Jul 302012

Have you ever played Mass Roulette?

Here’s how:

  • When visiting a city
  • Use the MassTimes phone app or equivalent
  • Let it find the closest Mass by location
  • Go to that Mass

I played Mass Roulette this weekend when my wife and I were on a day trip to Orlando.  After shopping I was wondering if we could catch a Mass while there and so I pulled out my phone and using the MassTimes app found a parish within a couple of miles and a Mass starting shortly.

In my own Mass sample data over the years I have certainly found a commonality of what you would expect when visiting a parish you have never gone to before.  There is both the good and the bad to this.

The good is that over the years I have found that I encounter less and less outright liturgical abuses and such examples of these abuses that were more common are less so now.  While of course the improvisational Mass where you are never sure of what is coming next still exist, mostly you find that the texts are read as per the text.

Though around this more solid bedrock you usually find some local wrinkle or some dubious practices.  For example the  group blessing of an object where the people along with the priest bless some object.  Besides the seriously problematic fact that the priestly blessing is fundamentally different than a blessing the laity can give – just the site of a parish giving a seeming Nazi salute is disconcerting.

The parish I went to this weekend engaged in the “let us have everybody shake hands and introduce their names before Mass started” form of faux community building.   This is extended by the more common practice of the priest starting the Mass with a Hello, Good morning, ect, and ending the Mass with a “Have a nice weekend everybody”. In Persona Casual Guy.  Judging by the amount of noise before Mass, community building is not exactly the weakness that needs to be corrected.

One commonality in both Mass Roulette and probably your local parish experience is that your sacred music experience will not be optimum.  The idea that has come into play is that just as long as the text of the music is based on scripture that it automatically elevates the music to sacred music. The idea of sacred being something reserved and set apart is lost when the music itself is in the vein of so-called popular music. This is no new temptation, but a problem that has occurred throughout history.  The majority of the music doesn’t pass what I call the “Barney Test” if the lyrics are changed and then sung by Barney and it doesn’t seem out-of-place – then it does not pass the Barney Test. The Mass I went to failed the Barney Test except for the closing hymn.

One of the odder things about this parish was that a medley of hymns was sung before Mass. That was a new one on me.  Most of the hymns were at least not the common Haugen/Daas standards, but more of a contemporary Christian music flavor or somebodies idea of what a youth group would deem as worship music.  In fact one of the hyms was from “Mercy Me” with these great sacred lyrics.

I’m finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it’s okay
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say

Silly me and here I thought I would never be singing the word “funny” at Mass. Well since I did not sing along with this hymn I guess I kept up my end of the bargain.

Now how did I know this song was from “Mercy Me”, well that was quite easily discerned since they projected the lyrics on the back of the sanctuary with the attribution. Which brings me to the local winkle for this parish.

In the back of the sanctuary was a fairly nice stain glass window with lots of blank wall space on either side. So on each side of the window they displayed various things onto the wall via two projectors. Sacred space and sacred projection space.

Now I have seen this practice once before, but that parish had stopped it due to I think the action of my last bishop. I am of mixed-minds on the use of a projector during Mass. I am not exactly a technophobe and I am not calling for the banning of microphones and electric lights at Mass for example. I just wonder how fitting this is and if it really solves a problem that needed solving.

On the plus side it certainly makes it easy to see the lyrics of the hymn without flipping pages and in my case having to grab my reading glasses. Giant letters are rather easy to read on a wall as king Belshazzar found out. Heck I didn’t even need Daniel to interpret them – except for maybe the Mercy Me lyrics. Before Mass they displayed bulletin announcements with dancing angel animations. We have progressed from bad bulletin clipart to bad bulletin animations.

Though one thing I really need to ask is if you are going to go this route do you really need to project the “Great Amen”? Wow how am I going to memorize that one without help. Let me see off the top of my head there is an Amen, followed by I think perhaps, Amen and just possibly the use of another Amen. Really hard to come up with a mnemonic for the Great Amen.

Going back to the Book of Daniel I actually got to witness one prophecy fulfilled.

And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.

What was the desolate abomination in the sanctuary foretold. Well at this parish it was Powerpoint. Yes they were using Powerpoint for all the “helpful” slides, a fact I had conjectured upon and had proved tom when towards the end of the Mass on the back of the sanctuary was displayed the Powerpoint window along with the operating system after the last slide was shown. Now if the Powerpoint program itself being projected on the sanctuary does not fulfill this prophecy I don’t know what would top it.

Now if you are going to project the lyrics of the hymn then why not the musical notation? I can’t sight-read that well, but well enough to get a clue. It just isn’t very helpful to not have this aid for unfamiliar hymns. Though again I am not really inclined to sing along with such hymns in the first place. I really don’t want to be a hymn-snob, but I find it hard to make the banal worshipful and I need all the help I can get. I just know that a majority of modern sacred music intended for worship should be placed in a Hymnul. Hymnull since mostly the music is “undefined, empty, or of meaningless value” which the programmer in me sees as defining “null” rather exactly.

One thing I am concerned with in the use of projectors during Mass is how long until it morphs to the “Sign of Peace Cam” where they single out signs-of-peacers for the camera’s attention. I really hope I am not giving anybody ideas since some of my parodies have turned prophetic.

Oh well maybe the next playing of Mass Roulette will match up a liturgical winner. Though with the Eucharist we are always winners.

  42 Responses to “Mass Roulette”

  1. I recently to a parish where they put up on the walls (via projectors) all the Mass parts that the congregation state during the Liturgy. I used my Daily Roman Missal when saying the Nicene Creed. What are your thoughts on Mass parts being displayed on the walls?

  2. Nice blog post. I must live in a very heterodoxical diocese, as I’m usually pleasantly surprised when I travel and do “Mass roulette.”

  3. This is not that hard to avoid. Just go to the local Trad Latin Mass. They can be found at http://www.latinmass.com.

    I usually go to a Novus Ordo, but I ALWAYS hit up a TLM when traveling. Most parishes suck at basic liturgy, and I’d rather not get angry for no good reason.

  4. TLM is something I would like to attend sometimes but I am not sure I could handle it as the only Mass I attend. Jeff, the family is heading to St. Augustine in a couple weeks…we will actually be at Butler beach…we will attend Sunday Mass and also Mass on the upcoming Holy Day (Immaculate Conception I think.) that means we get to try out two different parishes. Thinking we might go to the Cathedral for one of them, beautiful as it is…

  5. Tom,
    As long as the music is reverent, I think projecting on the screen is no different than printing in a book.

    Of course if the music isn’t reverent…

    I was at a novelty Spanish mass and they sang “De Colores” for the communion hymn. I asked what this song had to do with Eucharist. The response was, “the people like it.”

  6. So you’re saying that Gregorian Chant didn’t have pride of place?

  7. I think you might be able to find some those same hymn is the lesser known hymdull.

  8. I’m going to be out of town for work related training and, guess what, the weekend is booked with activities and no allowance to go to Mass. I found a parish about 20 min away from the site and will be going to their early Mass on Sunday. I checked the parish’s web site and it looks like a more traditional parish. We’ll see…

  9. >Though with the Eucharist we are always winners.

    Eating gods is an ancient practice among many different cultures granted but it’s still plain old weird.

    Well, you’re not throwing virgins into volcanoes or ripping hearts out to be burnt on an alter so I suppose I shouldn’t complain, could be worse.

  10. Ave Maria gratia plena

    No we stopped blood sacrfices a very long time ago.

    Old Rabbinic teaching states: that when the messiah comes all sacrifices will cease, except the todah, the thanksgiving sacrifice (which is bloodless)

    As we Catholics believe the Messiah has come. It could be said that the Mass Christ insituted at the last supper when he offered fruits of the earth, he was beginning the age of the todah, when blood sacrifices ( the scapegoats) were no longer necessary.

  11. A couple years ago, my family and I were in London on the final leg of our trip. It was Sunday, and we honestly didn’t have any idea how we would fulfill our Mass obligation. But we all decided to take a stroll after breakfast around the hotel area.. while walking, we turned a corner and, lo and behold, Westminster Cathedral stood before us.

    I was too young then to remember how the Mass went but hey, I’m not complaining when there suddenly appears an opportunity to not miss Mass!

  12. (((Well, you’re not throwing virgins into volcanoes or ripping hearts out to be burnt on an alter so I suppose I shouldn’t complain, could be worse.)))

    Hey folks! I could be mistaken but “IT” is starting to sound like salvage is slowly starting to believe a little in “Jesus” and/or well at least NOW, Jesus and His teaching may have existed in time but then again only GOD (Good Old Dad) could look into his and/or her heart and salvage what can be salvage, I mean what can be salvaged?

    Let’s not give UP! Hey men! Ah men! Sorry Jeff, I meant to say “Amen”. 🙂


  13. >As we Catholics believe the Messiah has come. I

    I know and it’s truly bizarre how your god came and nothing changed for humanity in the time he was alleged to be here, in the time immediately after and ever since.

    Things only started to get better overall in the last 300 years and that improvement seems to correspond with the drop in theism.

    Like when the Holy See made and broke kings and pretty much had a hand in all of European matters of state? How the blood ran! How disease rampaged unchecked! How the people suffered!

    And now?

    Very strange how ineffective your messiah was.

    >when blood sacrifices ( the scapegoats) were no longer necessary.

    But at a time they were? Why? What an Earth does your god do with a dead goat? Can’t it make as many dead goats as it likes?

    Also still doesn’t explain why you eat Jesus.

  14. When I travel I am glad enough to be able to worship God and share the Eucharist with brothers and sisters I never met before. If their way to celebrate the liturgy is not what I am used to or what I think should be done, that simply allows me to reflect on how others live their relationship with God.
    If a weird song or an unorthodox greeting sends me away from the immensity of what I receive there, I need to reflect on my faith, not so much of their practice.

  15. Ave maria gratia plena

  16. salvage, you really need to check your numbers and not just parrot propaganda.

    Yes, there has been a drop in theism in the last 300 years, but the twentieth century has been the bloodiest century…far more than the last 30 centuries combined (yes, I’m including pre-Christian pagan times). As for the times after Christ came, there most definitely has been a drop in violence as even a casual look at the history of countries influenced by Christianity has shown. It’s not something that’s up for debate. Even many atheists and deists like Jefferson saw Christianity as necessary for civilizing nations (even if they thought it was a lie) and promoting the sciences.

  17. Ave Maria gratia plena
    Ave Maria gratia plena,

    Do not forget that our brother salvage’s ignorance blinds him from truth. Read his assessment of human history: “I know and it’s truly bizarre how your god came and nothing changed for humanity in the time he was alleged to be here, in the time immediately after and ever since.”

    He sees so little. He prejudice blinds him. Can we not all feel great pity for him?

    May the grace of Our Lord fall upon him more strongly than ever to give him happiness…

  18. Salvage,
    May I suggest “Catholosism for Dummies”?
    Good, basic level stuff.
    No the “for Dummies” is not a dig.

  19. Catholicism.
    Later than I thought and one wickedly strong beer.

  20. >He sees so little.

    Uh huh. So what did your Jesus change?

    >May I suggest “Catholosism for Dummies”?

    May I suggest you read books on science, history, anthropology and the look at your religion again?

  21. Been there, done that, got my degree.
    You ASKED for an explaination, I provided a source of information.
    In thanks, I get a snarky response.
    Grow up.

  22. Ave Maria gratia plena

    Do not forget that our brother salvage is not looking for answers. He is trying to goad you into anger so that he can have his prejudices reinforced.

    His questions are, for all intents and purposes, rhetorical because he is not asking you for an explanation. He wants you to engage him so that he can ridicule you along with other dunces like Thomas Aquinas (so you are in good company).

    He is not honest. If he were, we could show him the truth. The problem is not with your explanations. It is our brother salvage who closes himself. We will, of course, be waiting for the day that he embraces reason over prejudice. Then he will be able to hear answers because he will be asking real questions.

    Let us continue to pray for his happiness…

  23. I just came back from a part of Montana that has three Catholic churches within an hour’s drive. Each church has one Sunday Mass; the same priest says all three. All three congregations combined, including summer tourists, wouldn’t outnumber those attending one of the five Sunday Masses offered at my home parish. “A thing worth doing is worth doing badly” about covers the parish musicians, but I have no reason to think there were better musicians available.

    One thing that usually strikes me when I attend Mass at an unfamiliar parish is that every setting of the English translation of the Sanctus seems to be a sequence of unrelated notes, of random pitch and duration; you just get used to the few settings you always hear, and come to think of them as more or less musical.

  24. >You ASKED for an explaination, I provided a source of information.

    Huh? Where did I ASK for any such thing? What I did was point out how god eating is weird, that book explains that it isn’t weird? That it make perfect sense to take a cracker, have some guy in a hat say magic words, feed you the cracker then in your body it turns into your god via magic?

    I’m sure the “Dummies” book goes into great detail as to the ritual and it’s alleged origins at the last supper and maybe even touches on the Roman pagan roots but god eating goes back much further to many different cultures. I don’t think I need a “Dummies” book for that.

    Then I pointed out that your god came to Earth yet nothing actually changed. I know you think that Christianity was some new religion but really, it’s not, it’s an evolution of existing ones. Theistic history has lots of examples of this sort of thing, I now you think yours is the special one but again that’s what all theists think of their own religion.

    So again, nothing new and nothing that the “Dummies” book would expand on.

    Books about history and anthropology on the other hand?

    So no, not snarky at all.

    But of course anything to avoid looking at your beliefs with any sort of real scrutiny.

  25. >. He wants you to engage him so that he can ridicule you along with ot

    Oh please, if I wanted to ridicule you I would just ridicule you.

    Once again you take reality and shape it to your liking and any excuse to avoid answering my points.

    Jesus came, a new religion was formed 300 years later it set out in a bloody war of conquest.

    And that was different from all the other religions because…?

  26. Salvage, you’re as obdurate as any Fundy and as impossible to satisfy as a stubborn wife on PMS (and I am a woman FYI).

  27. May I ask other readers to stick to the topic of the posts and let our brother salvage express all the rants he wants in peace?
    I don’t know about you, but I find Jeff’s reflections always interesting and thought provoking. I do not find the same about brother salvage’s comments, so can we stay on the constructive path?
    And keep praying for our brother, of course, that he may go look for the answers he is NOT seeking yet.

  28. Ave Maria gratia plena
    Ave Maria gratia plena
    Ave Maria gratia plena

  29. >stubborn wife on PMS (and I am a woman FYI).

    Yes, but that’s still a pretty misogynistic thing to say playing into the stereotypes of women.

    And yes, when it comes to reality I am pretty stubborn about as stubborn as facts.

    I can be satisfied with answers but for some weird reason y’all rather do anything but provide them.

    Jesus came, nothing changed save a few older religions fused into a new one. That new one did nothing different than previous ones or ones that would come along after.

    Rather than address those points you say silly stuff about PMS.


  30. Sometimes a speck of levity can help a discussion, but I see I am wrong.
    You keep dismissing Jesus as doing nothing, then ask why we believe anyway. If you already have the answer, then does the question really matter? In effect you have already written Christians off.
    I doubt I’ll be back to this post simply because it’s getting too long and very off topic, so any reply is strictly your business.

  31. Ave Maria, gratia plena
    Ave Maria, gratia plena

    Roberto, I think you have a point. Our brother salvage has distracted us from the main topic. But of course, he has nothing to contribute.

    I apologize.

    On this topic, I think Jeff’s essential point is a good one. But even when a few of the accidents are different, the essence of the mass is the same and this is comforting.

  32. I love Mass roulette!! I completely agree about some of the other ‘stuff’ going on out there but I love seeing new parishes and people that I share something so profoundly personal with – the Eucharist. I love knowing that anywhere I go I can find this communion, whether it comes adorned with Rock n roll or gregorian chant. I really get a sense of being one tiny part of God’s great big whole. And a major plus is coming back and appreciating just how wonderful it is to be Home.

  33. >You keep dismissing Jesus as doing nothing,
    Because from what I can see he did just that, but correct me! Tell me what Jesus accomplished that made the world a better place? Saved it from your god/his father/ himself? What?

    >then ask why we believe anyway.

    Once again I know why you believe, what I want to know is why you believe your god is real and all the others fake. You have expressed that maybe the other gods are real but that begs the question why did your god make them then? Unless it didn’t?

    >If you already have the answer, then does the question really matter?

    I know why you are a theist what I don’t know is why your god is real and the others are not or why you think so.

  34. Ave Maria, gratia plena

  35. what I don’t know is why your god is real and the others are not or why you think so…and there’s NOTHING you say to change my contempt for you theists!!

    I’m a Troll!! a blithering idiot Troll!! HA! HA!

  36. If there’s nothing a theist can say that you will consider, then your question is but academic.
    Since you know why we believe as we do, you need no real answers to your question.
    As all gods are considered imaginary, any reasons for why someone believes in one over another have no real merit.
    So there’s no need to be upset. Now pardon me, I am going to go flag down a unicorn, and take it to the next Vikings game.

  37. Yes, the best bet if near a large town is to see if the FSSP is there: no funny business and there will be confessions too. But that is not always the case. In visiting relatives in small towns in Nebraska (Grand Island Diocese) and in Missouri, I got the shock treatment. In a small town where everyone has known each other all their lives, why do you have to hug and glad hand before and during Mass?
    Why were the kids (the few that there were) asked to come and high five father at the offertory? Why did father stop communion and demand everyone stand until “the whole body of Christ has received’? Why did we have to turn to our neighbor and tell them our plans for the 4th of July?

    I am so blessed that none of this garbage happens in my home parish with its two daily Masses with confessions too.

    My friend just moved to Phoenix and is in shock. I tell her it is the norm; she just has been spoiled living here.

  38. Nazi salute. Ahaha. I love the picture you just gave me for the next time that happens. I’ll try not to giggle. ;D

  39. Wait, wait, I hadn’t finished reading. Somewhere between the Barney Test and the Sign of Peace Cam my eyes got bleary. Where have you been all my blog-o-life, Curt Jester? Solid gold.

  40. Great post!

  41. last time I did mass roulette we were driving. My wife was using masstimes.org on her cell phone. When we got a possible mass, she put the place in the Garmin GPS to see it we could make it. After a couple of rounds we got a hit. We got there with time to spare. Only problem was masstimes.org did not indicated that every mass was in Spanish! It would be nice if the Latin rite used more Latin.

  42. “De musica sacra et sacra liturgia”
    “Instruction on Sacred Music and Sacred Liturgy”
    Sacred Congregation for Rites – September 3, 1958

    “73. The use of any kind of projector, and particularly movie projectors, with or without sound track, is strictly forbidden in church for any reason, even if it be for a pious, religious, or charitable cause.”


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