Friday, January 22, 2010


One of the things that I have noticed with our funeral Masses is that it is difficult to have music that is mournful. Most want music that is uplifting and helps ease the burden of grief. I'm not sure how healthy this is either psychologically or liturgically.

The same is true of a Mass similar to what we celebrated today at St. Joseph Church for the Day of Penance and Prayer commemorating Roe V. Wade. If there is music, what type do you choose? Even the parts of the Mass that are sung can sound joyful even at a "penitential" commemoration.

Today I decided to use "black" vestments to show our grief over the United States Supreme Court's decision 37 years ago to legalize abortion. If this does not grieve the Catholic heart what does? Black or even violet can evoke a sense of grief over our sins and the sins of others and how this sin separates us from God. In the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, black vestments (cope not chasuble) are used for Good Friday. The same sentiment is operative on Good Friday in terms of what our sins have done not only to our Savior, but to everyone and the world itself, including us personally. Sin always effects us personally, familialy, ecclesially,and yes, cosmically. We should grieve about this and black symbolizes that grief.

At our 8:00 AM Mass, we sang no hymns, but spoke the official introit and communion antiphons. We sang the Kyrie in a dirge like tone, as well as the Alleluia. We sang the Sanctus, Mystery of Faith, Great Amen and Agnus Dei in Latin without accompaniment, slowly and mournfully. All of this added a since of dirge like, penitential quality.

It is here that I truly appreciate the flexibility that is the Ordinary Form of the Mass. Celebrating Mass in this manner would not have been possible in the EF Form of the Mass--a penitential Mass apart from a funeral simply does not exist and the flexibility in terms of singing some things and not others doesn't exist. You have either a Low Mass, a sung Mass or a Solemn Sung Mass--no other variations. And there would have been no choices for the readings as there is no Mass for an occasion like this.

We also celebrated a school Mass at 11:00 AM. Fortunately, we could choose alternate readings for our elementary school which only goes through grade 6. I don't think the children had ever seen a priest wear black vestments at Mass. I asked them in the homily what they felt when they saw me dressed in black. One student said, I felt sad. Another student said, I felt sorrow. Out of the mouths of babes! I used this as a springboard to tell them that we should all feel sad and sorrowful when people do not respect life and do violence to one another. I asked them if they had seen all the horrible things in Haiti. They all raised their hands affirmatively. I then asked how they would feel if the rest of the world just let them die and did nothing to help them to live. They all thought this would be terrible. While I never used the term abortion with these children, I did help them to understand that God loves everyone and He loves us. He loves us from the very moment He creates us! He wants us to help everyone to live, especially those who are threatened by violence and disasters, especially those who are not born yet.

I went on to explain that we should feel sorrowful and sad when people turn their backs on those who need us to live.

Mass today was not "happy and jolly" but captured the mood of what our judicial branch of government has done to the most vulnerable in our midst, the pre-born children of the USA. God help us if we don't do all in our power to cooperate with God to overturn this nasty piece of legislation and to convert the hearts of those who are pro-choice.


wmjack40 said...

Fr. Alan,
You are completely correct about this. Part of my own sadness is that due to my status as a citizen and taxpayer, I'm forced to be a partner in the horrific abortion industry. Since they use our money, we should all be wearing black.
Best regards & prayers.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Father, what a wonderful priest you are and how truly blessed your parish is to have you!! We did NOT celebrate a Day of Penance and Prayer commemorating Roe V. Wade in our parish, but rather the liturgy was about "peace and justice". Our (new) pastor did pray for the victims of abortion, TBTG, but that was it. We need your thoughts on these matters liturgical and spiritual, and are very grateful to have found your blog. Thanks so much!

Jenny said...

How beautiful that liturgy must have been! Did anyone take photos?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for making the Masses today appropriately mournful. As it should be.

Also, thank you for having the tact to make the school Mass appropriate for the audience fo children, yet get the inherent lesson across to them.
So glad to learn that you did all that.

Personally, I am bothered when I see young children holding anti-aboriton or pro-life placards.
As a parent of a young child, I cannot see how teaching them too early about such atrocities is good for their minds.
It sounds, to me, like your approach was much more age-appropriate. Thank You for using such wise tact.