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Tuesday, May 13, 2003

The First Commandment for Churches Trying to be 'Hep' and 'Groove Down' with 'the Young People': "Thou Shalt Not Meet At An Elks Club."

How long, O Lord? How long? The usual subset of Boomer Catholics are playing church again:

FRAMINGHAM -- Catholics looking for more spirituality, unity, love and compassion turned to the Elks Club yesterday.

But not "truth." That would involve having to get out of the "spiritual" jacuzzi to face reality every once and a while. Naaah.

After a Mass said by the Rev. Ronald Ingalls, a married priest from Ashland, many in the 50-person congregation said they found what they had been seeking.

Um, their car keys? Maybe the Prilosec tablets that fell out of their pockets? Did any of the headcount involve people who wandered in looking for the bar by mistake? Wow, 50. "Sing a new club into being...."

"The Mass was beautiful and meaningful. It's so nice to be in a community that welcomes everyone," said Leah O'Leary of Norwood, married to the Rev. Paul Plato who will say Mass next week.

Rose Bradley of Upton was equally touched by the service.

"I thought the Mass was very spiritual. It moved me, especially when I saw tears in Father Ingalls' eyes at the end of the Mass," said Bradley, a former Sister of Notre Dame.

Thirty-eight freaking years of celebrating the community first and foremost at the Big Agape Table called the Eucharistic Celebration, and they're only feeling the community now? Where you been, Mrs. O'Leary?

"Tears in his eyes." All the Ben Gay in the air will do that to you.

Holding a peach-colored rose given to all mothers after the Mass, Catherine Mercier from Blackstone said it was the best service she ever attended.

"The Holy Spirit was definitely with us all during the service," said Mercier. She has been looking for a smaller religious group, "where there is a spirit working within the community."

Looking for a smaller religious group, eh? I daresay you've found it, and I can guarantee it's only going to get smaller. And yep, there sure is a spirit working, all right: the spiritus mundi.

And what is it with a certain cohort of Catholics who seem to think they are the Holy Spirit's Press Secretary, anyway?

"In a larger church you can't share that," said Mercier, a divorcee, who knew that many divorced Catholics don't feel comfortable attending Mass in the Catholic Church where they cannot receive all the sacraments.

When was the last time a Massachusetts Catholic was refused a sacrament? Didn't think so. Diocesan priests fall all over themselves to toss hosts into the mouths of the overwhelmingly pro-choice politicos of the state, including that walking Cautionary Tale called Ted Kennedy. When I think "theocracy," the Bay State consistently fails to come to mind.

Ingalls, dressed in a white cassock with a vibrantly colored stole from El Salvador around his neck, said the conventional Mass. Placed on the altar in front of him was a tray of bread and red grapes, a chalice of wine, the Eucharistic hosts, and a small lit white candle.

Snazzy outfit, and so multiculti! Why do I suspect the Rev. Ingalls is an ex-Jesuit? The stole is a hint, coming as it does from the place where The Only Jesuit Martyrs in History hail from.

It's also nice to see the rest of the accoutrements were set up so well: the bread, grapes, and probably an altar cloth from Bed, Bath and Beyond. I sure hope the feng shui was just so.

Ingalls, who admitted he was a little nervous, referred in jest to the meeting place as St. Lodge of Elks Church.

Well, the joke was no lamer than most attempted priestly stand-up. It would be nice to think that schism made him nervous, but it was probably stagefright.

"We wanted to say a conventional Mass where people can grow together spiritually," said Ingalls, noting that no donation basket would be passed during the service.

Ingalls' wife, Sheila, said she didn't want the service to be too conventional.

Hmm. The Movement's members are at odds already! And is anyone else well and truly sick of the word "spiritual" yet?

"I wanted it to be special," said Sheila Ingalls, manager of online banking at Middlesex Savings Bank in Natick.

Mission accomplished.

A boom box, taking the organist's place, played tapes with songs for everyone to sing including, "Come As You Are," which expressed the sentiment of the congregation.

What? No Norman Greenbaum?! What's wrong with you people?!?

"Yes, I hear all the young folks now have one of these here 'ghetto casters.' Would you mind putting in my 'Peter, Paul and Mary' 8-track?"

According to Louise Haggett, president of CITI Ministries Inc., married priests are being summoned by lay people and the Catholic Church's Canon Law, which states when (married) priests are asked for the sacraments, priests cannot refuse.

"Roman Catholics still want to attend Mass but have become disillusioned for several reasons, including (the church's) political agenda and the sexual abuse scandal," said Haggett.

I'd love to be able to untangle this justification, but I don't know where to begin. "I'm so ticked about the war, contraception and abuse that I need to see a married priest. I think I'll order one now." Okay. Pretext, anyone?

CITI, which stands for Celibacy Is The Issue, was founded in 1992 in Framingham in response to a shortage of priests. Its mission is to work toward the full use of married Roman Catholic priests in filling spiritual needs.

Celibacy is the issue? Ah, yes: If only Paul Shanley had met the right woman....

"Celibacy is a man-made law. Before 1139, popes, bishops and priests were married," said Haggett.

Sounds vaguely Boettneresque to me. At the very least, the rule in the eastern and western Church was that bishops were expected to be celibate.

But, according to Ingalls, not everyone is in agreement about the Mass.

Got it in one.

"When I left the priesthood, my license to operate as a priest was withdrawn and because of that (the Rev. Christopher) Coyne from the Archdiocese of Boston is calling married priests all sinners," said Ingalls.

We're not sinners, darn it! We're a warm, affirming spiritual community!

>>Obligatory Couple of Sentences Where Journalist Attempts to Instill Illusion of Balance by Briefly Referring to the Other Side But Not Presenting Its Arguments omitted.<<

According to Upton's Bradley, the church needs to get back to its roots.

"All change is a process," said Bradley, who taught first grade at the Roosevelt School in Framingham after she left the convent in 1966. "Prayer has to be the foundation for change. We have to have a church that belongs to all of us. The new church will come as God wishes.

"We are trying to arrive at something and be a church the way that Christ intended. We are not radical. We are trying to go back to where we can belong and grow and be fed spiritually," said Bradley.

Argh. That word, for the umpteenth time. Funny how it is that "Christ" always manages to give the ol' thumbs up to everything they are trying to do, saying "You go, girl!" from on high. JC's not a judgmental kinda guy.

Introspection? That's getting out of the warm water again...

"Youngsters especially need the church today so that they can learn about love and compassion and develop self-esteem which will help them go through a difficult phase in their lives. They especially need inner peace after all the abuse and financial scandals," said Bradley.

As we all know, JC (can we call you "Josh"? I mean, "Christ" sounds so hierarchical) was all about self esteem!

Although CITI previously was told it could hold Mass at the Framingham Lodge of Elks, future services will have to be held elsewhere because there is no handicap-access ramp.

CITI is negotiating with other venues and expects to have a location firmed up for next week.

I hear there's this hall owned by a member of VOTF. Now those guys are happenin'!

[Link via Catholic Light.]

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