An old theory that I just made up: The likelihood one will be subjected to heresy and liturgical irregularities increases greatly if there is a ‘greeter’ person handing out parish bulletins to people on the way *into* Mass. Within this category, the more energetically and cheerfully they are handed out, the worse it is going to be.
This theory was formulated this afternoon when a very cheery, energetic person handed me a bulletin on my way into Mass at a very modern-looking parish I rarely attend (had to drop off daughter #2 at some rehearsal (she techs for several local theater groups) at 12:00, and this parish was on the way home). This event brought to mind a couple other parishes where I’d had similar experiences, and a sense of impending doom settled upon me: oh, no, I thought, there is a significant correlation in my anecdotal data set between cheery, energetic greeter-people handing me a parish bulletin on my way in and unspeakable theological and liturgical horrors being inflicted on the congregation.
Now, it’s a bit much, it seems to me, to have people hand out bulletins at all, even after Mass – what’s wrong with leaving them on tables near the doors, and letting people pick them up for themselves if they want one? But handing them out *before* Mass? Years ago, when I first ran into this practice and had not yet mellowed into the gentleman and scholar I am today,(1) I baffled a poor greeter-person by asking: ‘Is this so I have something to read during the homily?”
If only. These memories shall remain unspoken.
Back to today. Turns out that this parish puts hymns and prayers in its bulletin, so it kinda makes sense, sort of, to hand them out. Except that they also have the fat combo missal/hymnals, so – what kind of songs and prayers is it necessary to put in the bulletin?
Then, in preparation for Mass, we were instructed to stand a greet our neighbors, less anyone think we’re there for some reason other than each other.
A few ‘hi’s’ and handshakes later, Mass began. We sang the kind of song you’d expect. When father go to the altar, he gave the mini-homily that is traditional in this setting, and talked about how it was still Christmas, and that after today we put away the celebration and begin the work of Christmas, because to Catholics, every day is Christmas – every day, we need to welcome Christ into our lives. He pointed out how important the sign of the cross that we make upon entering church was, and how we should make that sign many times during the day, to remind ourselves who we are.
He said many other good things as well. I think he may have forgotten to make the sign of the cross himself – or maybe I missed it, lots was going on.
But: nothing heretical. A bit on the psychobabble and touchy-feely end of things – but orthodox-ish.
Later, during the proper homily homily, father did the unexpected: he cajoled and badgered people to: 1, show up for more than just weekly Mass; 2. get themselves to confession; and, in general, 3. start being real Catholics rather than just putting on a show or going through the motions. He didn’t try to make people feel good about themselves just they way they are. Wow.
That was unexpected, bracing, and utterly orthodox. Good job, father, and may God bless you this upcoming year.
So, we are forced to declare: Fiction! The liturgy could have used a quick kick in the behind, but the orthodoxy level of what was actually said was very high.