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Thursday, September 08, 2011

St. Omobono* Pray for Us

In the opening scene of the moving and terribly sad Clint Eastwood picture, Gran Torino, the protagonist, Walt Kowalski, attending his wife's funeral, looks with utter disgust upon his grandchildren as they pile into the pews, all of them dressed atrociously (one of them wearing a Detroit Lions football jersey, if memory serves). I watched that picture shortly after I was received into the Catholic Church and I must say my heart went out to Walt Kawalski.

That too many Catholics dress horribly (and often behave likewise) at Mass is a painful fact. My least favorite way of fulfilling my obligation, when I can't make the Latin Mass at Holy Innocents in Manhattan, is at my local Bronx parish's 5 p.m. Sunday Mass. A Catholic friend once instructed me to avoid at all costs Saturday Vigil Masses because liturgy and deportment are usually at their nadir in them. Not so, at my local parish. While the Saturday Vigil is certainly dreadful enough, the men and women attending it at least seem to take pains to don their very best tank tops and short-shorts. Sunday evening, things are far more casual, anything goes.

Now, I am happy to report, a Catholic deacon has had enough and is striking back:
Deacon Greg Kandra was well aware that modern Americans were getting more casual and that these laid-back attitudes were filtering into Catholic pews.

Still, was that woman who was approaching the altar to receive Holy Communion really wearing a Hooters shirt?

Yes, she was.

When did Catholics, he thought to himself, start coming to Mass dressed for a Britney Spears concert? Had he missed a memo or something?

"Somewhere along the way, we went from neckties to tank tops, and from fasting to fast food. And it's getting worse," noted Kandra, a former CBS News writer with 26 years, two Emmys and two Peabody Awards to his credit. He is now a deacon assigned to Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, a 3,000-member parish in Forest Hills, just north of New York City...

After the Hooters incident, he decided it was time to stop whining about the rising tide of irreverence and immodesty and to start griping about it right out in the open. Thus, Kandra and the parish's other clergy have resorted to appealing — in the parish bulletin and in public remarks — for a hint of sanity or even some old-fashioned decorum.

One bulletin item proclaimed, with a gag headline: "PLANS FOR PARISH SWIMMING POOL SCRAPPED! After much study, our finance committee has determined it would not be feasible to construct an indoor swimming pool in our church. ... As a result, we can now announce with certainty that those who have been arriving for Mass as if dressed for the pool need not do so. Also, we hope to keep the air conditioning cranking all summer long. So you do not need to wear shorts, halter tops or bikinis to Mass."
While I wish the good Deacon Kandra well, I don't hope out much hope for his success. I suspect Catholics will only dress better for church when the liturgy reflects the gravity of what is being re-enacted. When our clergy treat the death and resurrection of Our Lord in the casual way found in most Catholic Churches these days, the people will dress and act the part. Too bad, because their dress and manner no doubt reflects their attitude.

Many years before my conversion, I invited another Catholic friend of mine to attend Ash Wednesday services with me at my then Episcopal parish. It was not a particularly "high" church but they did take great care (and still do) that the Anglican liturgy (using the old 1928 Prayer Book) was done to the letter and spirit of the rubrics. My Catholic friend was duly impressed, not only by the liturgy and music but also by dignified manner of the congregants, not everyone dressed to the nines, perhaps, but respectably at least, looking as if they gave a damn--which they did.

*Patron saint of tailors.

3 comments:

Augustine said...

Preach it, brother!

The young fogey said...

As you can guess, I wear a tie, suit and, en route, hat but am relatively laid-back about lay attire. Decorum in the sanctuary (high church); come as you are for the people, the good, bad and indifferent, or the Catholic Church: here comes everybody. But sure, you've got to draw the line somewhere at sloppiness or sexiness that's distracting from the business at hand.

The young fogey said...

P.S. When you can't make it to the Tridentine Mass, as many still can't, a mainstay of good Catholics for 40 years has been the lowest Mass on the Sunday schedule: no attempts at singing; just read it out of the book like you're supposed to and get on with it; thank you.