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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Diary of a Newly-Minted Papist: at Corpus Christi Church, West 121st Street


Image courtesy of the NYCAGO

I attended mass once before at Corpus Christi, back in the 90s (as an Anglican, of course), and remember being impressed with the fine music and liturgy, far above the norm for most Catholic churches. That is still the case, I am happy to report, to the extent I wonder if Corpus Christi should advertise itself as the church for recovering Anglicans. I felt right at home in this small but elegant church.

I attended the 11:15 mass, which, while not packed, had a good number of attendees. Things got off to a fine start with a prelude by Bach and the processional hymn: the fine old Protestant standard, Aurelia ("The Church's One Foundation"). To my amazement, all stanzas of the hymn were sung and to my greater amazement, they were sung by all with lusty Protestant vigor. The liturgy also seemed better than usual, as if somebody had gone through the Novus Ordo English translation and corrected some of its more egregious failings, e.g. "and with your spirit" for "and also with you" (the latter I've always found particularly irksome--I wonder if the better English is a legacy of Corpus Christi's long-serving pastor, now deceased, Msgr. Burke). Another agreeable surprise was another borrowing, Healy Willan's service music from the Anglicans.

The rest of the mass proceeded well and when over I was informed there was a coffee hour, the first I have heard of in a Catholic church. I went downstairs and encountered the same sort of quirky pointy-heads whose company I used to so enjoy at my old Anglo-Catholic church. All in all, most satisfactory.

But not perfect, of course (what's the purpose of a blog if not for complaining?). Here are some carps I have with Corpus Christi.
  • The card table altar: there must of been an altar on the east wall once upon a time, along with an altar rail, but no more; ripped out, no doubt, in compliance with the Vatican II reforms.

  • The use of "extraordinary ministers:" the Holy Father has made it clear the rampant use of civilians in the sanctuary is an abuse that must stop. When are the churches going to start obeying him? Fortunately, in the case of Corpus Christi, they only are only used as cup bearers and since poping, I choose not to receive in that form. I just bolted after receiving the host.

  • The Handshake of Peace (or whatever it's called): Ugh, I really hate it. It's a false climax distracting from the true climax of the mass, communion. Corpus Christi has a real coffee hour; there's no need for a little one during the mass.

  • There are an awful lot of lefties in the joint: given its propinquity to the ivy-covered nuthouse to the south (where your Bloviator was a patient many years ago) it's hardly surprising some of the inmates worship at Corpus Christi. It was a tad distressing seeing all those Obama buttons in a Catholic church, five days after the election. On the other hand, everyone I talked to was pleasant and welcoming, probably because politics, even left-wing, are not a religion for them as it is with the atheists.
  • Those minor flaws aside, I am seriously thinking of making Corpus Christi my regular church but that raises a problem. As I understand it, the Holy Catholic Church, being parochial, requires her flock to attend local parish churches. Wishing to be obedient, when I was received I duly registered with my local parish church, a few miles north of Corpus Christi. The trouble is, as my longer-suffering readers know all to well, I am a fool for music and the music at that local parish church is so bad it drives me to distraction. Perhaps if I were a better Catholic I could put up with it, put it out of my my mind, but alas, I am not and cannot.

    Some of you have surely faced this dilemma as well so I ask you, what should I do? Grit my teeth and keep going to the local parish church, taking solace that at least I am being obedient, or flout church teachings and go to a church where I won't feel driven to apostasy every Sunday by the squawking cacophony passed off as music? Suggestions are gratefully received.

    UPDATE: Another question: who gets the pledge?

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