Sunday, February 01, 2009

Mass in West Hollywood – I Remain in Shock

On Saturday in LA, my wife and I caught a cab from the Getty Center to West Hollywood via Bel Air and Beverly Hills.

The Church looked like a Church – not stunning but built properly (and to my delight, the altar rail remained). No altar girls were present, no army of EMHCs, but there were five men as altar servers and one venerable priest, hunched over, who labored with apparent difficulty and help from his cane and another man to climb steps to take his seat. Somehow you could see, as you watched, a man who had walked with Christ for a long time.

All the ordinaries were in Latin – the official language of the Church. We chanted the missa primitiva, which the USCCB last year recommended all US Catholics be taught. (My parish missed that memo I guess). Even the “Our Father” became the Pater Noster and I chanted along hearitly.

Active participation... I mean actual participation (it's participatio actuosa right?) I'm left wondering why the 5:00 hippie mass at my parish has almost no participation while this, and every reasonably reverent mass I've ever been to, has the laity chaffing at the bit to participate. The chants were known well, and though the attendance was less than half of what would be typical at my parish, the sound was twice as loud and immeasurably more beautiful. At my parish, the only things which you can count on the laity participating in are the things which they aren't supposed to do like shooting invisible fireballs at the priest with annoying, gaudy tilts of the head “and also with you” and holding hands as if we were singing Kumbaya instead of praying the Our Father. You can't count on them actually saying the Our Father or singing along with the Ordinaries. Most of them can't even be bothered to genuflect properly. I digress.

The homily was something special. The old priest stayed seated in his chair for understandable reasons and spoke slowly and lovingly as a grandfather addressing his family. Now there was nothing casual about this. Everyone who's ever been there knows that an old man addressing his family with deliberation (regardless of place and seating arrangements) isn't casual at all. Even the children sit still for this. I felt, on one hand, as a guest at a friend's family banquet and on the other, as at my own family's banquet hearing a paternal address from a patriarch, who instantly earned my respect and affection by virtue of blood relation rather than personal history. It was exactly like this in fact, but the blood that connected us was not our own.

We were instantly received at the family table. In fact, an elderly lady, clearly a fixture of the parish, asked my wife and I if we would present the gifts for consecration. Absolutely. Now when we offered the gifts to the priest, he whispered a welcome to us and he told me “I like your beard”. My suspicions were confirmed. He was a man of God.

What a wonderful experience. Here in the very heart of Babylon, the Word of God is continuously proclaimed, the very Body of Christ is offered and souls are set right with the Lord. If a light shines so brightly in the dimmest of all places (morally speaking), then there is hope yet for any part of the world via the Catholic Church.


Rob said...

Sounds like you had a wounderful experience in the sin captil of the world, and you were pleasently surprized with a beautful Mass. Even in the darkest of places the light shines bright, you just have to be open to see it and unfortunately alot of our brothers have there eyes closed and never see it


Andrew Preslar said...

Amen. Good gracious brother I like this post even better than "The Convo Turns Ugly." Didn't think that was possible. "Shooting fireballs" indeed. Very nice. We need to take a short road trip to Greenville, SC for High Mass- soon.

Tim A. Troutman said...

As much as I'd like to do so, I can't take credit for the fireballs. Alas, it was my friend Joseph who goes under the alias of "NotMyOpinion". Haven't seen him around lately.

I'm not sure which annoys me more, the fireballs or the head tilting...

Greenville - my schola has been talking about a roadtrip for years now. We need to make it happen.