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Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Of LitComs and Nostalgia

Yes, I'm feeling a bit of the latter, anticipatorially, as freedom from the former looms.

But that's not what I'm thinking about today.
I came across this, several months old post, on the blog of the religion writer for the Times, UK. Ruth Gledhill, not a Catholic herself, had asked Chris Gillibrand to comment on a dust-up over some shoddy and dishonest journalism by The Tablet, a Catholic periodical in the UK, as they tried to put a spin on some words of the new-ish Archbishop of Westminster, the de facto leader, (or at least first among equals,) of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, making it seem he liked what they liked and descried what they descried, and had put England's trads in their place, (the dust-bin of history to the Tablet's way of thinking.)

(The Tablet's dishonesty was so egregious that an auxiliary bishop corrected them publicly and in print, incidentally, lest I be though to be exaggerating.)

Anyway, not being a partisan per se of the EF, (I am in favor of equal rights for equal rites,) this was the part of Gillibrand's comments that interested me:
Thousands, upon thousands, of authorised permutations for celebrating Mass exist, which becomes an unknowable number, possibly approaching infinite, when all the variations that exist that have never been authorised are taken into account. These variations are in the hands, at best, of the parish priest, and, at worst, a parochial liturgical committee.
....If we accept the argument that personal preference should play no role in liturgy, it is time to close down every liturgical committee in the land, and produce proper rubrics for the new Mass, so that its dignity of celebration can approach that of the Latin Mass.
Once during a typically interminable committee meeting, after a twenty minute conversation on the height of the platform on which the creche was to be placed, a member turned his attentions to the settings of psalms I had been programming, saying that the diocese had decreed that some musical compositions to which I never had recourse could be used.
I declared that just because someone at the chancery said they could be used it did not follow that they must be used.
Well, if you're not going to take our thoughts into consideration as to what music you use, what in the world is the liturgy committee for?

And I regretted my instant reply of, I dunno... to decide where to put the creche? because the crimson face and literal sputtering of my interrogator made me fear someone in the committee room would need to give immediate first aid to yet another a stroke victim.

But in all seriousness, what is the LitCom for?
When all is said and done, even if the meeting ends with a definitive, so we've decided, we're going to have the sprinkling rite every Sunday of Easter, if the celebrant doesn't want to do it, come 11:00 Mass in April, the mere presence of the aspergillium [sp?] on the rim of the font, the will of a handful of lay people, and the gimlet eye of the committee head fixed upon him, boring into him from the front pew -- they all matter not, he cannot be made to stride down the aisle spoiling everyone's new silk frocks with water spots.
(Me, on the other hand, they can have fired....)

Gillibrand's idea that the creation of "proper rubrics" will acheive much seems naive to me -- the rubrics that exist now are ignored.

I do agree with what I think he is saying, that there are simply too dang many options for ritual to ensue reliably.

There is always a feel of Sunday Morning at the Improv for many parishes, from the get-go.
Hymn end after the last verse? or stop instantly when the celebrant signals by his loudly impatient singing that that's enough, he's ready to begin, who cares if the Holy Spritz is given short shrift?
Do those processing genuflect? do they bow? and do they realize it is a ritualistic gesture, has anyone informed the servers of this? or does it seem like embarrassed calisthenics?
Is the Lord be with you too feeble a greeting, so we need to preface it with Good morning, everyone, isn't this a glorious day?
Which form of the penitential rite, A, B or C? or, much feared by MDs, the made up D, for the priest who hates saying the confiteor, just sing that short Kyrie, no invocations.
Gloria... oops, stupid organist shouldn't have played the intro, this is the celebrant who likes to give a little explanation before we begin. You know, because it's in English, so we won't understand what the words mean, from themselves. :oP
And from the fact that they are the same words every week.
Opening prayer - which one? even if we're celebrating the actual Mass of the day, there's almost always an alternate. (Why?)
The odd thing is, in many places, aspects that are subject to change, where there are legitimate options, are sacrosanct. (We can't eliminate the closing song! people will think it's Lent!)

All that said... a glimmer of hope. A LitCom leader of my acquaintance, late 60s, is my guess, though perhaps a septuagenarian, previous partisan of liturgical dance, (me, I like liturgical tap...:oP) had a glow of enthusiasm recently expounding on the current crop of young religious who embrace the habit, want to pray in community.

And this isn't nostalgia, he insisted as if he had just discovered it, They're not old enough to remember the way it used to be! They want to priest facing what they call "ad orientem," so that they are all in this together, facing the same way, GOING the same way....

Don't worry, I'm not going to get careless and optimistic.

Earlier that day, when I had collected a Latin motet which I decided we simply didn't have time to get back in shape before the Sunday on which it would be appropriate, (because TPTB had changed for the third time, what mass we would be celebrating, but that's another story...) one of the sopranos said, that's probably good because some people have been complaining that they can't understand all the Latin we're doing.

She is, you will gather, the liturgical equivalent of the letter writers to Anne Landers, or the Playboy Adviser, "I have a friend who...." and is full of suggestions and complaints which she charitably and tirelessly transmits from mysterious and unnamed other persons who are too diffident to speak for themselves.


It was this messenger's misfortune that I was feeling feisty. Oh, we shouldn't sing things that people don't understand? Okay, no more of those French hymns... (this was a French-Canadian parish, but 150 years on, no one understands a words of the hymns and beloved carols for which they still clamor.)

Oh, well, no, she didn't say anything about FRENCH.

Well, if people are complaining about things they don't UNDERSTAND, I don't want to be upsetting people, so I...

Oh, NO, I sure she didn't mean....

Yeah, right.
SHE didn't mean...

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