It’s a late Lenten resolution but this Lent, I am giving up bad liturgies.
I’ve had enough of it. All of it.
The ad-libbed Eucharistic Prayers, the casual sauntering around the Altar, the bongos, the Creed mysteriously left out, the trite homilies, the banjos, the empty stoups during Lent, the equally (theologically) empty hymns from the 90s, the dismal homilies, the handing-holding in the Our Father, the “Blessing songs”, and the constant chatter before, after and (I’m serious) during Mass.
It’s so… awful. Sometimes, it feels like a Rotary club putting on play about soft pop-rock, druids and the importance of self-esteem.
It’s not just that it’s ugly (which it is), but that it’s so irreverent. And I’m sitting there, wondering, where is God in all this?
I think I tolerated it for so long because, as Dr. Seuss might say, a Mass is a Mass, no matter how bad. It can disrespectful, shambolic, lazy or even illicit and still be valid. Jesus Christ, in His immense mercy, still comes to us. It is still His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity that is offered to the Eternal Father; and which we are still privileged to consume.
And that’s awesome.
“‘All things are lawful’, but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful’, but not all things build up.” (1 Co 10:23)
I have to finally admit that bad liturgy is not beneficial. In fact, it’s downright poisonous.
So no more.
I’ve avoided making this resolution.
It’s from partly laziness. The churches immediately around me are, um, not the greatest. But when I’m tired, or rushing, or have lost track of time (which is ALL. THE. TIME.), it’s so much easier just to go there. So I drift in most weeks… and then leave discouraged.
But it was also with good intentions. It’s still Mass right? And it feels like a kind of pride to say, “actually you’re not good enough for me and I’m going elsewhere.” Doesn’t Jesus say not to judge others? Who am I, baby Catholic that I am, to judge others?
But there’s a difference between judging others and knowing your limits. And although I thought I was avoiding pride, I was actually falling right into it.
You see, I thought I should be able to handle it.
I’m a mature Christian; I don’t need the “props” of a Mass well done like others. I can thrive in bad conditions because I’m that awesome. In fact, I can probably help change things – like, I’ll just rock up and everyone will be like, “Wow! Mass really is the closest thing to Heaven on Earth. Thanks Laura!” (Oh, how I wish I was joking…)
So I’ve been doggedly going to Mass, scandalised by the irreverence and irregularities, and I haven’t had the humility to see how it is slowly starving me.
But no more.
I need to embrace my littleness, my babyhood, my fragility and stop thinking I can handle this. I can’t. It’s not my job to decide what’s edifying and what’s not. And I need to learn that it’s not weakness to need encouragement, whether from beauty or other Christians.
I am a sapling and I need the good soil of a reverent Mass.
I am an infant and I need the pure milk of a holy liturgy.
I am human and I need all the help I can get.
As a father has compassion for his children,
so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
For he knows how we were made;
he remembers that we are dust. (Ps 103:13-14)
I’m finally admitting that I desperately need a beautiful and holy Mass. It’s my new, impromptu Lenten resolution. Because really, who am I, baby Catholic that I am, to think I can survive without it?