The Wonderful and the Wlatsome
Saturday, September 20, 2003
Another Church Review Site
Brought to my attention by a reader:
Busted Halo's Church Search.
Thursday, September 18, 2003
Name of Parish:The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Location:1695 Central Avenue Memphis, TN
Date and Time: 12:00 Noon Mass, Sunday
The Wonderful: A "renovated" Cathedral which manages still to be pretty. An ethnically diverse group of friendly parishioners in a lovely old downtown neighborhood. Lovely organ and a cantor with a strong voice at the 12:00 PM Sunday Morning Mass. Beautiful painting on the ceiling, beautiful original stained glass windows. Semi-informal, rubrically correct liturgy, with typical modern Catholic hymnody: "Gather Us In."
The Wlatsome: Whenever I travel, I always seek out Cathedral Parishes, knowing, however, that Cathedrals are prime targets of "Church Renovation" (read: wreckovation). And so it is that I have a little measuring stick by which I can tell immediately the state of the interior of a Cathedral. If when I walk in, I run smack dab into a giant "baptismal pool" (also used as a giant Holy Water Font) then I'm prepared: it's been "renovated." And so it is that this Cathedral has been "renovated." All in all, though, it isn't as bad as many I've seen. At this Cathedral in Memphis, the de rigeur removal of the high altar with replacement in the middle of the nave by a "Table" with pews (at least there are pews and not chairs) circling round is typical. The Blessed Sacrament is tucked to the side, but at least fairly visible, in a separate room. This makes for awkward genuflecting unless one happens to sit to that side of the Cathedral. There are only two statues -- I don't know if there were more before or not. The Mass itself featured, for one, the extremely common abuse of using too many extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. The only really bothersome thing was that the priest VERY OBVIOUSLY refused to say "For us MEN and our salvation" in the Creed; with microphone on to amplify his omission, he clearly stated: "For us (pause) and our salvation." He also delivered a homily on Dorothy Day as saint/Catholic Church as social justice institution, urging the congregation to sign the petition against capital punishment on the way out of Mass.
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
A Liturgist Sends His Concerns
My objections to anonymity and on-going liturgical battles:
As cruel as liturgists and priests can be in their viciousness to lay people, I've seen the same kind of cruelty from semi-informed liturgical busybodies. The priest who did FOCCUS for me and my wife before we married (admittedly a good friend) , was the target of a rather ruthless tattle campaign. Jack is a gregarious, informal guy. He takes liturgy and preaching seriously, but he didn't take being "overstuffed" in a vestment too seriously if you get my drift. He also has bad knees. Not even in his parish three months, someone videotaped a Mass from the choir loft and sent it to the bishop. They objected to his bowing, not genuflecting.
Not knowing the whole story, he might have been asked during week 2 why he didn't see fit to genuflect. He might have mentioned bad knees. Even if Jack had blown off the EWTN groupie, I still don't think tattling was merited. It's often, though admittedly not always anonymous. And occasionally quite cruel.
I think Catholics of different stripes need to set aside the vigor with which they approach the "liturgy wars." "Abuses" are described in your blog which aren't abuses at all. Steven, the guy who hosts Flos Carmeli has a far better approach in blogdom. I respect and admire his calm approach, I wish I were better at following it. If I were to start a blog, I hope I would not waste the lessons I've learned from visiting others. Unity is a virtue many, if not all Catholics should work harder at. Charity in dealing with people who fall short of perfection/holiness/beauty/pick-your-virtue is a mark of strength, not weakness. . . .
As a liturgist in my 16th year of ministry, I know there are many ways in which I do not measure up to the ideal: mine or someone else's. I cannot speak for my colleagues at these reviewed churches, but I feel a strong need to defend a best effort. Certainly, if I were in their shoes, some aspects would be better, perhaps, some worse. But after I work hard at liturgical ministry, I get to the point at which I must rely on God's grace to fill the gap between my weak efforts and the people's needs. Sadly, most critics are more concerned with the surface things (even surface reverence) rather than the faith of a parish struggling to emerge and be expressed.
Editor's comment: I think that the correspondent here raises some real concerns, though I take some issue with the term "EWTN groupie". I invite other readers to respond! (and everyone, keep sending in comments on parishes!)
Monday, September 15, 2003
Name of Parish: Sacred Heart of Jesus
Location: Creole, LA
Date and Time: 8:30 AM, Sundays
The Wonderful: Very orthodox pastor; a true "lover of souls" who is remarkably devoted to the salvation of the people under his care. Devout and pious parishoners -- many of the women voluntarily wear mantillas, for instance; devotional services (rosary, benediction) very well attended -- form a very active, welcoming parish, with the best parish potluck food known to man. Scrupulously rubrically correct, but does not have a "mechanical" feel. A very prayerful and holy liturgical setting for Holy Mass.
The Wlatsome: It's way out in the swamps, making it a long drive for anyone but the locals. A true "gem in the rough", though.
Name of Parish: St. John the Evangelist
Location: Lambertville NJ
Date and Time: 8 9:30 11 12:30(Spanish) Sunday
The Wonderful: Worship in a beautiful Gothic style stone Church, that still has its original marble altar. 8:00 and 11:00 feature the talented music director. Orthodox Priests and faithful. 12:30 features a Spanish language Mass with a great music and enthusiastic worshippers. Sacrament of Confession is encouraged and offered at posted times. Younger Priest is Gen X aged and his homilies will really speak to you if you are of this tiny generation. Older priest is very experienced at 40+ years of service. Church is located in a historic town that has lots recreational opportunities after Mass. Breakfast place is just across the street perfect!
The Wlatsome: Younger priest is a Yankees fan, and lets the the faithful know about it. Irksome if you are a Mets or a Phillies fan or a fan of National League baseball. Come football season you will also learn about how great certain college football teams are. Especially pointless because everyone knows that the sky is blue and white which proves that God loves Penn State Football.
Thursday, September 04, 2003
Name of Parish: St. John's Roman Catholic Church
Location: Bangor, Maine, USA
Date and Time: 9:00 a.m., any given Sunday (8/31/03 in this case)
The Wonderful: This very large brick cruciform gothic church was built in 1856 in the "Irish ghetto" area of Bangor by immigrants from the Great Irish Potato
Famine under 24-hour armed guard against an active "Know-Nothing" contingent in the city. The resulting structure remains one of the most impressive and dominating in the Bangor city skyline fulfilling the original parishoners' wish of showing that the Irish-Catholic immigrants were in Bangor to stay and to make an impact on the community.
The Tyrolean stained-glass windows are among the finest of St. John's many architectural treasures. The church's oldest windows date from 1855-1856. Facing the altar, you will see three lancet-windows high in the back wall of the sanctuary, featuring in the center the risen Christ with his right hand raised in the gesture associated in the ancient Church with the authority of the teacher and the ruler. To the left is the Blessed Virgin Mary, and on the right is the church's patron, Saint John the Apostle. The 20 huge side windows were made and mounted in 1885-1888. Like all great stained-glass renderings of the age, St. John's windows depict the great mysteries of the Faith.
The current pastor is warm and highly approachable with an ever-present broad smile. Holding several higher degrees in areas of Catholic doctrine, he is a talented speaker and homilist with the right mix of theology, anecdotes, and humor and follows the rubrics of the liturgy of the Mass to a tee. He is truly a gift to the parish and to the Catholic Church in general.
St. John's parishoners tend to be on the conservative side overall, and the entire look and feel of the church and its services reflect that. The lectors are well-spoken and reverent with their duties, and the other ministers (ushers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion) have also been carefully and thoroghly trained in what is expected at Mass. The musical director is a one of the most talented in the country, and in addition to directing cantors and four choirs, he is responsible for playing and preserving the historic 1860 E. & G. G. Hook pipe organ at St. John's Church. The musical selections are from traditional hymnody yet relavant to today's liturgical structure.
The Wlatsome: The front sidewalk of St. John's has become a place of confrontation, with anti-abortion protesters from outside the city wielding posters of bloody fetuses for some time ever since a pro-choice politician, who is a life-long member of the parish and now Maine's governor, attended a function in the church hall in 2002. The event was not a fundraiser for the politician, nor did he speak there. Nonetheless, the small group of militants have chosen to make St. John's the focal point of their protests until the bishop creates a policy banning pro-choice politicians from appearing at functions on diocesean properties. If you wish to avoid seeing these images for any reason, exit Mass through the side parking lot doors, instead of the main front doors.
Name of Parish: Holy Family
Location: Cahokia, Il (5 minutes from downtown St. Louis on Illinois Rt. 3 at Camp Jackson Road)
Date and Time: 9 AM Sunday
The Wonderful: The longest continuously active parish in the US (since 1699!), it is housed in an historic Log Church, twice leveled by fire, though today's church is a grandfatherly 200+ years old. The Indult Tridentine Latin Mass is offered -- Low Mass twice a month, High Mass twice a month -- with a family atmosphere, congregation of around 80. People dress moderately, with many women choosing to wear traditional veils during the Mass.
The Wlatsome: None given, though it would undoubtedly be unpleasent to be caught in the next fire, should the parish burn down again.
Name of Parish: Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception -- Denver
Location: Denver, CO (Colfax & Logan)
Date and Time: 6:30 pm young adult mass, Sundays
The Wonderful: Archbishop Chaput or Bishop Gomez usually says the mass (usually the AB -- this is his regular mass). The mass is packed with young professionals, and the AB uses the homily to catechize us with orthodoxteaching. Completely respects our intelligence; digs into the scriptures; understands that we are the uncatechised kumbaya-Catholicism generation, and redresses that wrong. Talks about the tough issues & doesn't let us get away with rationalizing away the teachings of the Church (abortion, sex, charity). Smells & bells, very reverent; Salve Regina in Latin at the end of mass. Long confession lines (multiple priests hearing confessions) before mass. Fantastic acoustic music group (no drums) singing mostly praise & worship kinds of stuff -- not traditional, but very reverent and sacramental; assists with quiet prayer.
The Wlatsome: Can't think of a thing.
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Some People Begin to Question This Site's Existence ....
Notably Lane Core, who sent the following link...
Re: The Wonderful and the Wlatsome.
I would really like to have some other opinions. Am I taking things the wrong way? Thanks. God bless all.
I have, incidentally, re-edited (a right I always reserve!) one of the submissions to which he refers. My question to visitors: would this site be more useful if it limited itself to reporting heretical homiles and actual, official liturgical abuses, together with, say, lists of hymns sung / brief, dispassionate description of musical style (ie, Chant, Reformed Folk, Operatic ...)? Or do you prefer the unpredictable quality of the unadulterated advice of your fellow men? Please let me know! This is a site of service.
Name of Parish: Our Lady of Walsingham (Anglican Use)
Location: Houston, TX
Date and Time: 10:30 AM (Anglican Use) High Mass
The Wonderful: A beautiful Mass! Celebrated ad orientem; the text of the Mass is largely the Tridentine Missal, translated by Cranmer during the English Reformation, only with the parts he changed, changed back (i.e., the Roman Canon is restored). So, the language is beautiful. The choir is excellent, the pastor -- a convert from Anglicanism -- is reverent and an excellent homilist, who gave a wonderful meditation on one of the priest's silent Mass prayers during one Mass which I attended. The parish is popular and growing, and has nearly completed a new, wonderful church building.
The Wlatsome: It's standing room only in the old church building, which can be rather uncomfortable.
Name of Parish: Immaculate Conception
Location: Ithaca, NY
Date and Time: 10:30 AM Sunday Mass
The Wonderful: The parish still prays three Hail Marys (silently) after each Mass (a leftover of the Leonine Prayers after Low Mass), giving a blessed few moments of silence after Mass so often lacking in parishes. The organist and choir are reasonably competent. There is one very beautiful stained glass window.
The Wlatsome: Pretty much everything else. The pastor conducts himself in such a way that reverence is often lacking (a tendency to make bad puns throughout the Mass, for instance).
The aesthetic effect of the church building leaves much to be desired. There is an army of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, including at least one child, aged approximately twelve; the EMs receive communion at the same time as the priest, a particularly annoying liturgical abuse (the pastor has been challenged regarding this abuse, yet persists in it).
Name of Parish: St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church
Location: Scranton, PA
Date and Time: 10:15 AM Tridentine High Mass
The Wonderful: The place exudes reverence. The choir is superb. The congregation sings -- well. The priests deliver very good, faithful homilies. Lots of incense. Quite welcoming, though you're left alone if you don't wish to talk. Heaven on earth.
The Wlatsome: n/a
Name of Parish: Holy Name Cathedral
Location: Chicago, Il.
Date and Time: 12:00 Noon Daily Mass, May 2002
The Wonderful: The musical apparatus in the Cathedral is phenomenal: two first class organs, a superb organist. The devotion of the (mainly) Hispanic daily Mass crowd is impressive.
The Wlatsome: Well, the interior is ugly. Ok, hideous. You can look at pictures here. Particularly bad are the tabernacle-as-pimple and Christ in carbon-freeze. One weeps at the missed architectural opportunity! The liturgy itself is distinguished neither by its reverence or irreverence.
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
The Parish: St. Anthony's
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Time: 10 AM
The Wonderful: Beautiful old German church with lots of statues and fine woodwork. Top-notch choir sings polyphony, Gregorian Chant, and solid hymnody, accompanied by one of the best pipe organs in the Midwest. Incense. Solid preaching. Communion rail is still used for Communion.
The Wlatsome: Can't think of anything.
Name of Parish: St. James
Location: Montague, Michigan
Time: Any Sunday Mass
The Wonderful: Friendly priest, friendly and welcoming parishioners
The Wlatsome: Terrible music and singers. Priest does not deliver homily from the pulpit (even at Easter Vigil Mass). Much of the congregation conducts itself in an irreverent manner, i.e. lots of loud talking before and after Mass, and extremely casual dress. Modern, reformed-folk hymnody. Has an adoration chapel, but the times are strange and don't seem to be on a set schedule. No daily Mass (this seems to be common in many of the parishes in this area of Michigan).
Name of Parish: Sacred Heart of Jesus
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Date/Time: 12:30 pm Sunday Tridentine Indult Mass
The Wonderful: Beautiful, traditional Tridentine Mass. Twice a month is high Mass (sung, wonderful voices and organ) and twice Low Mass (with traditional after-Mass prayers led by the priest - three Hail Marys, St. Michael Prayer, and prayer to the Sacred Heart). The Tridentine Mass is usually very full, the congregation very devout and traditional. Big Polish/Eastern European population. Many women, including myself, wear mantillas or small chapel veils. Lots of large families and homeschooling families. Holy Communion is given in the traditional manner, at the altar rail. Before Mass a rosary is typically said, led spontaneously by a parishioner in the pews. Most in attendance (better than 98%) are dressed respectfully. Homilies are incredibly orthodox and given with no fear of 'offensiveness', but aren't fire-and-brimstone. Just straight, no-apologies
Catholic doctrine tied to the readings of the day (which are re-read in English just before the homily), given by priests who know how to deliver orthodoxy in an engaging manner.
The Wlatsome: Absolutely no complaints about this Mass. I believe this is the only Indult Tridentine Mass in the Grand Rapids Diocese, and that is a shame;
every Catholic should get to experience the joy of the Tridentine Mass at least once, and all should have easier access to it. I can't say enough how well worth it is to go out of our way for such a Mass.
NB. For those not accustomed to the Tridentine Mass, you should know that the it can be marked by long periods of silence and kneeling (especially low Mass which is not sung, and therefore is exceptionally silent as the priest prays the Mass mostly inaudibly) - but the reverence with which the Mass is said, and with which the consecration is performed more than makes up for any perceived lack of 'excitement'. It truly is a sight to behold for any Catholic.
Name of Parish: St. James Cathedral
Location: Seattle, WA
Time: Sunday Mass (Time not given)
The Wonderful: A beautiful Cathedral with lovely statuary, small Chapel on the north side with walls of candles surrounding a gorgeous statue of Our Lady and infant Jesus. Liturgies at the Cathedral are usually beautiful - lots of incense, a great deal of Latin, fabulous Cantors and choirs. All the smells, bells, pomp and ceremony a traditional Catholic wants and loves.
Many of the attendees at Mass are tourists, but there is a fairly consistent group of regular parishoners, many of whom are very devout Filipinos and Hispanics, who have brought some very beautiful and rich Catholic devotions with them, and which many lukewarm American Catholics could benefit from (the Mass said during the celebration of the Santo Nino, for example, was so colorful and beautiful, with all the different statues of the Christ Child on the altar for blessing).
The Wlatsome: The beautiful sights and sounds of the Mass unfortunately can't hide the obvious here - the lack of orthodoxy, the liturgical abuses (ed. precise abuses not given), the "inclusive language", the generic, lukewarm homilies about "God is Love". I heard, one Sunday, a grey-haired "sister" in a choir robe and sensible shoes (no habits on the sisters here!) give a homily about how the Church is "falling apart", and what was needed was "great change", and while she didnt come out and say it was women priests and deacons who would save the Church, she hinted at it broadly and frequently. These types of 'homilies' are unfortunately very common. There is no apparent pro-life ministry in the Cathedral parish (not mentioned in the bulletins, nor web page, nor was I ever given an answer when I enquired at the parish office), but plenty of ministries to gays and lesbians, and emphasis on 'social justice' (which sadly often means a lack of emphasis on traditional Catholic teaching, and way too much attention to political matters), with frequent "ecumenical services", lots of candlelight processions for peace. Emphasis on the basics of Catholicism is not in evidence.
Name of Parish: St. Alphonsus
Location: Seattle, WA (Ballard area)
Date and Time: Sunday Mass (Time not given)
The Wonderful: A rare find in Seattle - reverence and orthodoxy! A fairly new priest, pretty young, Fr. Ramon Santa Cruz, SOLT. It was wonderful to hear traditional Catholic teaching during his homilies! Mass is Novus Ordo, often sung in Latin during the Kyrie and Agnus Dei (much the same way EWTN combines both vernacular and Latin, and shows how the Novus Ordo can be celebrated reverently when done *correctly*). Very reverent consecration. Parish has lots of young, BIG families, so lots of children around, and they are delightful - not a distraction. Most attendees seemed fairly devout. Parish also has perpetual adoration chapel, a wonderful parish school (my son attended for a year, and we loved it), and was just in general a lovely oasis of orthodoxy and genuine faith in what is otherwise an extremely difficult parish for traditional, orthodox Catholics. Oh, one more thing I always appreciated - hearing prayers for the unborn, the victims of abortion, during the Intercessory prayer, rather than just the generic pleas for world peace.
The Wlatsome: I honestly can't think of any! Perhaps just that there aren't more St. Al's around, its a shame that a parish this good is so hard to find!
Name of Parish: St. Ann's
Location: Raynham, Massachusetts
Date and Time: Sunday Mass, 9:30 or 11 am, any Sunday
The Wonderful: Both the priests (both quite young, and both fairly new - or at least arrived within the last two years while I lived out of the area) are friendly and seem energetic.
The Wlatsome: Hymnody from the typical, reformed-folk reptertoire, sometimes accompanied by organ and sometimes not, lead by a female cantor and one male. Liturgical style is quite casual: Kyrie is always English and never sung, no other parts of the Mass are said in Latin, and often there is no singing of the Amen or Agnus Dei. One of the priests does not deliver homilies from the pulpit, instead walking out among the congregation. asking questions and expecting people to raise their hands to ask questions, etc. The congregation typically dressed indecorously - scandalously short shorts/skirts on both kids and adults, shorts and t-shirts on the men, despite the parish having central air conditioning. Also, as soon as the priest leaves the altar, everyone rushes to get out of the pews, and there is a HUGE amount of noise, talk, gossip going on - even while the cantor/organist are still finishing up the closing hymn.
To Clarify ....
A friend pointed out that it might not be clear how to contribute to this collection. So, here's the scoop: email me at mcw28 -at - cornell.edu with the information. That's it! You can format it if you like, or you can just rant and I'll format it / edit it for you. Totally up to you. Please contribute! This blog will fail without YOUR support -- yes, that means you! And you! And you!
And as a submitter has noted, anonymity is VITAL to the success of this effort, so unless you beg me to include your name, all posts will be anonymous, and recast (if I think it necessary) into a more third-person sound so as not to give you away.
Name of Parish: Our Lady of Poland
Location: Southampton, NY
Date and Time: 9:30 AM, May 2003
The Wonderful: Great ethnic church feel -- zillions of statues, including (the giveaway) an Infant Jesus of Prague. Decent music -- several hymns with a competent organist on a middling little organ. Friendly congregation, reasonably devout. Parish appears to have some devotional life, judging from the bulletin.
The Wlatsome: Pastor calls for children around the altar with him during the Eucharistic Prayer. Homily was delivered by a travelling nun from the West Indies; decent, but not really inspiring. Pastor does not conduct himself with reverence.