Have you ever played Mass Roulette?
- 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.