Sunday, 15 September 2013

A Grump

This morning, I unexpectedly found myself in central London and so went to a very large Church which I know well for their lunchtime mass.

I was saddened by what happened there. The mass was obviously a just chore for the priest I should probably still call the celebrant despite the apparent lack of any Christian joy whatever. For all the beauty of the architecture, the vestments and the 2010 ICEL translation, even Cosas would have approved of the externals, the liturgy lacked the prayerfulness that it could so easily have had.

It was offered for the peace and justice in the Middle East and the triumph of the true faith, particularly in Syria. All well and good, but Father seemed to have as much insight into why we were praying for Syria as Obama has into how to sort the situation there out. He told us that this was the mass intention at the beginning and at the notices, but apart from that, neglected to mention it at all. I'm not saying that every mass intention should be discussed in detail in the homily, but it seems appropriate that given that the conflict is largely the fault of Bashar al-Assad building himself into an idol it might have been raised.

I remember several excellent homilies on today's readings. Fr Peter Burrows, particularly sticks in my mind as having insightful things to say. I remember him miming looking at himself in the mirror and proclaiming "Oh my God!": a warning I've often had occasion to remind myself of since and had to reflect on before confession.

Whilst I admit that Fr Burrows is an unusually good preacher, there was not even an adequate level of thought from this highly educated priest. It seemed as if he had rushed the preparation since it didn't really say anything at all, it was fragmented and he seemed to get lost at one point. He slipped from giving examples of the idols into listing sins, had a mind blank and blurted out that people who desire to engage in homosexual activity are seeking after something that is fundamentally wrong. The manner of his saying so lacked the pastoral edge which was more than alluded to in the Gospel with all that talk about going after lost sheep. His comments provoked shaken heads from quite a few people in the congregation whose orthodoxy on the issue is well known including one mother several rows in front of me who tutted loudly enough to draw looks from the people around me.

However, this was not the problem with the homily. My main issue with it was that he heightened its already fragmented line of thought by stopping no fewer than three times to berate people from the pulpit for moving around the church. I was sitting about a third of the way down the behind transverse aisle through which they were walking. Of the three people he publicly humiliated, one was going to see if there was a priest in a confessional and two were on their way to pray in front of the lady altar. They were far less distracting than father's interruptions. The idea that his words were so important that everyone should sit in the seats for it was laughable considering how lacking they were in content.

After that grump, I'll leave you with a nicer story. In the sermon at the Church for whose matins I was present this morning, the vicar, David Reindorp, told of how a friend of his had been preaching to a large prison congregation about how they were like the prison governor's sheep because it was his job to care for them and protect them while keeping them all in the same place. He went on to talk about how amazing it was that a shepherd would go after just one sheep when he had 99 left. From the back of the congregation came a voice. "Farver" it said "if one of the guvnor's sheep went missing he'd probably go after 'em too".
by Damian

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