught than I was.

A couple of other observations:

A) It drives me nuts to hear everyone start talking loudly in the Church as soon as the final hymn is over. When did we all forget that we were in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament?

B) I can't stand hearing ignorant Catholics take any criticisms of these modern innovations as an attack on Vatican II, especially since most of them have probably never read the documents.

D) I tremble at funeral Masses when I hear priests say, "Now he (or she) is with the Lord." That's not our call to make. Since so many Catholics seem to think that Purgatory is an optional belief (another gripe) the priests don't help by encouraging us to simply forget praying for the dead. I hope every soul IS with God, but we do our beloved dead a grave disservice by automatically canonizing them, Bringing back black liturgical vestments for Masses for the dead would be a great way to stem some of this.