Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Internet Continues to Open New Worlds to Me

I am not now and have never been Catholic. I attended one Catholic service. It was in Latin at a monastery.

I was aware of the bare bones of the current controversy in the American church: after Vatican II American churches changed the way they gave mass. Some of them changed it quite a lot. At the very least the Latin Mass basically disappeared and priests started facing forward and giving a much more accessible service.

Lately the pendulum has swung in the other direction. The papacy has been made aware of quite how liberal things had gotten in some parts of the world (very) and clarified certain things. In addition, mine is a reactionary generation and many of us prefer things to happen in foreign languages.

Orthodox Jewish Services are inaccessible in a way that makes the Tridentine Mass seem like a Unitarian ecumenical service. There are no instruments and no choir. Everyone faces in the same direction and mumbles at high speed in Hebrew. It's entirely in Hebrew except for the speech. They don't tell you what page your own. People bring their own prayer books and pray from them. Some people do their own tradition rather than that of the group. Everyone makes actions at times but you won't know when, unless you're following along, which you can't unless you are very familiar with the service and the language thereof. Women are separated from men by a balcony, curtain, fence, change of level, or several of the aforementioned (I could do without this). Women do not participate in and cannot always see the service. And some people don't bother sitting down or standing up and just stand the whole time (I do this). People wander in and out, especially the ones with small children, especially women. They come late and start up when they show up, praying what they missed (I do this too). There are children wandering freely. Sometimes the leader sings the entire prayer. More often he just sings one or two sentences to let you know where you ought to be up to, if you're following along, which you might not be. Oh, and different congregations use different tunes to the prayers. There are no hymns, no programs, no English, no "let us stand."

I would be so distraught if we all decided to go to English. I don't know if I could even pray anymore. It was very hard to learn to pray in Hebrew. But I love Hebrew.

It is easier to have sacred space when it is strange. I think this is one of the reasons for the long-standing preference that many people have for the King James Bible. It sounds sacred. Praying in English makes me feel self-conscious.

I can see why Catholics found it so hard to see theirs shaken up. And that's without going into some of the less-sanctioned stuff that seems to have gone on. Like this:

I have been reading What Does the Prayer Really Say, a fascinating conservative view of these things with bonus Latin and religious studies geekery. Truly, the internet contains worlds within worlds.


  1. This puppet and dance monstrosity is CATHOLIC? I was raised pretty high church for an Anglican, and, thanks to some diocesan dustups, there were a good eight years where church was held in the rented room of the senior center every Sunday, with all the necessary religious and ornamental articles stored in a closet and brought out once a week. And the pastor was very odd. And I think the madness of this would break his brain.

  2. I looked up the lyrics for that hymn they were singing, because I wasn't familiar with it and it

    Apparently, it's more than a bit controversial among traditional Catholics, and with good reason.

    Now I think of it, I realized I grew up thinking that hymns were sort of fixed things that didn't change. They were codified long ago, whenever long ago was, and that was it. Certainly, lots of the ones I grew up with were full of antiquated English and the hymnal was some edition last changed in the 1930s.