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A few weeks back, I attended a Novus Ordo (New Order, or “ordinary”) mass after weeks of (Extraordinary Form, old order) Latin masses. I had to start jotting just as the sermon began. Only a six-minuter and something acceptable, in any case not unusually good or bad.
Feeling dreaded ennui coming on, I reached for the little black pad and pen, and there I was again, jotting. In the few recent weeks when I made Extraordinary (Latin) my mass of choice, I had not done this once!
Why now? Because the service was losing my attention, and I had to wrench it back into place by recording my reflections. It’s a ploy I learned decades ago, in my exclusively N.O. days. This was my first trial of attention, of cooperation, collaboration, indeed participation in what we Catholics used to call the holy sacrifice.
Most preachers fall short (for me, I’m picky) and thereby constitute a distraction. On this occasion Father urged us on sincerely. (Sincerity is not usually the problem.) But sincerely or not, the weekday homily, short as it is, constitutes a distraction at this point. It becomes an interruption to the worship experience.
At least there were no petitions — prayers of the faithful — name-dropping of a dozen or so issues demanding our attention, many of them ripped from the day’s headlines. Many the time when this worshiper thought we might as well put in a good word for the White Sox while we’re at it. (I’m sure it’s been done somewhere.)
With the sermon done, the head trip began, and the sounds of silence went missing. Father is miked, of course, and he is in the minds if not hearts of us all, reading the ordinary (every day) parts so that we do not miss a syllable. He kills the silence.
He puts his imprint on the service. He’s supposed to. It’s the post-Vatican 2 norm. Let there be light, the Creator said at the Beginning.
Let there be noise, said Vatican 2, or at least its alleged spirit. And the priest, being chief, or only, noisemaker, performing according the script given him, unwittingly makes it all about him.
His performance matters. All, or so very much, depends on him. Or is made to look that way.