Monday, January 31, 2005

"AND THEIR HEARTS BURNED WITHIN THEM..."

Amy Welborn is launching a very interesting weekly feature over at Open Book. She's looking to take the temperature of liturgical oratory in the Church, by asking her readers to report on the preaching they heard at Mass the day before.

I think this is laudably ambitious...and will probably be downright depressing.

I remember, as a child, my Mother would, every now and then, ask us in the car on the way home from Mass, what Father had said in his homily. Generally, her request would generate an agonized silence, while me and my three sisters, and Dad, would rack our brains to try and remember something that we had just been witnesses to less than an hour before. Mom meant the exercise, no doubt, to shame us all into better attentiveness. In defense of my 12 year old self, the ones who should have been shamed were the preachers.

Most Catholic preaching is so bad that the biggest challenge for most Open Book readers will be to remember anything that they heard in a homily, nevermind recollecting some kind of coherent theme. This point can be made even more starkly by asking people to recall something memorable that was said in the homily two or three weeks ago. I bet you one in a hundred will be able to recall anything. And yet, I bet people can remember the gist of episodes of Alias or Buffy the Vampire Slayer from three years ago. (But I'm stepping all over the point of Church of the Masses, aren't I?)

There was one point, a couple year ago, when I would actually bring a spiritual book to Mass, in case the homily was so inane that I would have some healthy place to take my brain, instead of the unhealthy place of simmering resentment. Now, I just keep the weekly missal open on my lap, so that if Father's comments meander off onto the planet Zondor, I can, at least, re-read the day's readings over and over to myself. I haven't put a lot of thought into whether this is right or wrong behavior for a sheep in this post-Consiliar weirdness time. It's my way of surviving. "Lord, to whom else shall we go? You alone have the words..."

Back to Amy's survey, I think it might be interesting for pastors to hear what people are actually hearing in the multiplication of words that they, the pastors, are speaking. At the risk of becoming my mother - which with every passing year seems to me a better and better thing - it is probably a good thing to shame us all into being more active listeners at the liturgy. So, if I know that I will have the opportunity to wax eloquent about the Sunday liturgy on the Monday after, it gives me an added incentive to force myself to stay tuned in.

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And to think that I didn't really realize I was being fed pablum until I went to an Evangelical church and heard the Word of God PREACHED with the power of the Holy Spirit! Why should the people have to move out? Bring in preachers of the Word from Bible based churches instead of liturgical ones. "You pile burdens on the backs of the people so they cannot enter the Kingdom of God".

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