Thursday, 13 November 2008


One of the things we didn't enjoy about our trip to Jersey was the Mass we went to. When we walked into the church, I almost walked straight out again - I wasn't sure if it was actually a Catholic church.

There were huge projector screens each side of the altar, onto which the words of the hymns (with several misspellings - another of my pet peeves) were projected during the Mass. I've only ever seen this in Baptist and Pentecostal churches before, and I've always thought it was because the stuff they were singing was too new and radical to be in the hymn book.

The room was half-full, but from the noise level as we went in you would have thought it was packed to the rafters - I've never heard such a racket before Mass. The seating was on ordinary chairs, and we eventually discovered that if you wanted to kneel down, you were expected to collect a cushion from the back on your way in.

For all their friendliness with each other, I couldn't say the congregation were particularly welcoming to strangers - given that the people on every side of us turned their backs on us and ignored us during the (extremely long, due to the deacon's desire to shake hands with half the congregation) sign of peace.

There was an 'animator' who led the singing, and he leapt up to the microphone before Mass began to introduce his little sideshow. He began by saying that he had received positive feedback on the "more powerful" music that had been sung the previous week and had been asked for more of the same, so was going to make a start... and then he got some sort of silly wig out of his 'prop bag' and put it on, to gales of laughter from the 'audience'. I have seldom seen anything so inappropriate.

The priest wasn't actually allowed much involvement in the Mass - it was mostly taken over by the deacon. The deacon himself seemed mostly preoccupied throughout the Mass with checking that his microphone was on - and after each check, he usually cracked some sort of joke. He gave the homily, and although I tried very hard to concentrate, my mind started to wander once I realised how much of it was about himself.

I did eventually spot the tabernacle, tucked away to the side of the church. It couldn't have been more central, because the central 'stage' was taken up with the two huge projector screens.

I came away with two overriding thoughts.

First, that this was some sort of penance visited on New Man and me because we had looked at the Mass times for the island and chosen to go to the one which gave us the longest lie-in (although to be fair to us, it was also at the Catholic church which was closest to our hotel).

And secondly, I pondered that the problem with the Novus Ordo Mass is that when you're in a parish that's not your own, you have no idea what you're going to get. You could attend a beautiful, reverently celebrated Mass which fills you with peace. You could attend a Mass celebrated by a wise and prayerful priest who speaks to your soul in his sermon and leaves an indelible impression on you.

Or you could go to a Mass like this. And until you get there, you have no idea what you're letting yourself in for.


Mac McLernon said...

Hi there! You've won an award!

Dymphna said...

I've been to some bad masses but this one tops them all.

Beth said...

You should have seen the mass we went to last summer in Illinois. It was a high school retreat weekend and the mass was outside in an outdoor theater type thing. There was a nun behind me dressed in white capris with flamingos on them and a pink sleeveless shirt. OMG! Then the songs they sang were crap - the one I remember was one about "share healing" and the only reason I remember it is b/c I hated it so much and all my friends who were there sang it the rest of the weekend to make me mad!

Mac McLernon said...

You've been tagged!

Beth said...

Where are you??

newhousenewjob said...

Thanks for the tag, Mac - and the award. I think I'm back now, so I'll do the meme soon - I promise...

gemoftheocean said...

I like to say that God DOES show up at a Mass like this. Except, I think it's under duress.