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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

GIRM Warfare in Saginaw.

We went up to the summer palace at 26 Pines for the weekend. We were able to see my parents, sister-in-law and her kids (Hi Brennen and Molly!). Dad launched off his usual modest fireworks display (think "kilotons" and you are getting into the ballpark), grilled the better part of a rendered heifer and the childroon had a ball with my Mom (dubbed "Neema" by her adoring grandchildren). I had fun, too, but 180 miles one way on Michigan expressways during a holiday weekend has left me on the decerebrated side.

As is the case with all trips to the northern highlands, the Papist Prices are faced with a Sunday conundrum: where to worship? The nearest parish, St. Athanasius in Harrison, is a mere seven miles from 26 Pines. At $3 a gallon in the guzzling Family Assault Vehicle, there's something to be said for going the short route. Given the presence of the all-singing, all-dancing, incredible concelebrating nun, however, I usually bite the bullet and go to St. Stephen in Lake City (a 70 mile roundtripper).

But this time I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see the impact of Bishop Carlson's thunder from on high, so we trooped into St. Ath's instead.

What struck me upon entering the parish was that there was a considerable buzz about Bishop Carlson's directives. I overheard a discussion where a worshipper was helpfully (and accurately) pointed to where a copy of the changes could be obtained. We found five contiguous seats (it was a packed house--the holiday birds were in full flight) and sat down. Sister acknowledged that she could no longer give the homily.

Wait for it....

Catholicism: We're The Casuistry People!

But she could, in "full compliance" with the GIRM and Bishop Carlson's instructions, give "a reflection" on the day's scripture readings before Mass started. She noted for the benefit of the overflow captive audience that Mass had not yet started because the sacramental technician had yet to process in. As if that somehow sanctioned the performance. Almost needless to say, there was no effort whatsoever to explain the reasoning behind the changes. Better to leave an impression of being put upon, I suppose.

I leaned over to Heather, whose expression would have been no different had she just spritzed herself with an atomizer of skunk oil, and said "Nobody does legalism quite like a Catholic, eh?"

Yes, it has come to this: The bold, innovative Spirit of Vatican II hiding behind the letter of the law. A crabbed, hypertechnical interpretation at that. After all, Sister hadn't changed the Mass time sign to "4:20pm Saturday" and "10:20am Sunday" to account for the "optional" nature of her "compliant" non-homily homily.

Not being particularly up for yet another game of "Let's Pretend" meets "Hide the Ball," I flipped through the hymnal.

Care to guess what I found, inserted into the front cover? Aw, come on. In your heart of hearts, you already know.

Why, yes, the full version of the SagBl. I took out my pen and annotated in detail, noting that the second verse had been discontinued by Bishop Carlson, and further wrote out the full url explaining the decision. D3 then said he had to pee. Which was a happy coincidence, seeing as I had to hurl.

Afterwards, and fully catching the spirit of the parish administrator's employment of loopholes, I decided that spending the family's cash on the ladies' guild bake sale in the lobby was the equivalent of dropping some green into the Sunday collection. Interestingly enough, I saw a couple exiting very quickly in the midst of the "reflection," looking not at all pleased. Alas, I returned and participated up through the ST's homily, which only pointed up what a phony-ass dodge the "reflection" was--Father's homily lasted twenty seconds and referenced the fact that Sister had already covered the scriptural ground. In his defense, we learned that he has been seriously ill, but it might have been twice as long had he been healthy.

Frankly, I don't know if the rest of the liturgy was kosher or not. The Boy had a discipline problem which I resolved by football-carrying him to the minivan. This proved to be providential because I noticed that the driver's side rear tire was almost flat and sprinted off to the nearest service station for air (I ended up getting a new tire on Monday). When I got back, Heather couldn't say whether Sister's concelebration activities continued or not (my child bride knelt during consecration, unlike everybody else).

The most grating thing about the whole performance is what a crappy witness it is to Catholicism. The best conclusion some observant visiting stranger could draw is that this particular parish is dodgy and doesn't bear faithful witness to what the Church's worship is all about. More likely, the impression will be that the Church is a needless complicator, the promulgator of meaningless abstract rules satisfied by minor shifts.

Thanks, St. Ath's! Way to hold up the side!

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