In the past few weeks I have been to Mass in no less that seven different parishes. In each of these places there have been differences. There have been huge differences in some aspects, there have been nuances in others. Ultimately the formula stays the same, no matter what is happening beforehand, be it collective prayer, silence, or chatter (I know I know) a bell rings and Mass happens. Now I know there will be some that will pull me up on my simplistic language but I am keeping it simple here, Mass happens.
I have spotted at each Mass the things that would have some Twitterati and Blogservatives foaming at the mouth. But I have also seen things that would make other Twitterati and Libloggers cry that we’re all going to hell in a handcart. But ultimately, the congregation are there, participating, in the true sense, in what is happening through the celebrant.
There’s one particular aspect that I have noted of late. An aspect of Holy Mass that some, including it’s sad to say, priests have felt it ok to denigrate; The Sign of Peace.
Being as old as I am, 55, I remember when we first started doing the sign of peace. In my head I can see my mum with her friends Mary and Ursula standing stock still, staring in front of them at this point, refusing categorically that they were going to get mixed up in any of ‘that nonsense’. I can recall a conversation outside Mass where one of them said “We’re not Italian, we’re British, we don’t do that sort of thing”. This was counteracted by Sofia (guess where she is from) saying “err?” That one syllable was all it took to make her point.
Within a few weeks it had all settled down, the sign of peace became an integral part of the Mass, and it remains so today. With my hand on a Holy Bible I can say that having looked to see how other parishes react to the ‘Sign’ I can see no difference in any of them.
I I was somewhat taken aback when I attended a Sunday service at my wife’s Anglican parish and ‘the peace’ went on for ages. There was hugging and kissing and moving about to wherever people wanted to go, I saw things being written down, conversations going on, it was relentless. A few days later I said this to some friends back at my parish and what I was asked by two people made me smile and drove the point home
“You’ve never been to Mass in Nigeria then?”
The Vatican has recently drawn attention to the length of time some people will take to, shall we say, enjoy” the sign of peace, but in agreement with Christina Odone, I really don’t think they has anywhere in Northern Europe in mind. (In fact I know they don’t but I can’t name my source).
But this does not take away the fact that once again there are priests who are proud to separate themselves from Mother Church on this matter. And they are vain enough to need people to agree with them. I find it ironic that the same priests would be blogging at 90 miles an hour if any Catholic priest started blessing the union of same sex couples in church, or started talking about planned parenthood as a possible doctrine. And that’s just the priests! There’s also self appointed great and good who will feel they need to avail us of their insight, an insight gained by their academic qualifications but wouldn’t dream of lauding a bishop who, like all good shepherds, smells of his sheep (unless there were economic reasons of course, then they might eventually, begrudgingly applaud him). But as we know, God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.
Pope Francis has come in for quite a bit of criticism from Catholics with certain sensitivities. I am yet to discuss this in person with anyone who does not consider this scandalous. This scandal was highened recently by a priest, who in his blog, said it was perfectly OK to criticise Pope Francis. Yes of course Father, and how would you be if Pope Benedict had come in for the same amount of criticism?
There will always be dissenting voices in the Catholic Church, there always has been, there will always be the whingers, there always has been, if not there would not be deacons (Acts 6). Corrie ten Boom said ‘A Church big enough for our understanding would not be big enough for our needs’, I believe the same goes for tastes too, it’s inevitable there will be things we don’t like about the Church at some point in our lives, but like all tastes, they can change.
I can tell you first hand that Jesus not only comforts the afflicted, but he afflicts the comfortable, so get with it and have faith. There has, for 2000 years, and always will be ‘until the end of time’ a Catholic Church. If not, there’s the 44 year old SSPX.