Palm Sunday Mass At St. Miguel's...Not What Jesus Would Do

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Somewhere in Heaven there has to be some type of VIP meeting going on.  I am sure the Big Guy has assembled his number one son, JC, along with his right-hand man, the Honorable Holy Spirit.  This is a problem that definitely requires a meeting of the minds.

This guilty catholic imagines them assembled around the conference table along with an assortment of saints. Certainly, most definitely. Joseph and Peter the Apostle are in attendance~they are the go-to-guys involving anything Church related…not to mention St. Bibiana~she guards against anything insane…and St. Eustachius, yep St. Eustachius he has got to be there.

Who the heck is Eustachius you ask?  Patron against difficult situations.  Saying that Palm Sunday Mass at St. Miguels this morning was a difficult situation is an understatement.  Oh, for the love of all that is holy, someone get St. Amand on speakerphone.  He gives strength to bartenders and something tells me someone upstairs is going to need a drink; and whoever is currently serving as heaven’s barkeep had better make it a double.

Trust me, the gal who usually passes on the watered down communion wine was tempted this morning, quite tempted to grab the germy chalice from the Eucharistic minister’s paws and chug. 

The line was too long so I continued back to my pew to pray for the souls participating in this morning’s freak-show, otherwise known as Palm Sunday Mass, 2011.

This morning our family attended Palm Sunday mass at St. Miguel.  After ten years of heading to St. Frank’s (St. Miguel’s over-achieving-step-brother on the west side of town) I was interested to see how things were celebrated on the other side of the tracks.  In a word? Different.

We are “parish orphans” since leaving St. Franks last year.  Before committing to another particular parish, we have been shopping our options.  St. Miguel’s is on our short list.

At St. Frank’s, like most catholic churches, Lent is a solemn, reverent time.  It is a time of mourning, great sadness, much like a funeral.  Even the altar decorating committee gets the season off.  Over the years, I never saw more than a few cacti and bare branches grace the altar.

This was unfortunate news to any bride planning her big day during the darkest season the Catholic Church celebrates. Sadly, if “bridezilla” was counting on taking advantage of seasonal floral arrangements on the parish’s dime she might be out of luck.  And, unless her underlying wedding theme was something along the lines of bare and prickly, she was certain to be terribly disappointed.

Also kicking their feet up and enjoying some free time during the Lenten Season at St. Franks was the music committee.  Most hymns were performed without musical accompaniment if even sung at all; in fact during the six long weeks of Lent, most songs were simply chanted.

As I walked into St. Miguel, I grabbed my bulletin and palm and headed toward a pew front and center.  We were sent early to grab a “long one” and save it for the rest of the Stapinski Family. 

One thing I have learned over the years from the Stapinskis is close proximity to the altar during Sunday mass has a direct correlation with your place in line at Heaven’s gate.  It has been seventeen years since being introduced to this “Stapinski Secret” and I am getting too old to debate its merits.  He who is close is most holy; front and center it is…I figure it cannot hurt.  Why risk back row seating?

Our early arrival at front and center offered quite a birds’ eye view.  The Palm Sunday altar at St. Miguels looked nothing like the altar across town (at least from this former parishioner’s recollection).

While it is hard to say if the Music and Decorating Committee at Miguel’s have relaxed hours during the Lenten season, from my seat I can tell you what committee was working overtime this season.  The Technology Committee.

The altar was flanked with two JumboTrons; one on either side of the altar; and these babies were huge.  Now I’m flipping through the bulletin.  Some parish VIP must have bit the dust recently and donated the big screens.

Nope, no announcements regarding recent deaths and pending contributions could be found in the bulletin.  But there was a letter from the pastor regarding the screens.  Their installation was temporary and would be removed after Easter.  Father also welcomed e-mails and letters regarding parishioners’ two-cents about the TV screens.  Any/all opinions would be accepted just as long as a name accompanied correspondence.

Something tells me if corresponding parishioner is not a “collection-basket-heavy-hitter”, writing such an opinion would be a big waste of paper, ink and time.  I imagined I was a rich parishioner and began writing a strongly-worded-e-mail in my mind as I waited for mass to begin.

I noticed movable print on the JumboTrons.  Help Wanted: Eucharistic ministers wanted for satellite locations during Easter Mass.   Follow along with musical selections on this screen (kind of like “catholic karaoke” if you ask me).  And then, Father Finnegan and Deacon Jim graced the screen along with an altar kid.   Sadly for them (and providing giggles for me) not a one of them realized they were on live tv. 

As Deacon Jim cleaned his glasses, the altar kid yawned, and Father appeared to be getting the holy water ready.  I reached for my palm awaiting the procession.  If Miguel’s was anything like Frank’s, the Passion Play Kids would soon enter to our waving palms as Father doused the congregation and their palms with holy water.

All of the sudden I heard Father reading the gospel.  Did I miss the procession?  I looked up at the screens and there he was appearing as if he were in an underground bunker reading the gospel.  The “underground bunker” was the Narthex. 

Following the gospel, he mentioned he would be blessing some palms out in the Narthex before entering the church.  He asked us to raise our palms for blessing via satellite. 

I raised my palm with my right hand while I grabbed my purse with my left.  Something about  palms being blessed via satellite was wrong on many levels.  What has the church come to?  In the current down-turning economy did St. Miguel’s cut holy water for palm blessing out of the budget?

Like I said, I grabbed my purse in the event a quick exit was necessary.  Oh, Sweet Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph…I was certain all of us being blessed via satellite were about to realize sudden doom.

That is about the time the “opening hymn” began.  More like a something one might hear at a Baptist Revival type church.  A very upbeat, jazzy, tambourine accompanied number.  I looked back to the choir loft thinking Whoopi and the other Sisters might have brought their “Act” to our town.  Nope.

Oh, for all that is good and holy, why is such an upbeat tune being blasted through the sound system?  I start offering Hail Mary’s in the hopes the madness will stop, yet part of me whispered the prayers as I certainly did not want to miss the part when someone jumps up to shout Amen and Alleluia…

I’ve been to services when this type of shouting occurs after music like this is played  and I have also witnessed this on various TV shows/movies.  I know it happens.  I couldn’t believe the possibility of it happening in this church on this day was possible.

Clearly we were being punk’d, right?  This type of music is not traditional for Palm Sunday.  Where is the suffering?  What has happened to the Catholic Church? 

Palm Sunday mass continued for seventy-five excruciating minutes.  It was very untraditional in a traditional way.  I enjoyed the Passion Play and spent the rest of the time scouting the perimeter for exits.

Something about having my palm blessed on this, one of the churches’ holiest of days, by virtual holy water just seemed wrong to me.  And, I think I am on to something regarding a high-level meeting in Heaven tonight.

After leaving today’s mass (clutching the virtually blessed palms in our shaking hands)  my husband remarked that he wished he had brought his lighter into mass; he felt like he was at a concert.  My youngest asked if St. Miguel’s was going to become an “African American Church” as it looked like something he had seen on TV (“those churches have JumboTrons, ya know”).  I was just glad we got out of the place before it collapsed.

I am afraid after today’s participation I am going to need to renew my “Lenten Reconciliation”.  I feel witnessing the non-traditional tradition voided it; my soul no longer a blank canvas.

Yep, somewhere in Heaven there is an emergency meeting going on.  I imagine at some point St. Clare of Assisi is going to get called on the carpet.  Heads are going to roll, and as Patron Saint of Televisions and moon-lighter for the musicians, Clare has got to be getting paged to the conference room, ASAP.

Can I get an Amen??  Alleluia!

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