Saturday, March 27, 2004
Sensibility on anger at liturgy Some comments here from Amy Welborn on getting mad (or not) at liturgy. My two cents as I jump off from there: Few are more frustrated than good liturgists at the perceived failings of parish worship. I remember coming down from the choir loft one frustrating night, and a good friend was sitting in church. "I can only imagine what you could do if you had something to work with here," she said. I appreciated her insight as I wondered if my face really made my discouragement that obvious. If I had wanted "something to work with," namely skilled singers, balanced sections, a meaty repertoire, and a top-shelf organist, I would have opted for music studies instead of theology, and taught at a college with eager, young singers who had to audition to make the cut. Or I would have formed a jazz-rock band and done music my way on the way to the Grammys. The lesson I learned was to seek God's grace not in my own desire and will, but in service and sacrifice. For me, this has meant rehearsing for hours with a doubtful fourteen-year-old pressed into singing at a cousin's wedding. This has meant gently nudging a choir of mostly retirees when our parish hosted the Chrism Mass. This has meant encouraging a clearly out-of-his-depth lector who, as it turned out, was a recent entry into Catholicism, had hardly ever volunteered a word at RCIA much less for a task, and who gave up dinner to spend hours preparing a reading as best he could. His friends were astonished beyond expression. I continually get the message that God chooses the unskilled, the incompetent, the sloppy, the faulty, and the unexpected to make the point. The point couldn't be more clear to me than if all 16-seeds made the Final Four one year. Liturgy is not the time to compose a thoughtful protest. If a distraction pops up, set it aside and return to focus. Ongoing analysis of hypocrisy, illicit or invalid things, heresy, or even the pedestrian values of incompetence, comedy, or accidental satire are not asked for -- not by God anyway. My opinion is that people who dwell on such stuff, have turned the liturgy away from worship of God to a worship of an expected personal ideal. For about an hour at my parish's 5PM Mass tonight, a small handful of mistakes will be made. Perhaps one or two particulars of IGRM will be ignored. A few wrong notes will be sung or played. And most people won't nod their heads before receiving Communion. Even a few distractions might lurch into a sinful thought or two. But you know what? Christ will be present. No matter what. Anyone who is waiting, expecting, and looking will find God tonight. You know something else? It will happen in your parish, too.