What a glorious weekend this last weekend was, and it was perfectly capped off, as usual, by Sunday evening mass, rosary and benediction which went off without a hitch (if I’m honest that’s not as usual as it could be…)
This week, at least, as far as I could tell, it all went particularly smooth liturgically speaking. One altar server seemed to particularly enjoy thwacking the gong during mass instead of the usual tingly things we have during the rest of the year. Don’t ask me if there was any liturgical significance to that change but it was a change none the less, a reminder that we are entering the new year of the Church and a new liturgical season.
The start of benediction was just Jesus, four others, the priest and me, very quiet, very fitting for the start of advent. Jesus arrived quietly into the world from the tabernacle of heaven and virtually nobody knew about the imminent approach of the messiah, born not as a prince but into a humble family in very difficult circumstances. Its good to know that even in the more tricky circumstances that the usually sedate English weather could contrive to produce, the Church militant will still soldier on. (Global warming is getting so bad I am seriously contemplating going to work on ski’s this week…)
Anyway, back to the subject of benediction. The organist had also been waylaid by the elements so we began in silence. In itself that was nice for a change and again very fitting for the start of Advent. In the cause of Church militant soldiering I did my best to boom out the rosary to avoid making the Church feel empty.
Then there were about five dramatic, tense and expectant seconds where I thought I would have to break into Tantum Ergo a cappella. To my relief the organist appeared the very second before I opened my mouth; I heard the clunk of the keyboard cover going back just in the nick of time. There is another allegory for advent in there somewhere…
Unfortunately I must admit I zoned out for the pastoral letter, there were good bits in there, I shouldn’t be totally unfair to my bishop, he isn’t one for the Bishopese, but still a bit dull.
He wrote about the abortion issue with fervour which was good to hear, but I wish bishops would stop just talking about Pope Benedicts visit as a great occasion without enacting the liturgical renewal Benedict clearly desires and the best practice he exemplified whilst he was here. Liturgical renewal is certainly one of the core objectives of this Pope’s pontificate as far as I can tell and in the liturgy actions often speak louder than words. Additionally as I’ve said before, it would be so easy to do…
Anyway, yes, its nice to talk about the hum drum, the daily events of Catholicism, they are so wholesome and fairly easy to get right, and when they are done right they really help the average Joe in the pew, (of which I would very much count myself), engage with the sublime joy of the mass.
Me and a friend went to a pub afterwards and had a natter about all things Catholic and got to talking about how such regular quiet little socials were very wholesome and should be encouraged.
Its that little bit extra Catholic socialising that goes such a long way, especially for young people (of which I can only just count myself), who can feel isolated in the pews surrounded by people four times their age crippled by mutual social awkwardness.
Perhaps we all really need a good natter amongst good Catholic friends, especially in a non threatening environment. So why not ask your Priest if he could advertise weekly post mass pub socials, can I get a second? The added bonus is you will probably hear more about Catholicism in a freewheeling conversation in a pub than in the RCIA under the penetrating glare of a pseudo-nun…
One thing we chatted about was how good it was to have workmanlike priests, they are humble, they get on with the job, there is no false solemnity or pomposity, they just allow God to work through them, enact the sacraments in persona Christi and let God act through them, for us and with us. As Ronald Knox said ‘the parsons know what they are doing’.
It’s such a contrast to so many religions and even dare I say it, ‘ecclesial communities’, where a Charismatic leadership has to stand at the front and give a glorified puppet show to encourage people to know/realise/believe their own way to salvation. What an individualistic, yet weirdly a simultaneously patronising way of pursuing religion. As Catholics rather than just being led by the priest, we can know we are all in it together as the Church militant in communion with the Church triumphant and in union with the priest. I suppose they believe the mass is just a puppet show, which really is their immeasurable loss.
As overheard in the sacristy reminded me today, the mass is the most perfect worship because it is the worship of Christ to the Father, and the father’s grace is given to Christians united to Christ through his body the Church, again through the saving action of Christ. All the priest has to do is decrease so that God can increase. What a sublime mystery we can, and hopefully will, spend eternity pondering and participating in.