Warm Fuzzy Sunday Mass

Recently Renee and I attended 5 o' clock Sunday mass at St. Mary's in Pompton Lakes, NJ.  Unfortunately we did not have a positive mass experience.  We were so troubled that we both decided that I should write and highlight the specifics:

  • Immediately when we walked in we loved the simple, unassuming beauty of the church.  The lights were dimmed, and on above the altar there was a beautiful Franciscan Crucifix.  What made this crucifix so striking was the fact that it was illumined from behind creating a lighted silhouette, which compelled us to gaze at the cross.  But our gaze was distracted by the loud conversations in the church. To our chagrin we discovered  that some of the source of this distraction came from a Franciscan brother.  His laughter during the conversations was so loud that they distracted us from focusing on the Lord.  The pockets of loud conversations continued right up to the moment the mass started.
  • The music was difficult to follow and super contemporary.  The cantor was Josh Groban (well he thought he was anyway)   We both felt that the music did little to glorify Christ.  It is important to note we are not against more contemporary forms of worship, but the issue was the fact that the songs were not conducive to effective communal worship of the mass. It was like a performer and an audience rather than a cantor and a congregation.
  • During the Eucharistic prayers the entire congregation stood instead of kneeling.  I understand fully that in certain circumstances this is permissible, usually in the case when the church has no kneelers or not enough to accommodate the worshippers.  In fact,  uniformity in stature is encouraged (all kneel or all stand) But in this case it didn't make any sense since the church had an abundance of kneelers fully throughout..   Not kneeling at this critical moment for no apparent reason seemed to hijack the sublime mystery of the last supper. The simple act of kneeling is vital because it connotes a sense of reverence and awe:  2 characteristics which are prerequisites to the spiritual life. 
  • Ok so a minor irritation was being exhorted by the priest to "have the courage" to take each others hands as we say the Our Father. ( Just mildly annoying not offensive)
  • Another observation was that all the ushers were in jeans or sweats - super casual.  And they weren't young adults.  These were middle aged men and women in sweats, fleece hoodies, and jeans.  Not offensive ....just not something you usually see at sunday mass. We were in jeans too, but we werent seating and greeting and taking up the collection.
  • The most egregious offense of all came during the Eucharistic prayer where the priest allowed the entire congregation to recite the "through him  with him  in him....."  This was a flagrant violation of the Mass rubrics as it is written in Redemptionis Sacramentum which was a document published by the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship, it states:
"The proclamation of the Eucharistic Prayer, which by its very nature is the climax of the whole celebration, is proper to the Priest by virtue of his Ordination. It is therefore an abuse to proffer it in such a way that some parts of the Eucharistic Prayer are recited by a Deacon, a lay minister, or by an individual member of the faithful, or by all members of the faithful together. The Eucharistic Prayer, then, is to be recited by the Priest alone in full.(52: 131)

The content of the bulletin revealed the parish's true colors:

  • Right smack on the first page in the Weekly Calendar Section, the Church offered "Centering Prayer" classes.  At first glance this might seem as an innocuous practice, one that brings peace and tranquility to the worshiper   However, upon further inspection one soon discovers that the actual motive of this type of prayer has little to do with glorifying Christ as Johnnette S. Benkovic writes in her work, The New Age Counterfeit,

    • "Several differences separate centering prayer from what we know traditionally to be contemplative prayer.  First the fruit of contemplative prayer is the fruit of a long life of prayer...This raises concern for two reasons.  One, it implies a manipulation of the favors of God through practicing a technique.  Two it suggests that a technique can obtain for the practitioner the same fruit as a life of holiness." Pg. 24
In other words the sole end of the centering prayer is for mental serenity independent of the scriptures or the Lord.  What makes this phony practice regrettable is the fact that there are authentically, viable Catholic options such as Lectio Divina, Ignatian Meditation, and the Rosary.

  • The bulletin's calendar also offered the schedule for "Para Liturgical Services "  almost every day. Once again at first glance this might not seem as such a big deal but something just did not feel right. Upon some research we discovered that the term "Para Liturgical" refers generally to practices that are not explicitly found in any of the liturgical texts that are approved by the Church's Magesterium.  Para Liturgical could also mean the celebration of various, established devotionals that do not pertain to the celebration of the mass.  Our main issue was the deliberate substitution of the word devotional for "Para Liturgical"  Why use such an ambiguous term?  Why not just use the word "devotional" outright?  My belief is that this more nuanced term is a deliberate substitution to reflect the progressive leanings of this church.  In their view the term "devotional" is outdated and conservative while the more accepted term of "Para liturgical" is more consistent with their progressive worldview. The term "Para Liturgical " is actually a misnomer because think about it......the Liturgy is sacred. So its either "Liturgy" or its not. Its not a "sort-of  liturgy"!
  • We also discovered other progressive catch phrases such as, "CCD is going green", The Social Justice Office, "circle of friendship", and  on the last page of the bulletin in the "Sunday Reading" section it wrote regarding Isaiah 2: 1-5 "The Words of Isaiah urge all people to forsake war and to live in peace forever."  This type of thinking is reminiscent of the 1960's counter-cultural ethos.
    To the casual observer this post might seem excessive and nit picky,but this type of worship although emotionally satisfying highlights a deliberate and frankly dangerous disobedience by the leadership of this parish.  The consequence is that this causes confusion for the parishioners and ultimately gives a false sense of a "feel good" religion which is based on the exclusive experiences of the self, rather than on the experience of Christ in the ultimate sacrifice of the mass.

    It's sad when you look at the big picture because this really seemed like a vibrant parish with a 12 page bulletin, tons of extra curricular activities and happy church go-ers with smiles.. yes smiles on their faces.  But......... is the source of this happy congregation some quasi new agey warm fuzziness?

    Parishioners beware!  It is my hope that the scales fall from the eyes of enough people in this parish and they begin to demand true change.  

    By the way, the author of this post is NOT a mean spirited judgemental backward leaning crotchety old fart. The author is just a guy who loves his Catholic faith and whose spirit is in tune to his faith's epicenter (the Liturgy) being polluted or subliminally hijacked by progressive interlopers.


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