Easter Triduum was mostly excellent. Saw a lot of family (which is great), including a ton of adorable babies (well, 4, although #5 is on his/her way). The Good Friday service was very good, although it was very long (an hour and forty minutes) and I had no seat. Still, I love seeing a packed crowd come out to celebrate the joy that is Christ, crucified. On Holy Saturday, I got to see my little sister’s new apartment, and enjoy an excellent 3-hour brunch-‘n-chat with some extended family, followed by catching up with a couple of my good friends. Easter Sunday was fantastic. Mass in the morning, followed by brunch with my immediate family and in-law(s) [one in-law, one in-betrothal, if I’m being technical], eventually followed by an afternoon with my extended family, including the aforementioned babies. Everyone had a great time, and the pictures turned out. It was a good mix of focusing on God and celebrating with family (I think the two compliment each other nicely).
I had one major qualm with Holy Saturday, however. Or more specifically, with the Easter Vigil. I went to a church in Kansas City which, unbeknownst to me, was a sort of hotbed of heresy (I’d prefer not to name names of churches, because I don’t want to gossip; that said, if anyone is going to be in the area, I can suggest churches which I like, as alternatives to this unnamed church). Apparently, Bp. Finn, a pretty solid, orthodox bishop, has been trying to tighten ship and bring people more in line with Catholicism. Some people apparently haven’t liked this push and have gone to this church instead, since it is run by a religious order which doesn’t answer as directly to him.
As for the Mass… yikes. The priest in question:
- …insisted upon being referred to by first name. (Not a big deal by itself, but I think it helps paint the picture).
- …said that as a younger priest, he had looked up to certain priests, but that there were certain ones he prayed he wouldn’t become. Those were the priests who were “old stinkers who think you have to follow the rules every time.”
(At this point, I knew I was going to be in for a bad time. Priests who pride themselves on their heterodoxy and their disobedience are not my idea of an Easter Vigil).
- …provided two stories ostensibly given to show God’s abundant mercy. The first story involved a woman who died and was nervous going to Heaven, because she had commit a lot of sins. Upon arriving, she encounters only God (he emphasized that Peter wasn’t there, and there were no pearly gates — I’m not sure why this was important). Then, said Fr. Matt, God said, “I apologize. I am sorry that your mom died when you were 13, that you lost a baby at only 23, and I know when it died, you died a little too. I’m sorry you got Alzheimer’s when you were older. I saw, and I did nothing. If you will forgive me, I’d like to let you have Heaven. You don’t have to decide now. You can think about it for a billion years. And if you need more time, you can take another trillion years.”
I don’t think that I need to say that this story is utterly blasphemous. It’s an affront and an insult to God. It’s not just a non serviam, but something yet further – a demand that God serve man!
- …told a second story was basically a continuation, except this time, St. Peter is there (St. Peter represents the rule-following Catholic, apparently, which I guess is fitting) and reports to God that there is an atheist living in Heaven who thinks he’s still in southern Missouri. St. Peter brings God to him, and the man says, “That’s not God.” God, in this story, finds this “the funniest thing He’s ever heard, and laughs. And God is dressed for the trip, so when He laughs, His t-shirt comes up you can see His fat belly jiggling.”
This seems to have been the only way to have pushed the non serviam further: not only refusing to serve God, not only expecting Him to serve us, but mocking Him in a crude and disturbing manner. I’m reminded of Faustus, and his descent into irrelevance. At one point, he uses the powers he got from his deal with the devil to annoy the pope at a dinner party. It’s cheap laughs all around, and brings new meaning to “the banality of evil.”
- …provides an absurd explanation from “God,” for St. Peter. God explains to St. Peter that the atheist denied God on the battlefield, after seeing things that “no man or woman ever should,” but that “once he said that God didn’t exist, he said, ‘that means there’s only us, so we need to feed the hungry, &c.'” Once again, this is the kind of garbage one might expect from an anti-Catholic novel or play. Honestly, if this homily were a TV show broadcast on Easter, all Catholics worth their salt (including yourself) would be up in arms demanding the show be cancelled.
- …said he didn’t believe anyone is in Hell, because “I’ve never met anyone I thought deserved hell. Whenever I see anyone, every single person, I just imagine them in Heaven.” At this point, this priest had embraced something more extreme than the Origen’s heretical apokatastasis, and which was a direct affront and an insult to God on the holiest night of the year.
- …invalidated the Mass by intentionally altering the words of consecration. All he added was “Jesus said” to the middle of the consecration of the wine. It was all he had to say. And he knew it.
The entire Vigil was a mess. And it went on seemingly forever. If I’m not mistaken, it ran from 8 PM until a little past 11:30, over 3 and a half hours. I don’t mind a long Vigil when it’s well done – on the contrary, I love the orthodox Vigil, with its story of man’s fall and redemption. It truly is the most amazing story ever told.
In sharp contrast, this Vigil was about self-worship and New Age-y navel gazing. The Liturgy reflected that, with its self-praising songs, gender-neutralization of any mention to man (even changing “the sin of Adam” to “the sin of Adam and Eve,” a Pyrrhic victory for feminists everywhere, no doubt) and even eliminating any reference to God as He in the Bible readings (although they stayed in the hard-to-remove points, leading to hilarious results: like changing “He is Father” to “God is Father”).
Earlier in the day, I had been speaking with another Catholic who said that if we truly understood the Mass, we would want to perform it prostrate upon our faces. In contrast, the entire congregation remained standing while the priest said, “This is the Lamb of God,” and the congregation said, “We are not worthy to receive You…” Their actions (remaining standing) certainly didn’t reflect an awareness of just how true those words were. I don’t wish to pass judgment upon members of the church, and particularly not individual ones. I recognized a handful of the people there, and I think that the vast majority of people just were doing what they were expected to, because this is the way the Mass was done in this church. For a small group of people, this Mass seems to have been their own doctrinal position, an affront to the Church and to God. For the rest, they were simply brought along for the horrible ride.
This parade of blasphemy was closed with “Jesus Christ is Risen Today,” an excellent Easter tune. Unfortunately, it was interrupted by Father insisting on loudly high-fiving people in every row on his “procession” out. I thought to myself that if a child had done this, we would have scolded him for not respecting the sanctity of the Mass. But a 50-year old man? And a priest, no less? The lingering taste that this left was not only that this was blasphemous, but awkward narcissism, the sort of showing off one expects from a teenager, or someone who is severely developmentally stunted. Catholic Culture ran an article from 2007 which addressed this issue head-on.
In any case, please keep this church, and all of us, in your fervent prayers.