Sunday, January 29, 2012

The smoke of Santa has entered the church

That Christmas night fire still has our parish's church closed. During the cleanup, Mass for Sundays is in the Community Room (hall) and televised in the adjacent Gathering Space (narthex). Seating is rented folding chairs.

Saturday evening's Mass was standing room only. That is, there were only scattered single seats (in the narthex, at least) and rather than squeeze past or make people move, a score or so of us stood in the back. This included a couple families with several small children each, which obscured the actual demographics of the attendees.

It reminded me of St. Veronica Church circa a half-century ago when some of the ten or so Sunday Masses were in the church hall, we sat on folding chairs, and the full house included a lot of families with kids. I'll miss that a bit when the church reopens.


  1. Anonymous3:04 PM

    In Orthodox Churches (with exception of USA, Canada and GB) there typically are no pews, you stand for the entire 2 hour Divine Liturgy.

    Likewise nothing wrong with kneeling on the floor.

    Any hope that any of the post-fire refurbishing will bring St. Al's more towards the reform of the reform?

  2. I'd heard from some parish old-timers that the current church was designed with kneelers, and not having them was a late change. The pews do have a cap on the inside of the ends, about where you would expect the hinge for kneelers to be installed. Even without kneelers, when Archbishop Dolan was to preside at a service a few years back, the order of worship included notations on when to kneel. He was told, though, that the slanted floor made kneeling impractical, and gave an oral waiver.

    Thinking about that, I suppose it would be a bit cramped to kneel given the tight clearance of the temporary folding chairs. On the other hand, there's no impediment for anyone standing in the back, and we wouldn't be within the reason for the waiver.

    Between you and me, I do sometimes think back to kneeling with the villagers on the cobblestones of Santa Apolonia when I was there on a parish mission to Guatemala that coincided with the local church's Corpus Christi procession. It contrasted with an explanation I'd heard (pre-waiver) about why we don't kneel at St. Al's, which included patronizing (it seemed to me) remarks about various devotional practices in supposedly less-sophisticated places and times.

    Anyway, the refurbishing is to include a reconfigured sanctuary. The current talk show set layout will be changed, but the replacement was a bit unclear from a conceptual sketch projected on a screen during a Mass some months back. I hope it's not one of the projection stage designs. When I did one of the readings at a wedding at St. Mary's in Hales Corners, it seemed like I was a mile away from even the wedding party in the first row of pews.

  3. Anonymous6:55 AM

    Thanks very much for that information it really shed some light on some things. I am a tremendous fan of Archbishop Dolan though I was always sorry to see that at many Masses as the Cathedral people did not kneel (even though there are kneelers, though awkwardly set up.) I wish he would have just said "Please kneel" and set the tone on that.

    Thank you for sharing that story about the Corpus Christi procession in Latin America. I have similar memories of kneeling in the slush and snow (in dress pants) alongside dozens of other worshipers at normal Sunday Masses in Poland when we heard the consecration bells.

    When I have been at places where kneeling is impossible or strongly discouraged and asked about it the responses usually are along the lines of

    1-In the early Church the normal posture of prayer was standing
    2-We are an "Easter people" and don't need to kneel before Jesus in fear, we are his friends.

    The stuff you've heard about "less-sophisticated places and times" seems in league with the above mentallities. Actually I am reminded of something I once read about an African woman who had been imprisoned, beaten and threatened with death for being Catholic. She eventually escaped and came to the USA and was scolded harshly by a priest (or maybe it was a nun or liturgist, I forget the details) for attempting to recieve communion on the tounge.

    To cite the Orthodox again, they do have a legitimate tradition of not-kneeling. If American Catholics want to go that route though, they should remember that in lieu of kneeling Orthodox have other ways to show respect in Church, making the sign of the cross when walking past a Church, bowing and kissing icons inside the Church, etc. Something tells me most Catholic liberals would file that all under "less-sophisticated" as well.

    I am glad to hear that the current talk show set layout will be changed. I know that while in LaCrosse, Archbishop Listecki promligated some guidelines on how refurbishmets should be done to be in compliance with Church norms. This document probably doesn't carry any mandatory authority in Milwaukee Archdiocese but it might be something of a persuasive authority.

    I really hope the job is done right this time. Maybe the time has come to bring the tabernacle into the Church? The pastor should be concious of the fact that the results of the refurbishment will probably be with us for decades and reflect upon the fact that his successor will inherit what is done now. Thinking back to the words of Archbishop Weakland, 12 years ago...

    "My generation, the first after the Council, erred in some of its more radical implementations of Vatican Council II, it did so out of zeal and unbridled enthusiasm, but with a clear theological perspective that it derived from Vatican Council II. I fear the restorationist implementation that is characterizing the second post-conciliar generation will err on the side of rigidity, rubricism."

  4. Your experience is probably illustrative how responses to liturgical questions are not answers, as such, but meant to get you to go away, taking your question with you, and never coming back with it or another. The latter purpose is actually served by giving people inconsistent or even contradictory answers, often with a dash of condescension. I've heard of the answers you cited, but have instead received a variety of other answers at St. Al's. It's made no difference to ask the question in terms of what are we supposed to teach our Christian Formation students if parish liturgical practice departs from the textbooks or other sources.

    On that last point, our pastor has publicly said he refuses to comply with the rubric on genuflection at the Consecration, and at a Sunday's Masses last fall he got down on he's knees to beg people to volunteer as catechists.

    So I'm cautiously pessimistic on the sanctuary redesign.

  5. Anonymous5:05 PM

    Not to belabor this comment thread but I'd be very currious to hear more on this point of public refusla to compley with the rubric on genflection at Consecration?

    I've been around to a lot of places it seems that while we are a long way from the triumph of Catholic culture, orthodoxy, and the reform of the reform, a lot of the outright disobedience that was once so common has gotten a lot less loud and proud in the past few years, St. Al's is seeming increasingly like an exception.

    I pretty much decided to stop going there after I was at a Mass in which a female Protestant pastor (in vestments) preached the homily (ok, not the way I would have wanted things but I could deal with this) and then was given the Eucharist at communion time.

  6. It was at his first parish meeting, shortly after he became pastor. The topic was liturgy. In the Q&A, another parishioner suggested there was a need for a more reverent celebration of Mass, and that might be helped if the priest genuflected at the Consecration.

    In his response, our pastor brought up that the rubrics specified genuflection, and then explained all the problems he saw with genuflection and kneeling, including shuffling along on his knees to illustrate a devotional practice of which he disapproved.

    This response did not, as I recall, get to the parishioner's perception of a need for a more reverent atmosphere. I believe that our pastor did come back to that issue some years' later in a bulletin item in which he said that the reverence of the Mass in Ordinary Time was enhanced by simplification, such as the parish practice of omitting the Gloria.

    If memory serves, having the minister in the annual "pulpit exchange" receive Communion did get the attention of our Archdiocese, and I have not heard it has been repeated since.