June 18, 2006

Catholic ritual in South Carolina

When I got here, I checked out masstimes.org to see what my options were for Saturday evening Mass, only to discover that the Clemson church doesn't do evening Mass during the summer, and its sister churches are miles away. Since we have to work on Sunday morning just like any other, it looked like I'd be completely unable to attend this week unless some group with cars got announced. Ah, well.

But such a group was mentioned during announcements yesterday, meeting at the dorm at 5pm. Nine of us drove off in two cars; we got really lost on the way to Walhalla (that's the town the church is in, but the jokes certainly write themselves), but cruised in towards the middle of the second reading.

It's always interesting to see Mass at a church you've never been to, in an area you've never been to, since there's always something different, if only in the exact configuration of aisle, altar, and lecterns. This church was in the auditorium arrangement that I don't like, although not that bad for all that. What really got me was its liturgy.

It really drove home how much changed in the last ten years or so, not so much in terms of what's required as in what's allowed, because this Mass clearly took place in about 1995. Some things were actually changed in the rubrics but ignored here, like when to stand after the priest starts with "Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice...". Others were clarified but ignored here, like the fact that Extraordinary Ministers of Communion are not supposed to stand around the altar as if concelebrating. But mostly I had forgotten how fast and loose priests used to play with the liturgical text itself. It's been years since I heard a priest that, I guess just to mix it up a bit, rephrases some of his "lines in the script" while more or less (usually more, often less) preserving their meaning. It puts you off-kilter and makes you think too much to make it work as ritual, and used to be very much in vogue (under the name "dynamic equivalence"), but it is now pretty clearly discouraged.

In light of the bishops' vote that just happened this week, I wonder how much longer these parishes (and it could be a diocesan thing for all I know) will take to get up to speed on the new rubrics than everyone else. Not that everyone else will be sped through them—the RCC seems to have learned their lesson on changing things too quickly—but I suspect it'll be not quite the same here.

"But it doesn't matter if we named her Cordelia, or Jennifer, or Peggy Sue, or Hildegarde. It won't make a difference if we dress her in overalls or pink, frilly dresses or if we send her to school with Barbies hanging from around her neck like talismans. You can't disguise having a brain. Or perhaps you can, but it means giving it up, which is even worse." --Jeff Vogel

Posted by blahedo at 6:32am on 18 Jun 2006
I just went to church in San Diego for the first time today, and I, too, was struck by how much variation there can be. I think my quest for a good parish in the area is still on . . . Posted by Theresa at 3:53pm on 18 Jun 2006
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